OXFORO AT THE CLARENDON PRESS 1918 PR /UA7 .1.31$ PREFACE.
Dryden and others were not slow to consult the taste prevailing at Court.
Neander asserts that "we have invented, increased, -and perfected a more pleasant way of writing for the stage . Neander extends his criticism of French drama - into his reasoning for his preference for Shakespeare over Ben Jonson. which is nearest prose" as a justification for banishing rhyme, from drama in favor of blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter).
Shakespeare "had the largest and most comprehensive soul," while Jonson was "the most learned and judicious writer which any theater ever had." Ultimately, Neander prefers Shakespeare for his greater scope, his greater faithfulness to life, as compared to Jonson's relatively small scope and Freneh/Classical tendency to deal in "the beauties of a statue, but not of a Man." Crites objects to rhyme in plays: "since no man without premeditation speaks in rhyme, neither ought he to do it on the stage." He cites Aristotle as saying that it is, "best to write tragedy in that kind of verse . Even though blank verse lines are no more spontaneous than are rhymed lines, they are still to be preferred because they are "nearest nature": "Rhyme is incapable of expressing the greatest thought naturally, and the lowest it cannot with any grace: for what is more unbefitting the majesty of verse, than to call a servant, or bid a door be shut in rhyme?
Eugenius (whose name may mean "well born") favors the moderns over the ancients, arguing that the moderns exceed the ancients because of having learned and profited from their example.
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.In the enforced leisure which his residence at Charlton during the plague brought him, he thought over the whole sub ject, and this Essay of Dramatic Poesy was the result. In the course of time Dryden modified more or less the judgment in favour of rhyme which he had given in the Essay. Before undertaking to decide this point,\ Neander says that he will attempt to estimate the dramatic genius of Shakespeare, and of Beaumont and Fletcher. This he does, in an interesting and well-known passage (p. He then examines the genius of Jonson with reference to many special points, and gives an analysis of the plot of his comedy, Epicoene, or the Silent Woman ; but he gives no direct answer to the question put by Eugenius. [Neanderjpryden) takes up the Defence of the English stage, and tries to 'show that it is superior to the vni PREFACE. * For the verse .itself,' he says, ' we have English precedents of older date than any of Corneille's plays.' By ' verse ' he means, rhyme/' He is not rash enough to quote Gammer Gurtorfs Needle and similar plays, with their hobbling twelve-syllable couplets, as ' precedents ' earlier than the graceful French Alexandrines, but he urges that Shakespeare in his early plays has long rhyming passages, and that Jonson is not without them. At this point Eugenius breaks in with the question, Whether Ben Jonson ought not to rank before all other writers, both French and English. 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.For Lisideius "no theater in the world has anything so absurd as the English tragicomedy; in two hours and a half, we run through all the fits of Bedlam." Neander favors the moderns, but does not disparage the ancients.Dryden prescriptive in nature, defines dramatic art as an imitation with the aim to delight and to teach, and is considered a just and lively image of human nature representing its passions and humors for the delight and instruction of mankind. "An Essay of Dramatic Poesy by John Dryden: An Overview." Bachelorand Master, 25 Jan. Dryden emphasizes the idea of decorum in the work of art.