In All for Love, why does Dryden imitate Shakespeare's style? Why does he acknowledge the imitation?

In Dryden's All for Love, Dryden imitates Shakespeare to highlight his admiration for the playwright and to show that English drama required a "larger compass" than the rigid adherence to the classical unities of time, place, and action followed by the French dramatists of his period. He acknowledges the imitation of the rule-breaking Shakespeare to legitimize his own attempt to write "more freely" than the rules allowed.

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In his preface to All for Love, Dryden states that while he admires the French dramatists of his period, who followed the classical unites of time, place, and action,

they are too little for English tragedy; which requires to be built in a larger compass.

By the late seventeenth century, Shakespeare was beginning his ascent, which would be unbroken from that time on. Nationalism informed Dryden's thinking, and he could point to Shakespeare as a completely home-grown dramatist who was highly regarded by the French dramatists of the period, such as Molière and Racine.

Dryden openly acknowledges that he is imitating Shakespeare to draw attention to the "divine" playwright and to invite comparison between his version of Antony and Cleopatra and Shakespeare's. He is leaning in, as well, to Shakespeare, who broke all the rules, to legitimize his own taking of liberties with the conventions of theater in that time period. For instance, he notes from the start that he is not writing in verse and states that this allows him to write "more freely."

Dryden also notes, however, that he is not copying Shakespeare in a "servile" way. He changes the original play to adhere more closely—though not at all exactly—to the classical unities by focusing on the very end of Antony and Cleopatra's relationship, setting the play entirely in Alexandria. His goal was the unite the best that Shakespeare had to offer with what he considered the best of theater in his own period.

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