Love vs Honor (honor always wins)

Dryden’s play, The Indian Emperour portrays the battle between the Aztec natives and the catholic conquistadors through Cortez and Cydaria. Cortez and Cydaria fell in and though they were believed to end up together and live happily ever after, they did not. In history, Cortez is perceived as a leader who is strict and prideful, however, Dryden reveals an affectionate and loving Cortez to challenge the previous thoughts of him. Their relationship as well as the entire play was a battle between love and honor. The love that Cortez and Cydaria had for one another vs their individual honor to their people/nationalities. Montezuma’s pride as leader/ruler vs his people. Dryden uses this theme to illustrate the reality of the Restoration period because if each character truly followed their own beliefs, it would cause consequences for them and those around them.

Throughout the play, there were horrific deaths, hurt, jealousy, love triangles, and though they were interesting, I would have to admit I was not fond of this play at all. To begin, it was very challenging and almost impossible to comprehend, but besides that, I believe it was boring. The plot and characters did not at all please me or make me want to continue reading, and realistically, I understood maybe half the play (just being honest). This play, despite everything I said, did make me question some things such as why did they not end up in matrimony? Does he take or leave her? Why is there so much sexism/racism in this play?

– Rahma K



King Charles II: The Merrie Monarch

I’ve posted a clip from Horrible Histories, the BBC program that produced a documentary on the English Civil War. This clip is a music video starring Charles II, whose rap explains why he is called the “Merrie Monarch.”  The themes raised in this video resonate strongly with the playful social atmosphere of the Restoration theater,  an important context for understanding Dryden’s play.  Check it out!

Colonization: A Right and A Wrong

There is a criticism of colonization at work within Dryden’s work. However, not of its entirety. Instead, there is an underlying hint that Pizzaro and even Cortez are wrong, not for their goal of conquesting the Americas, rather for their manner of going through it as well as the motivations. There is definitely a reason then, why Cortez never ended with Cydaria in a typical hero’s wedding, that classic trope does not fit with the ideals Dryden has kept buried in the play. If one is to find this ideal, we must think like Dryden, worry of English colonists and how they compare with Spanish conquistadors…what makes the English so great then?

Beginning with the depiction of evil, greedy Pizarro – Dryden emphasized the typical villain for his lust for money, money, money. He tried to reap as much as he wanted, and he failed. Then it must be that Dryden condemns this greed, one must not attempt to conquest the Americas solely for the monetary gain. While that definitely plays a factor, there is something much more valuable in the Americas than just money. Then is the protagonist, Cortez, the man of honor swayed away by love. Dryden displays a man capable of so much power, who is then captivated by native beauty, represented by Cydaria. Because of this, he stalls in his effort to conquest America, but only succeeds when he focuses on the main purpose of Spanish conquest – to claim what must be rightfully theirs.

What exactly could Dryden have in mind? Many things, specifically highlighted by Cortez’s victory only when he regains focus on his main goal. This reflects on the idea that there must be a certain way to colonize in order to be successful, as well as the dangers of colonizing. The manner to conquest that is respected by Dryden must be that of passionate yet controlled focus. There is no need for native integration, not to be distracted by the natural beauty nor by the overwhelming lust of gold, greed. There must be a middle ground, the middle ground that the English must surely take. The natives must not be slaughtered, nor they be called in and welcomed, but they must serve under the colonists, pushed away and cornered. They should be kept under control. The Catholic way is like a hungry beast, consuming and feeding, taking in the natives to add to their masses. Dryden still condemns this, despite illuminating Cortez. How? It’s only when he abandons his native love that he succeeds, that definitely points in the direction that an English conquest would prefer. After all, native love got one prideful monarch killed and his people taken in by the cruel conquistadors…do the English people truly want to take lands in such a savage manner, ruin their blood for the sake of expanding their religion? Dryden may romanticize his characters, but there are certainly nationalistic values still at stake, still applied in the underlying meanings of the text. Be warned colonies, do not be distracted, focus on the goal not to expand religion, not to gain money, not to fall in love with new peoples, but just as Dryden put Cortez forward only when he got to the real goal, the English colonies must focus on their love of their nation, their honor, if they want to progress and move forward. This must be, and ultimately was, the English colonial ideal.

-William Fernandez

Dryden: The First Novela

Dryden- though challenging at times to comprehend- delivers a delightfully horrific love story that ends in multiple deaths. I deeply enjoy the manner in which there are battles, family feuds, introductions of different societies meeting for the first time, and the blood that is spilled. The manner in which the women throughout the writing tie emotion into various scenes makes the reading even more anchoring. The way the brothers need to fight for love, the way Montezuma’s babe wants Cortez, the jealousy, the betrayal, the honor; it all has such tasteful structure.

I am surprised by the way Cortez has honor. Cortez on multiple occasions, gives Montezuma chances as well as the civilization. That befuddles me. It brought me to raise the question as to why Dryden portrays Cortez in such a glorious and giving manner. After some profound class discussion, it became more clear. The author Dryden was English, and through Cortez, displays honorable, and civilized characteristics. Those characteristics are discreetly saying that English are graceful and wise. With the two types of Spaniards, the good and the bad, Dryden uses Pizzaro to portray the true intentions of the Spanish: to pillage, rape, and steal gold.

What truly struck me was how my fellow classmate pointed out that Montezuma was framed in a way to resemble Christ. That is powerful. I never would have envisioned such a deep image. Even with the high priest next to Montezuma while they were on the rack, I did not think to envision the vivid scene of the crucifixion. There is a lot I have to learn in this class as I am not an English major, but rather a business major. I deeply admire the way my classmates see these hidden messages in readings. Sometimes I feel at a disadvantage because I do not know if it will just magically click for me as the course goes on. I do deeply try to grasp the concept and storyline as much as possible by reading everything and actively participating so I do hope it helps me see what they see.

With this reading, I secretly wish Montezuma would have listened to his higher priest when talking to the spirits to surrender because I feel that Montezuma and Cortez could have been friends and made something even better and tied together 2 continents.


-Daniel Estrada

Re-Imagining Cortez’s Legacy

The ending of the play in my opinion states a lot about what Dryden was attempting to deliver with this piece. For example Cortez’s valor and willingness to provide to attempt to start a relationship with Cydaria even though due to the conquest she should have been seen as simply a Mexican and nothing else shows in what light Dryden saw the spaniards. He acknowledges the fact that the conquest was a prideful nationalistic accomplishment but demonstrates their weakness by his love for Cydaria showing how Cortez is willing to fall in love with an indigenous woman. In history books Cortez is seen as a strict conquistador not capable of falling in love let alone with a native woman yet Dryden is trying to challenge the previous notion by including a more affectionate side of Cortez.They also even included a character out of history Pizarro in attempt to even further take blame away from Cortez. I believe Dryden had this in mind when writing the play and writing it in english for that matter to justify the events and bring Cortez down from this pedestal that Spain had put him on while

In the first picture of the theatre, we can see how much admiration people had for the theatre during the time. The building is incredibly big having multiple floors for seating and booths around and some even on the stage. It’s clear from the pictures how English people thought of going to the theatre as an event in itself making sure that everything is beautifully done and executed. In the second picture however we can see that the admiration for theatre wasn’t only for show but also the content and love for the arts. They were so into theatre they were willing to put on private performances in their home with friends and family.


-Noel Nevarez

Drama in the Restoration

John Dryden changed the world with his dramas. As the puritans lost their influence, theater would rise once again with the powerful works of Dryden and his playwright counterparts. Charles the II was more than enthusiastic to see the influence of the stage, and his encouragement was more than enough to spur a movement that encompassed tremendous social, political, and religious inter-workings. The Indian Emperour, or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, is a prime example of the enormity  and impact that the theater played at the time, in an English empire that faced a plethora of widespread thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. The Indian Emperour took the stage by storm, and Dryden’s influence was thus effectively conveyed.

After reading The Indian Emperour, surely one could only wish to witness the scramble of love and honor in an actual grandeur theater of the past. Drama as it always has, is capable of captivating the audience, invoking emotion and thus possessing a power not matched by other forms of literature. However the drama during the restoration period was especially significant and influential. Behind the immediate display of glamour, the theater was a way to strengthen political ideologies and Dryden was able to reinforce the support for the monarchy. Dryden depicts the Aztec leader Montezuma in far-stretched manner to resemble a positive figure that is in peril due to the largely ill-willed Spanish conquistadors. He approaches the Catholic regime, and ultimately the Spanish nation, in the Montezuma torture scene, where the Aztec leader ultimately becomes a martyr. The oppressive tendencies of Catholicism are displayed on full blast with the priest in the torture scene, “Chr, Vr. Mark how this impious Heathen juftifies his own falfe gods, and our true God denies how wickedly he has refus’d his wealth. And hid his Gold, from Chriftian hands, by ftealth: Down with him, kill him, merit Heaven thereby. (59)” Dryden does however, leave room on a positive portrayal of the Catholic church through the heroic actions of Cortes. Where the greed-possessed Pizarro is unable to act ethically, Cortes proceeds as a heroic figure, who constantly has his honor questioned, but ultimately prevails. Cortes represents the ultimately honorable fate that avoids the love of Cyderia.

The influence of female presence is perhaps more powerful than perceived during the time of restoration. The Indian Emperor helps represent the chaotic scene of love that honor is in direct conflict with. Women have become an extremely influential force, and carry similar qualities as literature of power themselves. The anxieties of the England with Spain are portrayed through an insulting claim that the Spanish are less honorable through their choices of love and their apparent cruelty, as The Indian Emperor glorifies England through the actions of Cortes. Dryden is able to embody the celebratory feelings of newly granted freedom in his plays during the restoration, and expresses his uncertainty in the English empire, and also addresses the issue of religious fanaticism. He uses alternating paradoxes of love and pride to excite and demonstrate to his audience the complexities of the monarchy. The theater grew to become a staggering scene not just for the renovation of old plays, but as a new gathering for the social stratification of England to coincide and discuss. The impact of drama in the restoration was immense, and Dryden is largely responsible.

-Thomas Pham

John Dryden’s Martyred Cortez

Cortez is an outlier in Dryden’s play because he is not a Spaniard by essentialist standards. It is true that the context of Great Britain at the time was very anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish, but this does not explain the use of Hernan Cortez as a symbol of love within the play. There is a sense of a paradox here when the key figure in Conquistador history is utilized by an Englishman to create a play that criticizes the exploitation of the Mexican “Indians.” If Dryden’s goal was to demonize the Spanish Catholics, using a hierarchical figure like Cortez might have meant Dryden sympathized in some way. Although it might have something to do with Dryden’s eventual conversion to Catholicism, it also says something about Dryden’s admiration of characters who are not essentialized.

There is a pivotal moment in Cortez’s dynamic character when he sees Cydaria for the first time, and is infatuated with her. At this point Cortez stops being a conquistador and begins being human. In some regard, Dryden might have been showing that he appreciates bending of character, for people to step outside of their essentialism. The audience is left admiring those characters who are dynamic and despising those who stay the same. Toward the end of the play we see how Pizarro’s ambition is the worst of all by even allowing Vasquez some dynamic characteristic by fighting for his love of Alibech instead of gold. Pizarro, however, becomes essentialized by his last line in act four, scene three: “I the gold.” Dryden makes a martyr out of Cortez despite his Catholicism, which shows the discomfort he had with making Spaniards monolithic characters.

–Cesar Ramirez

A Call to Action in the Arts

While I would certainly agree that John Dryden’s “The Indian Emperour” uses the theme of love vs. honor (or private vs. public) to fuel his character’s action and ultimately the course of the play, I would argue that there is an even more overbearing theme in the work which is apparent from the very first lines. Dryden’s “The Indian Emperour” sparks more of a conversation of progress, not conquest, despite the plot of the play dealing directly with the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. This theme of progress (or to put it even more bluntly, man vs. nature) is at the heart of all debates and was both essential during the Restoration period, as it is now an important aspect of political discourse in the 21st century.

When the play first begins, Cortez and Vasquez are surveying the land, or “nature.” Cortez states, “On what new happy climate are we thrown, so long kept secret and so lately known, as if our old world modestly withdrew, and here, in private, had brought forth a new!” Here while Cortez is referencing Mexico as a “secret,” Dryden is discussing how the Restoration period is a time for exposure. It is a time for not “modestly withdrawing” but bringing “forth a new!” Dryden very much believed that new plays needed to be written and that while the performance of classical plays was an important venture, the culture of the arts depended on new ground being broken by contemporary poets. When Dryden mentions the “new happy climate we are thrown,” I believe him to be referencing the luck of being born in a time when such expansion, such exploration is possible. By using a verb like “thrown,” it implies that the character (or poet) did not come upon this “happy climate” (or societal opportunity) by acts of their own agency, but by fate and therefore it is their duty to progress.

Cortez later continues, “Wild and untaught are terms which we alone invent, for fashions differing from our own: for all their customs are by nature wrought, but we, by art, unteach what nature taught.” This line is extremely important because here while in the play Cortez is referencing the native inhabitants, Dryden is referencing those poets who came before the Restoration. He’s saying that are “wild and untaught” only because we label them such and such terms are “fashions” (or opinions) based on a current trend. Therefore, poets of now, must “unteach what nature taught.” This is a call specifically to the Enlightenment, specifically “by art.” This word choice might seem odd in the context of the play, (why not teach them by ministry? Or conversion?), but for Dryden’s audience and contemporary playwrights, this was not a sloppy, ill-conceived choice. It was a call of action for other artists to begin producing art and making progress through the arts.

By Elle Lammouchi


John Dryden’s The Indian Emperor addresses the conflict between the Spaniards and the natives where honor and love are up for battle. And honor to one’s nationality, story/history and title is more valuable than one’s love to someone who is on the complete opposite spectrum than one’s self. That was the position of Cortez and Cydaria, where they couldn’t be true to their love, because of their pride and honor to their nationalities. The women in this play were used for entertainment, while Cydaria had a little more power than the others because she influenced Cortez to call to a stop the battle that was arising. Their love, was almost as strong as their individual honor to their nationalities. My speculation as to why Dryden didn’t write them into matrimony is because of realistic consequences to their love in the time the play was placed. For one, it wouldn’t have been favored, but also, it would have turned the play into a type of cliché. Though it may feel that all the drama was built for nothing because they didn’t end up in matrimony, I feel like things like that make stories better because as the audience, not only are you upset about it, but you’re supposed to think, like we are now, “why didn’t they end up in matrimony?” Which makes you question things broader than their matrimony, such as the time span of this event, the “class” division/power and even the gender roles as many of my class mates have brought to our attention in their posts. They also write about how Cydaria was able to get to Cortez about his decisions, but she wasn’t “powerful” enough to end up in matrimony with him, for the unclear reasons that I’m trying to address that were bigger than them.



-Luz Palacios

Divide of classes; dividing love

In John Dryden’s “The Indian Emperour, or the Conquest of Mexico,” is the precursor to the repetitious cycle of division of classes, and inability to embark on relationships based on a difference of ethnicity, nationality, race, and specifically religion.  Dryden, essentially, captures the Romeo and Juliet-esque tragic love story that is occurring amidst the two empires -that of the Aztecs and the imperialists.  In imagining what this theatrical portrayal must have been like for the onlookers, it can be concluded that although many spectators where there for social status purposes, some must have been able to have taken some sort of introspective experience from the play.

In addition, the twist is that Dryden’s attempt at exposing such a political and nationalistic divide, should have resonated even louder within the confines of that theater.  The theater, consisting of a diversity that has been broken up into categories, literally based on their seating.

The whole spectacle rings true still today.  There are publishers of every sort: singers, poets, songwriters, bloggers, playwrights, filmmakers and directors, attempting to raise an awareness towards an important social issue.  For example, social media outlets of today, whether it be the news, or facebook, or twitter, carries a plethora of information intended to show us the breakdown that is occurring within the nationalistic part of our society.  The lack of solidarity, and unity is similar to what Dryden’s point of view is.  We have seen footage after footage, of people yelling others for speaking a language other than English, thus exposing the xenophobia that many feel.

Dryden’s work is a work of modernity, campaigning for the notion to rid of old ways and ideals that only seem to stifle the growth of a nation.  Similarly, that is the case with today.  Ironically, we seem to be going backwards.  Love and the ability to combine beliefes does not seem to be the resolution at the moment.

-Maricela Martinez