John Dryden seems to be conveying his own perspective on the religion of Catholicism in The Indian Emperour. It seems to be a foreshadowing of Dryden’s own life as he himself, converts to Catholicism later on. The theme of the story seems be love vs honor, as seen in the playwright that even though Cortez falls in love with Cydaria, he still follows his orders of taking the natives to war and capturing their land.The story shows two different sides; the Aztecs and the Spanish Conquistadors. Cortez, a Spanish general, falls in love with Cydaria, the daughter of the Emperor of Mexico. As shown in act 3, scene 2, Obrellan tricks Cortez into thinking he is being harassed but is really there to assassinate Cortez. Cortez is warned about this and challenges Orbellan to a duel in which he wins but leaves Orbellan due to honor and claims that he will attack the city the next day (30-32). Because of this, it shows that Cortez is not that bad of a person. He respects the challenge of a duel when he can easily call his allies to help defeat Orbellan. This could be Dryden’s take on the idea of Catholicism; that maybe the religion and its followers are not so bad after-all. It also displays Dryden’s admiration to the idea of Catholicism. It sounds like he’s romanticizing this character of Cortez by giving him characteristics such as being honorable and flirtatious.
Dryden might also be onto something else here; Catholicism may have its good side but also its bad side. As seen in the story, Francisco Pizzaro, a commander under Cortez, is greedy and will do anything for gold. One can view this as corruption as he is motivated by the riches of gold and will do anything to get it. As seen in act 5, scene 2, Pizzaro and a Catholic priest are torturing Montezuma and the High Priest to show the location of the gold. “How wickedly he hasrefus’d his Wealth, and hid his gold from Christian hands by stealth” (57). This describes Pizzaro’s profound greed for gold and is willing to forcefully convert both Montezuma and the High Priest to Christianity. Although Montezuma refused, the High Priest wanted to reveal the location but was killed instead. Dryden could be suggesting that the idea of Catholicism might be forced upon them. This can be seen as a parallel to an event in 1670, where King Charles II signed a treaty with French King Louis XIV, in which he agrees to convert to Catholicism and support the war against the Dutch in return for money. In comparison, it shows the corruption of the Catholics and how it has spread to even the King of England. Even though King Charles II didn’t really convert until his death, it shows that Catholicism has spread to even the highest of power. Thus, showing the influence and fear of Catholicism.
Speaking of the French, during the reign of King Louis XIV, the religion of Catholicism was the norm. Not only France, but also Italy. And what is English but is inspired by the French and Italians? The Restoration Theater. As discussed in the lecture notes, the stage area during the Restoration period was borrowed from the Italian and French theatre. Now all of this may not sound so bad, but it does prove that there is French/Italian roots to English theatre. That since both of them are Catholic countries, it should imply that the fear of Catholicism is alive and well. Dryden may be using this story, The Indian Emperour as a predictor for future outcomes of what is to become of England.