In the play The Indian Emperour, or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards by John Dryden, the relationship between the Spanish conquistador Cortez and the Aztec Cydaria is inherently one-sided by Dryden’s choice behind forcing honor against love. In a culmination of the two’s conflicting pulls throughout the plot, Dryden ultimately doesn’t see the relationship blossom due to imperialism forcing power dynamic between the two characters.
Dryden conveys a power dynamic between Cortez and Cydaria to add “edge” to the plot, and in doing so, forces violence into love figuratively and literally in the relationship and plot. Cortez, in many instances, is shown to adore Cydaria passionately, “Like Travellers that wander in the Snow, [he would look] [up]on her beauty…till [he was] blind,” even desiring to go to great lengths for her to “once more…[crown his love] In bright Cydaria ‘s Arms” (Dryden 13, 32). However, in these proclamations of love and dedication, the choice in phrasing by Dryden forces a power dynamic between the two to artificially advance the plot in an otherwise straightforward story of conquest. To establish the dramatic action the characters go through, Cortez’s dialogue paints his love for Cydaria, and her influence over him as captivating and powerful, even over such a “strong hero” like, him, with sayings like “I can bear Death, but not Cydaria’s Tears” and him later “melt[ing] to womanish tears,” courage betraying him (36, 52). These types of declarations of love artificially create a power dynamic, and are easily seen through and nullified with Cortez’s proclamation: “I dread your anger, your disquiet fear, but blows from hands so soft who would not bear” (24).
Cydaria’s dialogue also contributes to this power dynamic, while initially giving her a strong impression, ultimately adds to a submission. She initially poses this interesting question to Cortez, “what is this Honour that does Love controul?” almost taunting and questioning the hold honor has for him (18). After arguing with him over his duty in conquest for his honor, he attempts to concede, even stating, “I till to morrow will the fight delay, Remember you have conquer’d me to day” (19). This further ties a power dynamic between the two, creating tension between passion. However, this ends up taking a more realistic turn with Cydaria almost bowing down to him symbolically in submission. When he later pleads with her to let her be led to safety, she says, “leave me not here alone, and full of fright…I beg, I throw me humbly at your feet” (51). All of these types of proclamations tie love in forcefully with violence, and in doing so establish a power dynamic between the two lovers, something false given the power he has over her in attempting to take over her country. In the end, conquistadors are still conquistadors — “honour once lost is never to be found” (18).