From An Essay Of Dramatic Poesy Summary

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John Dryden’s An Essay on Dramatic Poesy presents a brief discussion on Neo-classical theory of Literature.He defends the classical drama saying that it is an imitation of life and reflects human nature clearly.

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Since nobody speaks in rhyme in real life, he supports the use of blank verse in drama and says that the use of rhyme in serious plays is justifiable in place of the blank verse.

An Essay of Dramatic Poesy gives an explicit account of neo-classical theory of art in general.

"Natural" rhymed verse is, however, just as appropriate to dramatic as to non-dramatic poetry: the test of the "naturalness" of rhyme is how well-chosen the rhymes are.

Is the sense of the verses tied down to, and limited by, the rhymes, or are the rhymes in service to, and an enhancement of, the sense of the verses?

An Essay on Dramatic Poesy is written in the form of a dialogue among four gentlemen: Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius and Neander. Eugenius favours modern English dramatists by attacking the classical playwrights, who did not themselves always observe the unity of place.

But Crites defends the ancients and points out that they invited the principles of dramatic art paved by Aristotle and Horace.

Crites argues in favor of the ancients: they established the unities; dramatic rules were spelled out by Aristotle which the current-and esteemed-French playwrights follow; and Ben Jonson-the greatest English playwright, according to Crites-followed the ancients' example by adhering to the unities.

Lisideius argues that French drama is superior to English drama, basing this opinion of the French writer's close adherence to the classical separation of comedy and tragedy.

Crites opposes rhyme in plays and argues that though the moderns excel in sciences, the ancient age was the true age of poetry.

Lisideius defends the French playwrights and attacks the English tendency to mix genres.


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