Heroic Tragedy

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Politically the restoration of the king Charles-II to the throne of England is known as Restoration (1660). The Restoration literature mainly centers round John Dryden. An new type of play, specifically tragedy that became prominent after the Restoration (1660-1700) and of which Dryden is one of the earliest and most skillful exponents. The chief features of the new growth are the choice of a great heroic figure for the central personage; a successions of stage incidents of an exacted character, which often, as Dryden himself realized became ridiculous through their extra extravagance. The style is generally loud bombastic and declamatory and the rhymed couplet is the usual pattern. The major practitioners of Restoration heroic tragedy are John Dryden, Sir William D’Avenant, Elkanah Settle, Nathaniel Lee (Nat Lee), Thomas Otway.

Restoration of Heroic Tragedy

The heroic tragedy had a brief run concurrently with the Restoration comedy of Manners. Again it was very much stilted and artificial, and to some extent, merely a transplant from the French soil. A Heroic tragedy is much less representative of the ethos of the Restoration society than a comedy of manners. As in a heroic poem or an epic or an adventurous song, a heroic play (most heroic plays and unhappily as in tragedies) in generally built upon the character of a larger than life heroic warrior. The hero is generally a master of word man ship and stagy rhetoric. He is invariably a king, prince or a army general. The plot involves the fate of an emperor. Gallantry, adventure, love and honour are the usual things. The principle conflict paced by the hero is between love and honour.

18th centurian Heroic Play

The vogue of the heroic play lasted through out the reign of Charles II (1660-1985) and even beyond to the early years of the 18 th century. Dryden is surely the leader. His the Indian Queen (1664) is the first heroic play necessitated by Howard. But it can not be a tragedy because of its happy ending. The play has almost all other elements of heroic tragedy. His other heroic plays are The Indian Emperor, Tyrannical Love, The conquest of Qranada, Amboynas, Aureng-Zebe. All for love, or the World well lost (1678) is in blank verse and it is considered to be his master piece. It was an extremely Dearing thing to attempt what Shakespeare had already done Antonym and Cleopatra. The characters are well drawn and animated, or and noble.
There are other practitioners specially Sir William D’Avenant and Nat Lee are remarkable. D’Avenant is famous for his the siege of Rhodes and the play was well received by the Londoners who had remain with out entertainment sense 1649 when the theaters were closed by the puritan Regime. Another important feature of the play was the introduction of actresses to play the role of female characters.

Elkanah Settle

Elkanah Settle is a writer of the Empress of Moroceed (1673). One of the reasons why Dryden Jave up writing heroic plays after Aurangzeb was highly undeserved success of Settle’s play. The play was followed by a long satirical wrangle between Dryden and his friends in the one hand and settle on the other. The last blow was delivered by Dryden who in the 2nd part of his Absalom and Acidophil (1682) pilloried settle as Doge.
Nat Lee is described by Bonamy Dobree in Restoration Tragedy as the most completely ‘heroic’ of all the out standing heroic writers. His plays 10 in number, are, in A Nicola’s words, formless and historical. There is high emotional tension in his plays. Lee constantly tried to reach the sublime height of Grotesque rant. Bonamy Dobree says, There can be no purple patch where all is incarnadined and humanity itself is drowned in an ocean of verbiage. Thomas accommodates the elements of Pathos and sentimentalism which are essentially alien to this heroic spirit. His best plays are The Orphant, Venice Preserved, both in blank verse. Dobree considers his drama tear mongering. In Ot will find the last flicker of Elizabethan glory.

The cult of the heroic drama lasted for two decades after the Restoration. It was largely a product of the Fr. Influence, specially of Cornelle and Racine’s classical tragedy.
The heroic tragedy had a brief run concurrently with the Restoration comedy of Manners. Again it was very much stilted and artificial, and to some extent, merely a transplant from the French soil. A Heroic tragedy is much less representative of the ethos of the Restoration society than a comedy of manners. As in a heroic poem or an epic or an adventurous song, a heroic play (most heroic plays and unhappily as in tragedies) in generally built upon the character of a larger than life heroic warrior. The hero is generally a master of word man ship and stagy rhetoric. He is invariably a king, prince or a army general. The plot involves the fate of an emperor. Gallantry, adventure, love and honour are the usual things. The principle conflict paced by the hero is between love and honour.

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