The Age of Dryden Viva

Q. 1. How will you characterise the Age of Dryden as New Classicism?
Ans. At the Restoration the break with the past was almost absolute. It involved the English literature in the deepest degree; subject and style took on a new spirit and outlook, a different attitude and aim. Hence the Restoration period is often set up as the converse and antithesis of the previous Elizabethan age. It is called classical, is opposed to the Elizabethan romanticism. Though the contrast between the two epochs need not be over-emphasized, yet the differences are very great. Let us see in what respect the new spirit is shown.

Q. 2. How will you differentiate between the Elizabethan Age and the Age of Dryden?
Ans. The differences between the Elizabethan and the so-called classical periods are very great. Lacking the genius of the Elizabethans, the authors of the time turned to the great classical writers, in particular to the Laatin writers, for guidance and inspiration. The habit, quite noticeable during the time of Dryden, deepened and broadened during the succeeding ear of Pope (1700-1750).
Q. 3. How far was Dryden able to attain the ideal of New Classicism?
Ans. Dryden did not attain altogether to this ideal. Pope and his immediate successors called him ‘copious’, thus hinting at a lack of care and an unrestrained vigour that were survivals of an earlier virility. Yet Dryden has the new tendency very clearly marked. To his Dr. Johnson first applied the epithet ‘Augustan’, saying that Dryden did to English literature what Augustus did to Rome, which he ‘found to brick and left of marble’. Dryden is the first great exponent of the new ideas that were to dominate English literature till the end of the eighteenth century.
Q. 4. How will you comment upon ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ of John Dryden?
Ans. It is a famous satirical allegory of Dryden. In it Dryden champions the cause of monarchy. Absalom is the Duke of Monmouth, the unfortunate aspirant to the succession; and Achitophel is his daring but injudicious counsellor, Shaftesbury. These two are surrounded by a cluster of lesser politicians, upon each of whom Dryden bestows a Biblical name of deadly aptness and transparency.
Q. 5. How will you evaluate ‘Mac Flecknoe’?
Ans. The final political satire is Mac Flecknoe, which was directed against Shadwell, the leading Whig poet of the day. It was published in 1872, which was a year of great political animosity between the Tories and the Whigs. Thus Dryden took his revenge upon Shadwell. Mac Flecknoe literally means the son of Flecknoe. This Flecknoe was an Irishman and a Catholic priest. He was one of the meanest versifiers of the century, and had been the butt of Marvel’s satire. Dryden chose him to fill the place in that satire because his name had become old and is on the lookout for a suitable successor to reign over all the realms of Nonsense absolute and to wage immortal war with wit.
Q. 6. What are the excellences of Dryden’s satires?
Ans. Dryden’s satires are unparalleled in the history of English literature. They are free from the harshness, as well as the violence of much second-rate work. The heroic couplet, with its force, its precision, and-the sting of its rhymes, is an admirable weapon for satire. It is varied, and rapid, and hard hitting. It was in Dryden’s hands an ‘energy divine’.
Q. 7. Comment upon Dryden as a satirist?
Ans. In verse satire Dryden excels all others. Amiable by temperament, indignation drives him neither to the malice of Pope nor the disgust of Swift. If, indeed, he is superior to Swift, it is because he has wider sympathies. Dryden assumes no moral airs, firmly controls his satirical spirit, and skilfully selects the points and the manner of his attacks. At its best his is that sharp, well-mannered way of laughing which he praises in his Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire. The result is a humorous, disdainful, and yet incisive mockery. Dryden is, in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, ‘the great master of contempt’.
Q. 8. What was Dryden’s contribution to the heroic couplet?
Ans. The New movement was seen most clearly in the development of the heroic couplet, which was soon to spread throughout poetry and throughout much of the drama. Dryden adopted the heroic couplet, but he improved upon the wooden respectability of his predecessors’ verse. While he retained all the couplet’s steadiness and force, he gave it an additional vigour, a sinewy elegance, and noble rhythm and beauty.
Q. 9. What is Dryden’s place in English literature?
Ans. Dryden’s literary significance is threefold and is expressed in his prose, his dramas and in his verse. The change from the romantic to the classical manner was already in evidence before Dryden was born. Dryden saw which way the literary wind was blowing and set his craft cheerfully in the same direction. Walter already had done creditable things with the heroic couplet. Dryden gauged its possibilities and did brilliant things. He developed the qualities of each, flexibility and lucidity that he brought into English verse, particularly the satire.
Q. 10. What was the new development in the Restoration comedy?
Ans. In comedy the advance is noteworthy, The comedy of humours is dying out, though considerable traces of it are still visible, and is replaced by the comedy of manners. Comedy has acquired a new snap .and glitter and the almost universal medium in prose. Congreve’s The Way of the World, Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Farquhar’s The Beaux° Stratagem are good examples.
Q. 11. What was the nature of the Restoration comedy?
Ans. The new comedy was of slower growth than the heroic play and for some years after 1960, comedy was restricted to revivals of pro-Commonwealth plays, but the decadent, cynical spirit of the later age was alien to the romantic comedy of the ElizabethAns. Even so, Restoration comedy drew its main inspiration from the native tradition which had flourished before the closing of the theatres in 1642. In particular it was indebted to Beaumont and Fletcher and to Ben Jonson. Like the heroic play, however, comedy was strongly influenced by Continental writers, and especially be Moliere and the Spaniard, Calderon. It reflected closely the dissolute court life of the period, and between that and the court life of France, there was a community of spirit which led naturally to an interest in French Restoration comedy.
Q. 12. What are the main features of the Restoration comedy?
Ans. The new drama is full of vitality, and moves with great pace, but the exuberance which led the Elizabethans to the poetic romance is supplanted by a polish and intellectual control which replaces emotion by wit, and poetry by a clear, concise prose which adds much point and gives a fine precision to the dialogue. The pervading’ tone is one of cynicism, and the plays show a close, and often satirical, observation of life and manners which recalls the work of Ben Johnson. Plots and sub-plots are intricate and numerous, and centre mainly upon amorous intrigues, which reflect an open contempt for the ordinary standards of morality, that, in Wycherley and others, often takes the form of gross sensuality. In Etheredge and Congreve, the immorality still remains but it is purged of much of its grossness and offensiveness by the fact that it is essentially intellectual, witty, and free from the cruder realism which mars Wycherley’s work.
Q. 13. Who are the comedy writers of the age of Dryden?
Ans. The comedy writers are William Congreve, William Wycherley, George Etheredge, Sir John Vanburgh, and Thomas Shadwell.
Q. 14. Who is the greatest Restoration comedy writer and why?
Ans. William Congreve is undoubtedly the greatest of the Restoration comedy-writers. In his work the comedy of manners reaches perfection. His plays are a faithful reflection of the upperclass life of his day, but their undoubted immorality is saved from being objectionable by brilliant wit, a hard finish, and a total lack of realism. In the artificial society which he depicts moral judgments would be out of place. The tone is one of cynical vivacity, the characters are well drawn, and Congreve’s prose is lucid, concise, and pointed and shows an excellent ear for rhythm and cadence. In all things he is the polished artist, whose distinctive quality is brilliance.
Q. 15. How will you make a critical appraisal of William Congreve’s comedies?
Ans. All Congreve’s plays, except The Way of the World, had an immediate success, and it is ironical that this one should be singled out by posterity as his masterpiece, Free from the occasional sentimental touches which mar The Double Dealer, it is the best example of the comedy of manners, skilful in characterization, and completely free from the coarseness and realism which spoil the work of so may of his contemporaries.
Q. 16. What do you understand about the heroic play in the age of Dryden?
Ans. This was a type of exaggerated tragedy in vogue in Britain at the time of Dryden. It deals with themes of love and valour and the style is so high flown as nowadays to seem almost absurd. There may he a surprisingly vulgar and often incongruous sub plot. The endeavour was presumably to produce something greater than traditional tragedy, and the craving for very strong sensations may have been part of the reaction against Puritanism; but the form is now dead. Examples are Congreve’s The Mourning Bride and Dryden’s Don Sebastian and The Conquest of Granada. Dryden’s All for Love may probably be reckoned as a true tragedy.
Q. 17. How will you examine John Dryden as the heroic playwright?
Ans. This is new type of the tragedy that became prominent after the Restoration, and of which Dryden is one of the earliest and most skilful exponents. The chief features of the new growth are the choice of a great heroic figure for the central personage; a succession of stage incidents of an exalted character, which often, ad Dryden himself realized, became ridiculous through their extravagance; a loud, declamatory style: and the rhymed couplet. The chief heroic plays of John Dryden are The Rival Ladies, The Indian Emperor, Tyrannic Love, The Conquest of Granada and Aurengzebe.
Q. 18. How will you comment upon Blank-verse Tragedies of John Dryden.
Ans. The heroic play was so easily parodied and made ridiculous that the wits of the Restoration were not slow to make a butt of it. His next play, All for Love, or The World Well Lost, is in blank verse, and is considered to be his dramatic masterpiece. For subject he chose that of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. It was a daring thing to attempt what Shakespeare had already done; but Dryden, while following the earlier play somewhat closely, never actually copies it. He produces a play of a distinctly different nature, and of a high merit. The characters are well drawn and animated, and the style, though lacking the demonic force of Shakespeare’s at his best, is noble and restrained.
Q. 19. How will you discuss prose in the age of Dryden?
Ans. From 1660 onward, English prose became much less ornate and began to bear a much greater resemblance to the prose of today. The outstanding factor for the introduction and establishment of this new prose was the spread of the spirit of commonsense and of the critical temper of mind, which was detrimental to the higher interests of poetry. The extending influence of science, which favoured clearness of thought and plainness of expression, must also be recognized. Although the prose writing of the period is not great in bulk, it shows a profound change in style. Previous writers such as Sir Thomas Browne had done remarkable and beautiful work in prose, but their style had not yet found itself. It was wayward and erratic it was often cumbrous or often obscure. It was weighted with a Latinized construction and vocabulary. This is the age of average prose and prepares the way for the work of Swift and Addison, who stand on the threshold of the modern prose style.
Q. 20. What are your views about John Dryden’s Prose Style?
Ans. Dryden’s style is not flawless. It is sometimes involved and obscure. There are little slips of grammar and many slips of expression. But on the average it is of high quality. The impression that the reader receives is one of great freshness and abounding vitality.
Q. 21. Make the critical appraisal of the ‘Essay of Dramatic Poesie’ of John Dryden?
Ans. The Essay of Dramatic Poesie is his longest single prose work and a major piece of English literary criticism. It is in the form of a discussion between four characters, one of whom is Dryden himself, and treats, with an openness of mind and a lack of dogmatizing which are new in criticism, most of the major topics which interested contemporary dramatists. Among them were the question of rhyme or blank verse in drama; the comparison between French and English drama; and the possibility of making a judicious compromise between the strict observance of the classical unities and the greater freedom of the English dramatic tradition. Moreover, the essay is the first attempt to evaluate the work of the Elizabethan dramatists and especially of Shakespeare.
Q. 22. Do you agree that the English novel owes a great debt to John Bunyan?
Ans. It is an indisputable fact that John Bunyan’s contribution to English novel brought a radical change. Bunyan had the multifarious qualities of narrating the stories. He had insight into character, humour, pathos and vivid imagination of the dramatic art. He got rid the English novel of the extravagances of the romances and cynicism of the picaresque story-teller. his novels were based upon the Biblical stories. The style is homely, but not vulgar; strong but not coarse; equable but not monotonous. It is sometimes humorous, but never sentimental. His style is the pattern of a plain style and it is masterpiece of the English language.

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