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Tactical Victory: Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poesy and the Battle of Lowestoft

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The single most significant work of Restoration literary theory, John Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poesy, links arts and arms. Four friends travel down the Thames by boat, and to pass the time they discuss some of the central questions of late seventeenth-century literary aesthetics: The nature of panegyric, the status of Ancients and Moderns, the efficacy of rhyme in drama, the relative merits of English and French drama, and the importance of the Aristotelian or at least semi-Aristotelian Unities.

Bharat Bhammar's Assignment: Essay on Dramatic Poesy

All the while cannons rumble in the distance, since on that "most memorable day" the English fleet is fighting a Dutch squadron just a few miles from the seaside town of Lowestoft, well within earshot of London itself. By the time the four men return to shore, the Dutch have been vanquished, and along the way the superiority of English literary practice has been confirmed. Most critics have treated the Battle of Lowestoft-the frame within which the literary debate takes place-as a military echo of the aesthetic victory of English letters.

Just as English sailors secure the channel and thus the trade against foreign adversaries, Dryden offers his readers a manifesto in which the English stage is defended against challenges not only from the classical tradition, but also from the contemporary French theatre. In mounting this defense Dryden aligns English letters and national identity, suggesting that the military and commercial warfare between England and her continental rivals specifically the French and Dutch that dominated the latter half of the seventeenth century could and ought to be extended to the sphere of literature as well.

In fact, Dryden's conscious invocation of Second Dutch War in the frame of An Essay of Dramatic Poesy shows how inextricably arts and arms were linked in this period.

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Thale's reading of the significance of the frame is confirmed a decade later by Cedric D. Dryden is creating a parallel between two international engagements, the one a naval battle between the English and the Dutch, the other a literary debate, and the parallel itself suggests that both these activities may be similarly important in determining the fate of England.

This reading is codified by Howard D. In fact, Weinbrot suggests that the cultural stakes are so high that the invocation of the Battle of Lowestoft by Dryden should lay to rest disputes over Dryden's supposed intellectual "flexibility. Dryden's debate does have winners and losers, as does the naval engagement