John Dryden: An Essay of Dramatic Poesy

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Crites praises the Greeks and Romans suggesting that they cannot be surpassed.

Eugenius recognizes their worth but suggests that they have indeed been exceeded and in many instances are not consistent in their adherence to Aristotle's conventions.

Lisideius suggests that the French are superior to the English.

Neander (ostensibly Dryden) counters that, based on their agreed definition of what "a play ought to be," the English are superior.

Two types of "bad" English poets: (p.164)

1.the poets who "perpetually pay us with clenches upon words and a certain clownish kind of raillery;" (bad metaphysicals?)

2.he who " affects plainness to cover his want of imagination" (bad Puritans?)

Definition of a play: "just and lively image of human nature, representing its passions and humors, and the changes of fortune to which it is subject, for the delight and instruction of mankind." (p.166)


On the ancients vs. the moderns:

The moderns are still imitating the ancients and using their forms and subjects, relying on Aristotle and Horace, adding nothing new and yet not following their good advice closely enough, especially with respect to the unities of time, place and action.

On the three unities: Time, Place, Action:

While the unity of time suggests that all the action should be portrayed within a single day, English plays attempt to use long periods of time, sometimes years. In terms of place, the setting should be the same from beginning to end with the scenes marked by the entrances and exits of the persons having business within each. The English, on the other hand, try to have all kinds of places, even far off countries, shown within a single play. The third unity, that of action, requires that the play "aim at one great and complete action", but the English have all kinds of...