Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > Dryden > Dryden and the Heroic Play: The Conquest of Granada
  The Heroic Couplet in Drama The Satire of The Rehearsal  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

I. Dryden.

§ 10. Dryden and the Heroic Play: The Conquest of Granada.

Dryden, as already noted, had not brought out more than two plays, in the second of which he had made occasional use of the rimed five foot couplet, when he was found ready to assist his brother-in-law Sir Robert Howard in the composition of what may be described as the first heroic play. 50  The shortcomings in the versification of part of this play, which was printed as Howard’s, suggest that it was submitted by him for revision to Dryden, whose superior skill in the handling of the couplet he freely confessed. Though devoid of any kind of interest except that which this and later heroic plays sought in the remoteness and consequent strangeness of scene, The Indian Queen was successful; and Dryden was thus encouraged to write a “sequel” to it under the title The Indian Emperor, or The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards (acted 1665), by which the success of the new species was established and his own reputation as a playwright definitively assured. His other plays, which, both in form of verse and in treatment of subject, fall under the same designation, were Tyrannick Love, or The Royal Martyr (acted in 1668 or 1669), the two parts of Almanzor and Almahide, or The Conquest of Granada (1669 and 1670) and Aureng-Zebe (1676). It will thus be seen that the number of heroic plays by Dryden was small, and written at considerable intervals. The earlier of these breaks (1665–8) was largely due to the closing of the playhouses in consequence of the plague and the great fire.   25

Note 50. Sir Robert Howard, who was also a politician and a placeman, figured both as a historical and political writer, and among the poets and playwrights of the age. His comedy The Committee (1662) satirised ex post facto the doings of the puritan party when in power. Of the tragedies for which he was solely responsible, the most interesting is The Great Favourite, or The Duke of Lerma (1668), of which the matter was taken from recent historians. Sir Robert Howard, who had kept himself as prominent as he could in life, was buried in Westminster abbey. He is the Crites of An Essay of Dramatick Poesie; Shadwell ridiculed him under the less courteous appellation Sir Positive Atall. His brothers Edward and James likewise wrote plays; the former was author of The Usurper (1668), a tragedy in which Oliver Cromwell was represented in the character of Damocles, and Hugh Peters appeared as Hugo de Petra; the latter perpetrated a version of Romeo and Juliet (1662), with a “happy ending,” which was performed on alternate nights with the catastrophe. James Howard’s comedy All Mistaken (printed 1672) was acted before Charles II at Trinity college, Cambridge, in October, 1667. [ back ]

  The Heroic Couplet in Drama The Satire of The Rehearsal  

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