Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This study has one major purpose: to discover the formation of Dryden’s dramatic theory in the “Essay of Dramatic Poesy” published in 1668 through a detailed study of his seven earlier plays. The first chapter shows an elaborate consideration of the “Essay”. This provides the reasons that make the “Essay” important: as the first critical book review in English; as the first appreciative criticism of individuals; as a revolutionary change from the strict aesthetic rule towards the freedom of Romanticism. Furthermore, a brief summary of the “Essay” is also present. Chapter Two is devoted to the practice of Dryden’s dramatic theory on the unity of action. IT includes a short summary of the plot for each play, and also implicated some minor issues Dryden raised in the “Essay”. The objective of this chapter is that Dryden disrespects the unity of action by providing sub-plots and employing both tragic and comic elements in one play. There is only one play, The Indian Queen, that is regular according to the Neo-classic point of view. Dryden seems to be fond of the sword-play and death on the stage, and each play is written in five acts. The third chapter deals with Dryden’s practice in the unity of time and place. There are two ends reached in this chapter: on the unity of place Dryden prefers more freedom for the tragedy rather than comedy, and on the unity of time Dryden developed his theory of more latitude after the year of 1663 which was practiced in both his tragedies and comedies. Chapter Four illustrates Dryden’s practice on the use of rhymed couplets. In The Indian Queen and The Indian Emperor confirmed his theory in the “Essay”, and the use of rhymed couplets in tragic-comedies exhibits his seriousness on this issue. A few pages present the conclusion of this study following chapter four. The attempt is made to ascertain the evaluation of Dryden’s dramatic theory in the “Essay” through his earlier plays which proves that Dryden was flexible in the practice of his dramatic theory.


Roberta C. Stout

Date of Award

Summer 1968

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1968 Pao-Shu Sun Fong


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