The genre of the heroic tragedy developed during the Restoration years. It featured lyric and emphatic dialogues, idealized characters, exotic contexts and dramatic plots. As the most respected playwright of the Restoration, Dryden was the master of the genre. His play All For Love or The World Well Lost (1677) is the story of Anthony and Cleopatra and represents a turning point in the author's heroic tragedies. Here Dryden abandons his habit of writing in rhymed couplets in favor of blank verse. He also compresses the action so that he observes all the unities of classical theatre (time, place, action). The play presents the dilemma of love against the demands of politics and society. In the opposition between Rome and Egypt critics have also read a juxtaposition between the virtuous England and the corrupted (and largely Catholic) Europe.
Anthony is a heroic character in his larger-than-life stature and passions, but Dryden challenges an entirely positive reading of his hero as he points out Anthony's limitations as a stateman.