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Drydens All For Love Moral Play English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1440 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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When the Restoration occurred in England, there were virtually no new stage plays. The writers went back to old works, such as Anthony and Cleopatra. The paper shows how Dryden’s All for Love returns to analyzing the romantic hero. It is Dryden’s best-known and most performed play. It is a tragedy written in blank verse and is an attempt on Dryden’s part to reinvigorate serious drama. Dryden deals in this play with the same subject as that of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. In this play the abstract elements push the play forward rather than concrete ones. Dryden also shift abstract elements into the concrete by the characters surrounding Antony symbolize different emotions and roles.all the characters here are influenced by political and personal motivation. It is one of the central themes of the play. Antony has an internal conflict between choosing his love or his position.

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Dryden claims in his preface to All for Love that his play is for “the excellence of the moral; for the chief person presented, were famous patterns of unlawful love; and their end accordingly was unfortunate”. The play does not want to show criminal love punished for transgression. It shows a transcendent love for which the world is well lost. At the end of the play the hero and the heroin receive our sympathy because of their passion. We do not judge them as well. There was a difference between what Dryden wrote and what his real purpose was. The difference is explicable and after that a clearer picture of what he intended to say would emerge, if we consider that Dryden’s idea of writing drama was going through transition at this time and the preface to All for Love shows more effect. Dryden in his epistle to Aureng-Zebe states his dissatisfaction with the stage;” I am weary with drawing the deformities of life, and lazars of the people, where every figure of imperfection resembles me that it can do others.. If I’m condemned to rhyme, I should find some ease in my change of punishment. I decided to be no longer the Sisyphus of the stage, to role up a stone with endless labor, to role up a stone with endless labor, and which is perpetually falling down again”. Dryden wanted to move away from the heroic play with its epic theory, French idealism and Caroline wit.. He attacked his opponent because of their judgment of his play by means of French rules of decorum. He said about the ideal hero of French drama:;”their Hippolitus is so scrupulous in point of decency, that he will rather expose himself to death, that accuse his step mother t his father; and my critics I am sure will comment him for it.; but we of grosser apprehension are apt to think, that this excess of generosity is not practicable, but we fools and madmen. “Behind his attack on decorum, there are important critical assumptions .one of them is that the emotions raised in the audience are more important than the formal structure of drama. He believed that the major effect of the tragedy is o create pity for the hero.

If All for Love owes its power to techniques which gain our sympathy for Antony and Cleopatra, it is in some ways less satisfactory than Dryden’s other plays for the very reason. Emotion is a powerful weapon for literature which must go hand in hand with intelligence. Without intelligence art is only soft and vague, plot become arbitrary and characters not sufficiently motivated in their actions and passions. Intelligence here means the whole personality of the author, his feelings, opinions, beliefs and insight into man.

When we grasp the idea that Antony’s love wins over his duty, there would be no real conflict left to engage our mind. Caesar’s role has been reduced to a reminder of the least attractive of Roman values.

O,’tis the coldest youth upon a charge,

The most deliberate fighter! If he ventures

’tis when he can not chuse,

When all the world have fixed their eyes upon him;

And then he lives on that for seven years after,

But, at a close revenge he never fails.( All for Love2,I , 19.)

Octavia offered a true conflict to Antony between passion and duty; but Dryden feared that she lessens the favors of the audience toward Antony and Cleopatra so he made her a prude to whom pleasure is a sin.

Far be their knowledge from a roman lady,

Far from a modest wife. Shame or our sex,

Dost thou not blush, to own those black endearments

That makes sin pleasing? (All for Love 3,I , 43)

We can not make sure which issue is really at stake, Antony’s love r Cleopatra’s honesty. In spite of the emotional language many scenes are not motivated enough. After Ventidius persuaded Antony to go to war, Cleopatra tried to gain him again;

How shall I plead my cause, when you, my judge

Already have condemn’d me ?shall I bring

The love you bore me for my Advocate? That now is turned against me, that destroys me,

For love once past, is , at the best , forgotten ;

But after sours to hate:’twill pleas my Lord

To ruin me, and therefore I’ll be guilty (All for Love 2, I, 25)

It is necessary for her to show an offer from Caesar that she has refused, and then his reason would be overcome again by love. We can think about it that why Antony needed Dollabella to give Cleopatra his farewell except the very reason that Dryden felt it was a pathetic touch. These were used to draw sentiments from the audience. And they lack Dryden’s customary intelligence to gain emotion. There is also stuff for parody, the sentiments of which would be rapidly demolished in thee heroic plays by ironic imagery and even the suicide scene is a series of awkward sentimentalities.

See; see how the lovers sit in state together,

As they were giving laws to half mankind,

Th’ impression of a smile left I her face,

Shows she dy’d pleas’d with him for whom she lived,

And went to charm him in another world( All for Love 5, I , 45 )

Generally the play succeeded In the dominance of passion over reason. It raises our emotions, and the sympathy for the errors of the main characters. If we see the raise or our emotion as Dryden’s intention , then many of our confusions disappear, like the suicide of Ventidius , the cold virtue of Octavia and also the lack of moral judgment add to the sympathy Dryden hope to achieve. All for Love misses greatness because its purpose is just to raise the emotion of the audience rather than showing the imperfection of life. All for Love lacks the pressure of intelligence upon its subject matters, and we eventually are left with a sense of being cheated. And at the end this question remains that why Dryden said that he wrote this play for the excellence of its moral. We can find that this period for him was a period of transition when he had unsettled principles and he searched to find less constricting rules. After he has broken up with formulas of the heroic play he was both influenced by those elements in Rapin’s epic theory which was a sort of justification for the romantic side of drama and also the moralizing influence of Le Bossu.

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Dryden wrote about Rapin’s observation that the purpose of tragedy is to agitate the viewers pity for the misfortunes of the distressed;” when the souls become agitated by fear for one character, or hope for another then it is that we are pleased in tragedy ” his statement can be applied to All for Love. Dryden also wrote about Le Bossu: ” the first rule that Bossu prescribes to the writer of a heroic poem, and which hold too by the same reason in all dramatic poetry, is to make the moral of the work ;that is , to lay down to yourself what that percept f morality shall be, which you would insinuate into the people; as namely , Homer’s was, that union preserves a commonwealth, and discord destroys it . Sophocles in his Oedipus, that no an is to be accounted happy before his death.”

Despite that Dryden had Le Bossu’s concept of drama in mind but applied it to a play which was upon a different critical theory .the very reason is clear in the paragraph quoted above. Because “that union preserves a commonwealth and discord destroys it, and All for Love shows the unfortunate ends of unlawful lovers. This was the start of Bossu’s influence upon him and we can clearly see it in his other plays after it.


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