The powerful and popular rivals like Thomas Shadwell and Richard Flecknoe and the swift changes in the authority of literature, religion and politics pressured Dryden to produce a bunch of literary works that were solely to express his support to either of the groups. An Essay on Dramatic Poesy is a work where he, by using a dialogue device modelled on the ancient masters, brings various critical arguments of his contemporary England regarding dramatic poetry. A seemingly desperate and embarrassing justification of English theatre by Dryden through his alter ego as a fine English man called Neander indicates a period in the British history where not only creating poetry was important but also the marketing of culture and fashioning of new idioms of art. Crites : He represents Sir Robert Howard.
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Though he died in , John Dryden is usually considered a writer of the 18th rather than the 17th century. Incredibly prolific, Dryden made innovative advances in translation and aesthetic philosophy, and was the first poet to employ the neo-classical heroic couplet and quatrain in his own work. The essay is structured as a dialogue among four friends on the river Thames. The group has taken refuge on a barge during a naval battle between the English and the Dutch fleets. The four gentlemen, Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius, and Neander all aliases for actual Restoration critics and the last for Dryden himself , begin an ironic and witty conversation on the subject of poetry, which soon turns into a debate on the virtues of modern and ancient writers. While French plays hew closer to classical notions of drama adhering to the unities of time, place and action , Neander steps in to support English drama precisely because of its subplots, mixture of mirth and tragedy in tragicomedy , and spirited, multiple characters.
An Essay of Dramatic Poesy
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