Charles II may have been King of England, but John Dryden was King of Restoration literature. He is, by far, the most important literary figure of the period. Not only was he a prolific writer who worked in a bunch of different genres including poetry, drama, and prose, but also he set the bar in terms of literary standards for the period.
One important contribution he made was the popularization of the Heroic Couplet in English poetry. He also played a big part in establishing satire as an important literary mode during this period. No doubt about it; Dryden is your first stop for Restoration-y goodness. What the Beatles are to the British Invasion, Dryden is to Restoration Literature.
Mac Flecknoe (1682)
Mac Flecknoe is a classic work of the Restoration period. In it, Dryden makes fun of his literary rival: a poet by the name of Thomas Shadwell. The poem is so important because it was written as a "mock epic," a satirical work that used the conventions of the epic genre to talk about trivial things.
The poem not only influenced Dryden's contemporaries, but those who came after him. Alexander Pope, who was a very important figure in the Augustan literature movement (check out the Shmoop module on 18th century/Augustan literature), was influenced by Dryden's poem when he wrote his own very famous mock epic, "The Rape of the Lock."
Marriage à-la-Mode (1673)
This is Dryden's most famous comedy. It's set in Sicily, and it involves a number of romantic plotlines. Like a lot of comedies of the period, the play centers around trickery and misrecognition.
The play is so impressive because it reflects Dryden's versatility as a Restoration author. The guy not only wrote some of the most important poetry of the period, he also wrote some of the most important drama and helped set the tone in the theaters of the day.
Chew on This
John Dryden's mock epic poem Mac Flecknoeis a great example of Restoration satire.
Political themes are a big part of John Dryden's writing. His poem "To His Sacred Majesty: A Panegyrick on His Coronation" deals with the restoration of Charles II to the throne.
I don't know if it will qualify as a dissertation but something will be up on my blog about this pretty soon. essay? rant?
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