Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode, and “An Essay of Dramatic Poesy”

January 18, 2007

Unlike other 3203 students, I am not fond of happy endings; instead, I relish the pessimistic conclusions of Modernist fiction. Yet, despite the play’s rapid resolution and somewhat optimistic ending, I found enjoyment in the satirical humour of John Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode. Because I intend to blog on Dryden’s essay, I will keep this entry on the play quite short and continue blogging on it throughout the week. So, for the time being I will briefly discuss the power of patriarchal figures, who seem to direct the actions of the play. Throughout the play, characters are confined by their patriarchal environments, or more specifically, by their paternal figures. Although the women of the play are most victimized by this patriarchal system, even the young men are confined by their fathers or father-like figures. Essentially, the fathers of the play attempt to determine the lives of their children. The comedy derives from the characters’ attempt to escape or deal with the lives that they are given, and the satirical display of marriage that comes from their dissatisfaction with matrimony.  Palamede, Rhodophil, Doralice, and Melantha are all in arranged relationships. Although in the end the characters realize that they do indeed have affection for their spouses, throughout the play they attempt to reject the established marital arrangement through adultery. Through their adulterous affairs, the characters can feel a sense of freedom, and reject the patriarchal order.

However, I did not find such enjoyment in Dryden’s “An Essay of Dramatic Poesy”. This dry and lengthy conversation between four men of “borrowed names”, Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius and Neander, defend dramatic rhyme and the English dramatic tradition. In this essay, four men provide contrasting positions on literary and dramatic practice in a Platonic like dialogue of questions and answers. In his essay, Dryden establishes a dialogue; however, unlike the traditional Platonic dialogue, typically between two people, Dryden’s essay includes four men with contrasting positions concerning aspects of Ancient and Modern drama as well as French and English dramatists. Although I am not particularly fond of Plato’s philosophical views or dogmatic dialogues I would prefer the energy and clarity of a Platonic text over Dryden’s essay. While the essay offers insight to several perspectives, it lacks the cohesiveness of a Platonic dialogue.  

The dispute begins with the men arguing over the merits of Ancient and Modern “Dramatique Poesie” and an argument over which dramatic form is superior. Through this dispute, Dryden provides his definition of a play: “A just and lively Image of Humane Nature, representing its Passions and Humours, and the Changes of Fortune to which it is subject; for the Delight and Instruction of Mankind”. Although this is said by Lisideius, Dryden exhibits this definition in Marriage a la Mode. Throughout the play, Dryden satirizes the “passions and humours” of human nature with his comical depiction of marriage and adultery.

Anyways, due to a lack of time I will cut this blog short and return again shortly. See everyone in class! 


6 Responses to “Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode, and “An Essay of Dramatic Poesy””

  1. Kate Wright Says:

    Hey Krsytal,

    Whenever I hear the word “Poesie” I think of flowers.

    Just wanted to let you know that my blog, should you want to talk about the group assignment, is “‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore”.



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