Using the same material as in Antony and Cleopatra and claiming that he was writing ‘in Shakespeare's style’, Dryden has created a version that is clearly not as great as Shakespeare's but which offers its own special qualities. In place of Shakespeare's vast historical panorama, Dryden concentrates the action according to neo-classical rules, keeping to locations in Alexandria and beginning near the end of the story, so that the action seems to occupy a few days at most. This offers a much more concentrated experience than in Shakespeare. Cleopatra's character is different too: in Shakespeare Antony loves her because she possesses ‘infinite variety’. Dryden's Queen is much more honourable, winning Antony over as much by argument as through her feminine wiles. Finally, Dryden exploits an opportunity not used by Shakespeare, to bring Cleopatra and Octavia together in a memorable if unhistorical meeting.
Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).
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John Dryden (1631—1700) poet, playwright, and critic