University of Leicester
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Dryden as a critic and adapter of Shakespeare in the context of seventeenth-century dramatic criticism.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 09:00 authored by Swaran. Plomley
To evaluate Dryden's criticism of Shakespeare in the context of seventeenth-century dramatic criticism I have examined some of the important tendencies of the Restoration drama. Dryden's criticism shows many influences. In his appreciation of Shakespeare Dryden responds to the theories of Le Bossu among the French and Longinus among the classical critics. The influence of important classical critics - Aristotle, Horace and Longinus -- has been worked out in detail; for the influence of the continental critics I have largely relied on the researches of other Dryden-scholars. A resume of the seventeenth century criticism of Shakespeare is made to place Dryden's Shakespearean-criticism in the context of his contemporaries. Rymer's Othello is examined in detail because his Shakespearean-criticism is antithetical to Dryden's. The difference between the two critics is discussed; special attention is paid to Rymer's' poetic justice because despite Dryden's disagreements with Rymer on his derogatory criticism of the Elizabethan dramatists Dryden subscribed to the principle of didactic function of the drama. His adaptations of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida are governed by the principles of morality and decorum. As has emerged in this study, Dryden's criticism of Shakespeare is governed partly by the influence of the contemporary and classical critics on him; partly by his own career as a playwright and adapter of Shakespeare; and the largest single factor contributing to his appreciation of Shakespeare has been his intuitive recognition of a genius. In his admiration for Shakespeare Dryden sometimes resists the pressure of his age; equally, sometimes he gives way to it. This thesis attempts to study the extent of this pressure on Dryden; when, how and why it influenced his criticism of Shakespeare; and equally to examine the factors contributing to his resistance to it. Dryden, the neoclassical critic of Shakespeare ends up in Dryden the adapter of Shakespeare; and in the process of adaptations occurs a collapse of the former; thus, leading to an inevitable departure from criticism by rule to a total surrender to the force of Shakespeare's dramatic genius.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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