Topic :- “Essay of Drametic Poesy” Main Argument
Name :- Upadhyay Devangana s.
Sub :- Literary theory & Criticism
Paper :- 3
Std :- M.A. Sem-1
Roll No :- 07
Submitted to :- M.K. Bhavnagar University
“Essay of Drametic poesy” Main Argument
John Drsyden was a versatile and voluminous writer who left on branch of literature untouched and produced works of outstanding merit in each field. He was a great poet and a great dramatist. He was also a great prose-writer and is regarded as the founder of modern prose style. He was also an original and discriminating critic, so much so that Dr. Johson called him ‘the father of English criticism’ and critic after has agreed with this estimate.
However, the only formal work of criticism that Dryden has left behind him is his ‘Essay of Drametic poesy’ a work which is the unofficial manifest of him critical creed, and a important landmark in the history of literary criticism in English.
2. ‘Essay of Dramatic poesy’ Main Argument
As a preliminary to the more serious discussion to follow, Lisideius defines a play as;
“Drama is the lively and just image of human nature
Representing its passions and humours and the changes
Of fortune to which it is subject for, the delight and
Instruction of mankind”
3. Crites: Defence of the Ancients; their superiority over the Moderns
A. Among the ancient poetry was held in high esteem and poets were highly honourd. So there was a healthy competition among them to excel each other. Poet were suitably rewarded. Today , they poets have no such encouragement, and they are not suitably rewarded. So the poets do not take pains.
B. The Ancients were faithful imitators of nature, which is distorted and disfigured in the drama of the day.
C. All the rules of dramatic composition we owe to the clssics, and we have added nothing of our own to the rules of Aristotle and Horace.
D. The Ancient observed the three unities well.
1. The unity of Time means that the action should not take more than twenty-four hours the natural compass of a day, and it should be equally divided between the Acts. This rule was faithfully observed by the Ancients. The action began somewhere towards the end of the fable, and the earlier part was delivered by narration, The English do not follow the unity of time and therefore, they ill represent nature.
2. The unity of place means that the same scene should be continued throughout, for the stage being one place it cannot be represents as many. No doubt there may be same variation of place by the use of painted scenery, but ever then it should not shift to places far distant form one another. The French observe this unity, but not the English. The unity of Action means that there should be only one great and complete action. Two action “equally labored and driven on by the writer, would make the play not one play but two plays. However, there may be a number of action subservient to the main action, as in the plays of Ben Jonson. Such under-plots must all be conducive to the main design, and be subordinated to it”
There is gross violation of there unities in the English drama which makes it unnatural and improbable. The superiority therefore, of the Ancients is unquestionable.
4. Eugenius, Reply to crites : The Case for the Moderns
I. The modern plays are superior to the Ancients because the modern have the advantage of the experience and the rules of the ancients, as well as they have life and nature before them which they new features which the Ancients lacked. Just as in the arts and the sciences, the moderns have discovered much that is new, as also on Drama.
II. For example among the Ancients the plays were divided by Entrances not by Acts. The division of it into Acts was not known to them; it was first given only by Horace. So the Greeks cannot be said to have perfected the art of poesy.
III. Their plots were traditional, they were already knows to the people and so lacked in novelty and pleasure. So the main aim of poesy, i.e. to cause delight was gone.
IV. They used stock, hackneyed plots and characters in their comedies. There were certain types which were used in one comedy after another.
V. Their plots being narrow, and their person few, their Acts are shorter than even the well-wrought scenes in the Modern English plays.
VI. There is too much of speechifying at the cost of action and hence monotony and boredom.
VII. There is no poetic justice in their plays : They often show a neither delight nor instruct.
VIII. Among the Ancients comedies and tragedies were written by separate dramatists, and not by the same person as at present. Hence, they should have achieved perfection in the chosen branch, but they failed to do so. Hence there is no justification for their shortcomings.
IX. Often they are guilty of faulty diction, coinages and metaphors.
· Lisideius :Defence of the French Drama; Demontration of the superiority of the French over thr English
A. The Franch observe the unities to perfection: (a) The unity of Time they observe so well that the action in none of their plays exceeds thirty hours. Indeed, they interpret “single revolution of the sun” to mean 12 hours and not 24; and try to reduce all plays to this compass; (b) They fully observe the unity of place the entire action being limited to the spot where it began. It is rarely that they go outside the city or town; (c) They do not burden their plots with under-plots, which divert the attention of the audience and the readers.
B. There is no multiplicity of action and incident in their plays, and so there is enough time to represent one passion well and fully instead of being hurried from one to another as in the English plays.
C. No doubt in their plays one character is exalted above the rest, but due attention is also paid to other character and every one of them is gives a suitable role to play.
D. The French manage their narration or relations much more skillfully than the English. The narration of events antecedent to the play, but necessary for its understanding is generally avoided with great skill by the suitable management of the plot itself. There are relation of events that have happened off the stage, and through such relations they avoid the tumult and violence of the English stage. Everything cruel, obnoxious, absurd or unnatural is thus kept stage. All passions may find a just and lively representation on the stage, but not all actions, and dying is one of them. Narration is also necessary to reduce the plot to a more reasonable compass of time.
E. There are no sudden changes or conversions in their plays, as in the English
F. They use rhyme which is to be preferred to the English blank verse. The use of rhyme beautifies a play.
· Neander or Dryden: Demonstration of the superiority of the English over the French, and of the Moderns over the Ancients.
A. There is on doubt that the French plays are more regular, and the laws better followed, and it is also true that the English plays have many irregularities but “ neither our faults nor their virtues are considerable enough to place them above us”
B. They lack the rich variety of humour in the English plays.
C. Moliere and some other French dramatists have started mingling tragedy and comedy serious and the gay, in the manner of the English.
D. Their plots are too much alike to please often. They lack verity.
E. Dryden then passes on to justify tragic comedy. He does so on the following grounds: (a) contraries set off each other (b) a sense of mirth introduced in a tragedy refreshes and provides relief. (c) compassion and mirth do not destroy each other, they are found together in nature also (d) tragic-comedy is a pleasant way of writing not known to the Ancients or to the moderns of any other nation.
F. The English plots are copious and varied the Franch barren and narrow. They have only a single action; we have under plots or by concernment, which however move with the main action and so the unity of action is not destroyed. Thus there is a combination of variety with unty and, therefore greater pleasure.
G. Their pre-occupation with a single theme does not give them any advantage in the expression of passion. Their verses are cold and the long speeches in their plays are tiresome. During the performance of a French play, “ we are concerned for our own troubles instead of being concerned for their imaginary heroes.”
H. Long speeches may suit the genius of the French, they do not uit the English who are sullen people and come to the stage for refreshment.
I. Short speeches and replies are more likely to move the passions and wit and repartee are the chief graces of comedy. In the “ chase of wit,” the English have reached perfection, and are superior to the French.
J. The more the characters in a play, the greater will be the variety. Only this variety should be so managed that there is no confusion, and this skill has been attained by the great English dramatists, like Ben Jonson.
K. As regards showing of violent action on the stage: (a)