Heroic Drama Criticism: Definitions And Overviews - Essay

John Dryden (essay date 1677)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Dryden, John. “The Author's Apology prefixed to The State of Innocence and Fall of Man, an Opera (1677).” In The Prelude to Poetry: The English Poets in Defence and Praise of Their Own Art, edited by Ernest Rhys, pp. 123-34. London: Dent, 1970.

[In this essay, Dryden defends the genre of heroic drama from critics who describe it as bombastic and unrealistic.]

To satisfy the curiosity of those who will give themselves the trouble of reading the ensuing poem, I think myself obliged to render them a reason why I publish an opera which was never acted. In the first place, I shall not be ashamed to own that my chiefest motive was the ambition which I...

(The entire section is 4006 words.)

C. G. Child (essay date June 1904)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Child, C. G. “The Rise of the Heroic Play.” Modern Language Notes 19, no. 6 (June 1904): 166-73.

[In this essay, Child emphasizes William Davenant's role in the development of heroic drama.]

Holzhausen, in his sketch of the rise and development of the heroic play (Englische Studien, 13. 416 n.), says, with reference to Ohlsen's Dryden as a Dramatist and Critic (Altona progr., no. 263, 1883),

Ueber dies passiren ihm allerhand seltsame schnitzer. So nennt er aus s. IV kurzweg Davenant als denjenigen, welcher die heroic plays in England eingeführt habe, was, wenn auch nicht ganz falsch, so doch entschieden...

(The entire section is 5549 words.)

Robert Hume (essay date 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Hume, Robert. “Ideas of Greatness: The ‘Heroic’ Play.” In The Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century, pp. 192-99. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

[In this excerpt, Hume suggests that while many plays designated as “heroic” share important features, there is no single quality or trait shared by all of them.]

How cohesive is ‘heroic drama’? Plainly this depends on your definition. Is a prosperous ending necessary? If so, what is Orrery's Mustapha? Is a villain-centred play truly heroic? I would say no—not unless a character of virtue figures prominently in contrast, as in Tyrannick Love. Does opera count?—and...

(The entire section is 2502 words.)

Laura Brown (essay date 1981)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Brown, Laura. “Heroic Action.” In English Dramatic Form, 1660-1760: An Essay in Generic History, pp. 3-27. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981.

[In the essay below, Brown considers the defining features of heroic drama.]

Heroic drama and comedy of manners are the familiar labels given to the major serious and comic plays of the Restoration English theater. In most criticism of the period, these descriptive terms are used to refer either to theme, to verse form, to the presence of certain kinds of characters, or to a particular artificial, sophisticated, and witty tone. Traditional categories of such duration and currency deserve respectful...

(The entire section is 12732 words.)