Authors: John Dryden

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet, playwright, and critic

Author Works


Heroic Stanzas, 1659

Astraea Redux, 1660

“To My Lord Chancellor,” 1662

Prologues and Epilogues, 1664-1700

Annus Mirabilis, 1667

Absalom and Achitophel, Part I, 1681

Absalom and Achitophel, Part II, 1682 (with Nahum Tate)

The Medall: A Satyre Against Sedition, 1682

Mac Flecknoe: Or, A Satyre upon the True-Blew-Protestant Poet, T. S., 1682

Religio Laici: Or, A Layman’s Faith, 1682

Threnodia Augustalis, 1685

The Hind and the Panther, 1687

“A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day,” 1687

Britannia Rediviva, 1688

Eleonora, 1692

“To My Dear Friend Mr. Congreve,” 1694

Alexander’s Feast: Or, The Power of Music, an Ode in Honor of St. Cecilia’s Day, 1697

“To My Honour’d Kinsman, John Driden,” 1700


The Wild Gallant, pr. 1663

The Indian Queen, pr. 1664 (with Sir Robert Howard)

The Rival Ladies, pr., pb. 1664

The Indian Emperor: Or, The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, pr. 1665

Secret Love: Or, The Maiden Queen, pr. 1667

Sir Martin Mar-All: Or, The Feign’d Innocence, pr. 1667 (adaptation of Molière’s L’Étourdi; with William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle)

The Tempest: Or, The Enchanted Island, pr. 1667 (adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play; with Sir William Davenant)

An Evening’s Love: Or, The Mock Astrologer, pr. 1668 (adaptation of Thomas Corneille’s Le Feint Astrologue)

Tyrannic Love: Or, The Royal Martyr, pr. 1669

The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, Part I, pr. 1670

The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, Part II, pr. 1671

Marriage à la Mode, pr. 1672

The Assignation: Or, Love in a Nunnery, pr. 1672

Amboyna: Or, The Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants, pr., pb. 1673

Aureng-Zebe, pr. 1675

The State of Innocence, and Fall of Man, pb. 1677 (libretto; adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost)

All for Love: Or, The World Well Lost, pr. 1677

The Kind Keeper: Or, Mr. Limberham, pr. 1678

Oedipus, pr. 1678 (with Nathaniel Lee)

Troilus and Cressida: Or, Truth Found Too Late, pr., pb. 1679

The Spanish Friar: Or, The Double Discovery, pr. 1680

The Duke of Guise, pr. 1682 (with Lee)

Albion and Albanius, pr., pb. 1685 (libretto; music by Louis Grabu)

Don Sebastian, King of Portugal, pr. 1689

Amphitryon: Or, The Two Socia’s, pr., pb. 1690

King Arthur: Or, The British Worthy, pr., pb. 1691 (libretto; music by Henry Purcell)

Cleomenes, the Spartan Hero, pr., pb. 1692

Love Triumphant: Or, Nature Will Prevail, pr., pb. 1694

The Secular Masque, pr., pb. 1700 (masque)

Dramatick Works, pb. 1717

The Works of John Dryden, pb. 1808 (18 volumes)


Of Dramatic Poesie: An Essay, 1668

“A Defence of An Essay of Dramatic Poesy,” 1668

“Preface to An Evening’s Love: Or, The Mock Astrologer,” 1671

“Of Heroic Plays: An Essay,” 1672

“The Author’s Apology for Heroic Poetry and Poetic License,” 1677

“Preface to All for Love,” 1678

“The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy,” 1679

“Preface to Sylvae,” 1685

A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire, 1693

“Dedication of Examen Poeticum,” 1693

“A Parallel of Poetry and Painting,” 1695

“Dedication of the Aeneis,” 1697

“Preface to Fables: Ancient and Modern,” 1700

“Heads of an Answer to Rymer,” 1711


Ovid’s Epistles, 1680

The History of the League, 1684 (of Louis Maimbourg’s Histoire de la Ligue)

The Life of St. Francis Xavier, 1688 (of Dominique Bouhours’s La Vie de Saint François Xavier)

The Satires of Juvenal and Persius, 1693

The Works of Vergil, 1697


Fables Ancient and Modern, 1700


John Dryden (DRID-uhn), English poet, dramatist, and critic, was born at Aldwinkle All Saints, in Northamptonshire, probably on August 19, 1631. He was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1654.{$I[AN]9810000578}{$I[A]Dryden, John}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Dryden, John}{$I[tim]1631;Dryden, John}

John Dryden

(Library of Congress)

After honoring Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, in Heroic Stanzas, he welcomed the restoration of Charles II in 1660 in Astraea Redux. Thereafter he remained a staunch royalist and a Tory. Dryden in 1663 married Lady Elizabeth Howard and proved an affectionate father for their three sons. His poem on the Dutch war and the great fire of London was Annus Mirabilis. From this time until 1681 he produced plays.

His literary life may be divided into three periods: In the period 1657 to 1681 he was primarily a dramatist; 1681 to 1688, a satirist; and 1688 to 1700, a translator. It was in 1688 that he became poet laureate, with the title of historiographer-royal being conferred two years later.

Dryden’s most important prose work, Of Dramatic Poesie: An Essay, appeared in 1668. Here, as master of his “other harmony” of prose, he upholds the reputation of English dramatists and defends his principles of composition. This work takes the form of a dialogue between Neander (Dryden) and others, in which Neander defends the English drama of preceding generations. At the same time he argues that English drama has much to gain by the observance of exact methods of construction without abandoning entirely the freedom which English writers had always claimed. He also upholds rhyme in serious drama, a position elaborated on in “A Defence of An Essay of Dramatic Poesy.” Dryden was the first to employ the rhymed couplet in the dialogue of an ordinary stage play.

Notable also in this first period are The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, also known as Almanzor and Almahide, a rhymed heroic play, and All for Love: Or, The World Well Lost, a seventeenth century revision of William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (pr. c. 1606-1607). It was during this period that the Royal Society was chartered in 1662. It became the popularizing body for the idea of universal correctness of language, with Dryden its great exponent. His idea was to establish a highly selective language for poetry. Moreover, the use of this language would improve the writings of any poet. All for Love was Dryden’s formal, “correct” modernization in blank verse of Shakespeare’s materials. In transforming John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667, 1674) into rhymed drama, Dryden makes his language fit his own thoughts rather than those of Milton. Dryden is considered a genius at finding the words that express his mind exactly. Clarity and balance are keynotes of his style. His critical essays (prefaces to his works) are standards of clear writing. As a critic he is excellent in his praise of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Geoffrey Chaucer.

Political events in London in the years 1678 to 1680 revolved around the Popish Plot, followed by the attempt of the Whigs, led by the earl of Shaftesbury, to force Charles to exclude his brother, the Catholic duke of York, from the succession. It was the Whigs’ purpose to substitute the king’s illegitimate but Protestant son, the duke of Monmouth. Shaftesbury was awaiting his trial for high treason when Dryden began his satires with Absalom and Achitophel, in which he supports the king and the Tories and presents brilliant portraits of the chief Whig politicians. In 1682 the polemical warfare in which he became involved called forth Mac Flecknoe: Or, A Satyre upon the True-Blew-Protestant Poet, T. S. “T. S.” stood for Thomas Shadwell, a supporter of Shaftesbury. This work helped inspire Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad (1728-1743). In March, 1682, Dryden published The Medall: A Satyre Against Sedition, which ridicules the medal struck to commemorate Shaftesbury’s acquittal.

His most personal poem, Religio Laici: Or, A Layman’s Faith, attacked the Papists. In 1686, however, he was converted to the Catholic church, and The Hind and the Panther is an allegorical argument for his new faith. The hind of spotless white is the Roman church, while the panther ready to spring is the English church established by Henry VIII. The Independent or Puritan church is a bear; the Quaker, a quaking hare; the Baptist, a bristling boar.

The revolution of 1688 brought ruin to Dryden’s worldly prosperity; afterward, he lacked either official assistance or the position as poet laureate. He had begun as a translator in 1680 with Ovid’s Epistles; now he finished a complete version of Juvenal and Persius and a translation of Vergil. Noteworthy at this time is the famous ode, Alexander’s Feast: Or, the Power of Music, an Ode in Honor of St. Cecilia’s Day, of 1697. Following was a volume of translations and adaptations from Geoffrey Chaucer, Boccaccio, Ovid, and Homer titled Fables Ancient and Modern.

Dryden died in London on May 1, 1700. While his family was preparing to bury him as well as their poverty could afford, a large subscription was raised. His body was borne in state to Westminster Abbey, where he is buried in the Poets’ Corner near Chaucer and Edmund Spenser.

BibliographyArcher, John Michael. Old Worlds: Egypt, Southwest Asia, India, and Russia in Early Modern English Writing. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001. Contains a scholarly examination of Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe, along with Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and the works of John Milton. Bibliography and index.Bywaters, David. Dryden in Revolutionary England. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Describes the rhetorical stages by which Dryden, in his published works between 1687 and 1700, sought to define contemporary politics and to stake out for himself a tenable place within them. The volume attempts to situate these works in political and literary contexts familiar to Dryden and his readers. The study reveals much about the relationship between Dryden’s politics, polemics, and art. Contains an epilogue and extensive notes.Gelber, Michael Werth. The Just and the Lively: The Literary Criticism of John Dryden. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1999. Gelber provides a complete study of Dryden’s criticism. Through a detailed reading of each of Dryden’s essays, the book explains and illustrates the unity and the development of his thought.Hammond, Paul. John Dryden: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. This study of Dryden’s life examines the texts that he produced and the relationship of these texts to the society they reflect. The work consists of chapters on different aspects of Dryden’s works. They are arranged approximately chronologically to suggest the shape of his career and to explore his own developing sense of his role as the premier writer of Restoration England, both dominating and detached from the world in which he moved. Includes select bibliography and extensive notes.Hammond, Paul, and David Hopkins, eds. John Dryden: Tercentenary Essays. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2000. A collection of twelve essays that place Dryden in the context of his time and suggest a more elevated place for him in literary history.Miner, Earl. Dryden’s Poetry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967. A combination of the scholarly and the critical, this authoritative study deals extensively with all the major long poems, the lyric poetry, and the fables. Both Dryden’s ideas and his figures are extensively analyzed. Contains a bibliography and an index.Owen, Susan J. Restoration Theatre and Crisis. New York: Clarendon Press, 1996. A look at theater in England in the seventeenth century, focusing on Dryden and Aphra Behn. Bibliography and index.Schilling, Bernard N. Dryden: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. An excellent collection of critical essays on Dryden’s poetry and drama. The author’s thesis is that, of the major English poets, Dryden has stood most in need of balanced judgment and informal reappraisal. The book attempts to make the reader more fully aware of the meaning and value of Dryden’s work and to assess his literary stature. Contains a chronology of important dates and a bibliography.Winn, James Anderson. John Dryden and His World. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987. This lengthy work is a fresh attempt to transport its reader to Dryden’s time. It examines the man, his work, and the world in which he lived. Considers the subtle relations linking this world’s religious beliefs, its political alliances, and the literary styles it favored. Views Dryden’s work as a product of his particular historical situation. Includes illustrations and appendices on Dryden’s family history.Zwicker, Steven N. Politics and Language in Dryden’s Poetry. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984. A scholarly work that traces, historically and analytically, Dryden’s poetic strategies in dealing with his poetic views. Includes an index.
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