An Analysis of the political approach of John Dryden’s plays and their appraisal through the ideas of Edmund Burke /

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2014
Dore, Peter Jeremy
This thesis is an analysis of the political approach of the plays of John Dryden and an analysis of it through the ideas of Edmund Burke. This work establishes that Dryden had a political program, it being the use of his literary work to promote the concept of monarchical legitimacy so as to support Charles II and the legitimate succession to his rule. Dryden engages in this program in his dramas by depicting the legitimate rulers within them as exceptionally virtuous. He additionally uses his plays to make further political points within the framework of his program. In order to explain the relevance of the political concerns of Dryden, this thesis relates the historical and theoretical context in which Dryden wrote about kingship. It also provides an examination of his political program within his poetry and playwriting during the reign of Charles II before making a more detailed analysis of four specific plays. After this analysis, this thesis then analyses the political approach of Dryden through the ideas of the conservative political thinker Edmund Burke. By using the ideas of Burke, it is revealed that whilst he would concur in the main with Dryden on his political program, there is in fact a flaw within it. Burke shows that by coupling the idea of legitimacy with another concept, it weakens the concept of legitimacy itself. Hence Dryden, by linking virtue and legitimacy, actually undermines his whole political program.