By Irvin Ehrenpreis
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Extra resources for Acts of Implication: Suggestion and Covert Meaning in the Works of Dryden, Swift, Pope, and Austen
One finds telling examples of this in Dryden's plays, especially when he deals with political or religious themes. Baroque stagecraft favored symbolic and sensational productions, which throve under royal patronage, as monarchs aspiring to absolutism imitated the visual and musical devices of the Counter-Reformation in order to strengthen their own association with divinity. So it is natural that marvelous spectacular effects should have been among the strong appeals of Tyrannick Love. The story is that of St.
Almeria gains access to the prison and finds Cortez asleep. Drawing a dagger, she wakes him up so he may suffer the terror of watching death approach. To her astonishment, he meets her threat without flinching. The audience sees Almeria upright, dagger raised; Cortez beneath, loaded with chains. Precisely at this moment, with no warning of any sort, she falls in love with him. After quarreling < previous page page_28 next page > < previous page page_29 next page > Page 29 with herself, she tries again to stab Cortez, but only lowers her dagger.
The action does not seem tragic or pathetic, or even serious. Our anxiety is hardly aroused on behalf of figures who expose themselves so often and unexpectedly to strenuous moral conflicts, especially when their moral ideals touch few chords in our modern sensibilities. The design of the drama might seem closer to comedy than to tragedy. What is the charm that rescues Dryden's serious plays from these dangers? It is the use the poet makes of his opportunities. the toughness with which her aphoristic couplets defy moral principle resolves any doubt as to the ultimate implications of the episode.
Acts of Implication: Suggestion and Covert Meaning in the Works of Dryden, Swift, Pope, and Austen by Irvin Ehrenpreis