The Unabated Conquest

John Dryden’s The Indian Emperor encompasses the political ideology of the Restoration through the foreign escapade of the play, coupled with the undying honor and influences of love, the drama itself becomes an exploration of the ideology of conquest during the time.

Much like the conquistadors, Britain sought political conquest of Europe through any means they could. In the play, the Spanish killed many natives of the land while under the guise of loyalty to their homeland and honor that could not be soiled no matter the circumstance, even love. Similar to Britain, the beheading of Charles I is exemplary of such brutality capable by the British government just as Montezuma was driven to suicide by Cortez. This political ideology of conquest masqueraded in honor and romanticized by drama is problematic; normalizing and simplifying the death of hundreds and thousands of natives.

Dryden’s decision to leave the romantic connection of Cortez and Cydaria ambiguous is purposeful in showing the overall triumph of honor over love. While it may be true she compelled Cortez to stave his attack for a day, nonetheless he still butchered the natives under the name of his king and followed through the bloodbath unabated. Cortez here works as a metaphor for conquest, being this masculine and primal blood-lust that cannot be tamed by romanticism and love despite Cydaria’s efforts.

Overall, the ambiguous ending shows not only the complexity of love but also the political ramifications that hover over such decisions.

-Daniel Corral

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