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All of these elements underlie the nature of drama.
Crites notes that poetry is now held in lower esteem, in an atmosphere of “few good poets, and so many severe judges” (37–38).
His essential argument is that the ancients were “faithful imitators and wise observers of that Nature which is so torn and ill represented in our plays; they have handed down to us a perfect resemblance of her; which we, like ill copiers, neglecting to look on, have rendered monstrous, and disfigured.” He reminds his companions that all the rules for drama – concerning the plot, the ornaments, descriptions, and narrations – were formulated by Aristotle, Horace, or their predecessors.
Lisideius offers the following definition of a play: “” (36).
Even a casual glance at the definition shows it to be very different from Aristotle’s: the latter had defined tragedy not as the representation of “human nature” but as the imitation of a serious and complete action; moreover, while Aristotle had indeed cited a reversal in fortune as a component of tragedy, he had said nothing about “passions and humours”; and, while he accorded to literature in general a moral and intellectual function, he had said nothing about “delighting” the audience.
The definition of drama used in Dryden’s embodies a history of progressive divergence from classical models; indeed, it is a definition already weighted in favor of modern drama, and it is a little surprising that Crites agrees to abide by it at all.
Crites, described in Dryden’s text as “a person of sharp judgment, and somewhat too delicate a taste in wit” (29), is, after all, the voice of classical conservatism.Born into a middle-class family just prior to the outbreak of the English Civil War between King Charles I and Parliament, he initially supported the latter, whose leaders, headed by Oliver Cromwell, were Puritans.Indeed, his poem (1659) celebrated the achievements of Cromwell who, after the execution of Charles I by the victorious parliamentarians, ruled England as Lord Protector (1653–1658).Kneller, Godfrey; John Dryden (1631-1700), Playwright, Poet Laureate and Critic; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; is skillfully wrought in terms of its own dramatic structure, its setting up of certain expectations (the authority of classical precepts), its climaxing in the reversal of these, and its denouement in the comparative assessment of French and English drama.What starts out, through the voice of Crites, as promising to lull the reader into complacent subordination to classical values ends up by deploying those very values against the ancients themselves and by undermining or redefining those values.As for us modern writers, he remarks, “we have added nothing of our own, except we have the confidence to say our wit is better” (38).The most fundamental of these classical rules are the three unities, of time, place, and action.Lisideius refers to Sir Charles Sedley, and Neander (“new man”) is Dryden himself.The extends far beyond these two topics, effectively ranging over a number of crucial debates concerning the nature and composition of drama.Crites claims that the ancients observed these rules in most of their plays (38–39).The unity of action, Crites urges, stipulates that the “poet is to aim at one great and complete action,” to which all other things in the play “are to be subservient.” The reason behind this, he explains, is that if there were two major actions, this would destroy the unity of the play (41).