John Dryden 1631–1700

  • Ian McGowan
Part of the St. Martin’s Anthologies of English Literature book series (AEL)


Dryden was educated at Westminster School and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He produced much of his early work in dramatic form, including (tragi-)comedy (Marriage à-la-Mode, 1672) and heroic plays in rhyme (The Conquest of Granada, 1670), later turning to blank verse (All for Love, 1678): these are now rarely performed, but his prologues reveal his practical interest in literary questions, developed in his elegant critical prose (An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, 1668). He became Poet Laureate in 1668 and Historiographer Royal in 1670, under Charles II, but lost office under William and Mary: The Hind and the Panther (1687) had marked his conversion to Catholicism from the Anglicanism of Religio Laici (1682). In his later years he returned to drama, but found more congenial expression in translation, notably of Virgil (1697), Ovid and Chaucer (in Fables Ancient and Modern, 1700), together with his critical writing. Dryden’s criticism is accessible and unpedantic, the fruit of his creative experience; his vigour, mastery of the heroic couplet, and refinement of poetic language gave him great influence on the verse of the next century.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc. 1989

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  • Ian McGowan

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