The four speakers represented, respectively, Charles , Lord Buckhurst later sixth Earl of Dorset , Sir Robert Howard playwright and Dryden's brother-in-law , Sir Charles Sedley Edward Malone identified him as Lisideius , and Dryden himself neander means "new man" and implies that Dryden, as a respected member of the gentry class, is entitled to join in this dialogue on an equal footing with the three older men who are his social superiors.
On the day that the English fleet encounters the Dutch at sea near the mouth of the Thames, the four friends take a barge downriver towards the noise from the battle. Rightly concluding, as the noise subsides, that the English have triumphed, they order the bargeman to row them back upriver as they begin a dialogue on the advances made by modern civilization.
They agree to measure progress by comparing ancient arts with modern, focusing specifically on the art of drama or "dramatic poesy". The four men debate a series of three topics: 1 the relative merit of classical drama upheld by Crites vs. Invoking the so-called unities from Aristotle's Poetics as interpreted by Italian and refined by French scholars over the last century , the four speakers discuss what makes a play "a just and lively imitation" of human nature in action.
To Crites' argument that the plots of classical drama are more "just," Eugenius can retort that modern plots are more "lively" thanks to their variety. Lisideius shows that the French plots carefully preserve Aristotle's unities of action, place, and time; Neander replies that English dramatists like Ben Jonson also kept the unities when they wanted to, but that they preferred to develop character and motive. Even Neander's final argument with Crites over whether rhyme is suitable in drama depends on Aristotle's Poetics : Neander says that Aristotle demands a verbally artful "lively" imitation of nature, while Crites thinks that dramatic imitation ceases to be "just" when it departs from ordinary speech—i.
A year later, the two brothers-in-law quarreled publicly over this third topic. See Dryden's "Defense of An Essay of Dramatic Poesy" , where Dryden tries to persuade the rather literal-minded Howard that audiences expect a play to be an imitation of nature, not a surrogate for nature itself. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. So, Dryden takes this situation and develops a plan to write a great treatise on drama.
They decide to allot one age to each of the four friends. Each taking up the defense of dramatic Literature of one country or one age. So, he favors French dramatists. So, Dryden holds that ancient principle should be respected, but should not be followed blindly. Here, Dryden expresses his views on Drama that what a play should be, therefore, he defines drama as.
Representing its passions and humors,. And the changes of fortunes to which it. At last the debate goes on about the comparison between Ancient and Modern writers. Violation of the three unities. As far as the unities of the time, place and action are concerned. This group further discusses the playwrights like Ben Jonson, Moliere and Shakespeare with a deeper insight.
John Dryden himself. Also defenses English tragic-Comedy. He comments that the French plays may be more regular but they are not as lively as that of English. Therefore, Dryden here condemns French Plays s lack of just and lively image. Eugenius defends the English dramatists of the last age with a highly penetrating insight.
It is true, he says that the Ancients Greek and Roman scholars laid down many basic principles of Drama. The English authors gave due respect to them, but they had no clear-cut concept of dividing a Play into Acts.
An Essay of Dramatic Poesy and Other Critical Writings Dryden by John Dryden
The Dramatist set the voyage of dividing a play into five acts. Most of the Ancient Greek Playwrights wrote their plays on highly popular episodes of Thebes or troy on which many narrative poems, epics and plays had already been written. Therefore, the spectators found nothing new in them. Many times they spoke out the dialogues before the actors spoke them.
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The English Dramatist wrote their Plays on new Themes. In Comedies, the Greek and Roman playwrights repeated common theme of lost children coming back to their home after gap of many years. This often repeated theme lost its interest to the spectators. In all these respects the English Dramatists of the last age were better than the Greek or Roman Dramatists.
Crites begins defending the Ancient Greek and Roman Poets and dramatists, and expresses his views that Ancients are better than the Modern one. The Ancient writers set rules of drama like, Aristotle also laid down the principles of the three unities of time place and action. It is Unnatural to shift the action from one place to another, especially to distant places.
This will give the greatest likelihood to untruth. By the Unity of action, he meant that there should not be two or more actions. There should be only one action at a time to cover the whole Plot. The Ancient observed the three dramatic unities faithfully, and The Romans, The French, and The English dramatists tried their best to observe them, though not always successfully. Thus, The Ancients are our first law-givers as well as models for the Moderns to follow.
Lisideius view in favor of the superiority of the French drama over the English Drama.
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Defending the French Drama and Dramatist, Lisideius says that they far surpass the English and even the Greek dramatists. Corneill and some other French dramatists have so reformed their theatre that no European theatre stands comparison to it. So as far as the three dramatic unities are concerned, the French Dramatists observe them more faithfully than the Greeks themselves who propounded them.
In observing the unity of time, they are so scrupulous that the action in some of their plays is limited to only twelve hours. The French are equally faithful in observing the unity of place. Many of them limit to the very spot of ground where the play is supposed to begin. However, none of them exceeds the compass of the same town. Equally conspicuous is the observance of the unity of action.
There are under plots in their plays. Further, the French generally write their tragedies on well-known historical facts which the people can easily comprehend. They do not make their plots so complicated that the spectators may lose their patience. In their plays the hero is most important, and rest of the characters are marginalized to him. Finally,The French write their plays in beautiful rhyming verse which is far sweeter than the blank verse in which the English plays are written.
An essay of dramatic poesy
Dryden in the person of Neander rises up in defence of English dramatists and strongly pleads that English Dramatist are fully justified in not slavishly accepting the classical principles in many respects. They have developed their own principles and proved themselves to be superior to the Greek and French dramatists in many ways. In the First place French drama, whether comic or tragic, lacks in emotion and passion. English dramatists surpass them in both. The English tragedies produce fear and pity more powerfully, and their comedies excel in producing delightful humors and Romantic love.
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He equally defends the insertion of under plots which highlight the main plot. Coming to the dramatic unities of Time and Place, he says that their observance might adversely affect the total impact of a play. It is unbelievable that sufficient material for the plot of a good play. He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacle of books to read literature; he looked inwards and found him there. The Ancient versus Modern Playwrights. Crites makes favor of the Ancients by giving some views about them. Crites favors the Ancients.
The first significant thing which favors Ancients that they are acknowledged models of the modern. They had a special technique for writing drama is that of perfection. And further, Crites expresses his views that the Ancients were honored and rewarded by the merits of their drama. They closely observed nature and depicted faithfully in their plays.
The Rules and unities of composing drama, which were made by the Ancients. Therefore, Crites favors Ancients rather than Moderns. Eugenius favors Moderns. Eugenius tries to reply to Crites by making Modern dramatists better than that of Ancients. Of course, Moderns have written drama the way the Ancients were written. Their themes of the drama were similar, but not Moderns tried to present the same thing in a better way and in a different way. They have perfected the division of plays and divided their plays not into acts but into various scenes. The Ancient observed the three unities of time place and actions are not perfect.
In fact, the Moderns tried to get perfection of these unities in their dramas.