Immolation & Education


For a long period of time in India, being a devoted wife might include grabbing the groceries for dinner, taking the kids to school, and burning yourself to death.

As they approached, my ears drank in the most delightful sounds; a band of music, as is the custom, occupied each of them, playing the softest airs; and from the tout en semble, brought Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra in my recollection. (9)

– Sophia Goldborne in “Hartly House, Calcutta”

It is evident, that Sophia is quite clueless throughout her efforts of epistolizing the events she sees in plain sight, however, there is a constantly reoccurring theme of irony, in which it is the readers’ duty to acknowledge and take note of, to assimilate and connect the key implicit points in this historical setting of Anglo-Indian affairs, that Sophia is otherwise not aware of.

For Sophia, the celebrations are glamorous and fun, and she remembers dramas that she experienced back home in England. Although she is merely reminded of Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra through the musical ensemble, there is a critical point to address as she begins to establish her descriptions of the cultures and traditions of the time. Digging deeper into the tale of Cydnus and Cleopatra, we learn about how desperate Cleopatra was to be the perfect lover and commits herself to self-sacrifice in honor of her husband after his passing. This example of an extreme level of marriage devotion can be linked to the Sati ritual in India. Sati means “the husband is to be followed always”. It was a customary virtue before modernity for a female widow to burn herself to the pyre, to follow her husband. Again we can thank Raja Roy for disseminating the notion that this wasn’t very ethical. Sophia is unknowingly referencing a deeper tradition that was prevalent previously, that approaches on issues of femininity, and gender equality. The core of this novel is to take into consideration what lays beneath the surface of what Sophia naively envisions.

The status of English literature at the time is immense. The culture of India and the language of English are beginning to mesh together in a willing cohesion of intercultural transformation. The works of several scholars and thinkers alike have impacted the lives of various cultures around the world. Sophia shares her knowledge of English continuously in her letters, but the implicit reasoning to this is tied directly to generalized English sentiments in India at the time. The feeling of uncertainty proved to be enough for many visitors to feel the need disseminate their language about.


Thomas Pham


Gibb me Liberty

Close reading has brought out some marvelous things in Phebe Gibb’s Hartley House, Calcutta. I was not closely paying attention to the use of ego and centralism that Sophia subtly displayed. I do see a particular romance to that in what Dryden displayed in “Indian Emperour.” There are 2 men which are drawing Sophia Goldborne’s interest, and one (Doyly) who she does not have too much romantic affection for. Like Cortez, Sophia is in the liking of foreign men. We as readers, we see a significant amount of sentimental expression that sways our feelings. This is inspired by works like Pope’s and Dryden’s.

There is a sort of forgiving matter, although reluctant since showing a bratty attitude, for Sophia. As a reader I give her the benefit of the doubt because she is only 16 and expresses many giggly, gossip-like ideas. Ok, ok, I’ll focus on one point. The discussion today in class was terrific. We really did bring out some close readings that were a result of fantastic analyzing. Our group mentioned how Sophia was misusing Pope’s quotes. Sophia uses a lot of controlling words such as “temperance” and “regulation” (87) that draw attention to the fact that there is a hierarchy and superiority. It’s funny how she thinks she is intelligent, but in fact, it is dangerous how she is misusing quotes and that goes to show how her mind has developed stereotypes. There is a really interesting comparison to Gulliver’s Travels and the Wyndham way of being. “Kindness, Benevolence, and contentment” (87) were all ideals that the Wyndhams abided to. The ego with the use of “I” versus “others” mentality (269) goes to show that there is a colonial othering. By placing them as inferior, it shows the arrogance of Britain. In Pope’s “An Essay on Man: Epistle 1”, “Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor’d mind” (Pope) we can see that Sophia quotes him wrong in the sense that Pope was referencing the Indians in the U.S. rather than actual Indians. Her incorrect quotation in the letter puts danger in the sense of her misunderstanding and carrying that over to the way she comforts herself while in her stay in India. She quotes excessively English literature to make herself feel comfortable and at home while in India.


-Daniel Estrada


In Hartley House by Phebe Gibbe’s, the main character Sophia repeatedly references the works of other English authors. One in particular, is interesting to consider when we form connections about the similarities between their text and this text. Dryden is mentioned in Sophia’s narrative.

When she is telling her friend Arabella about the barges she writes:

“You have seen, as you suppose, some very handsome barges on the river Thames; but how poor a figure the handsomest would make, in comparison with the bugeros, or barged of Calcutta, I will endeavor to convince you.

As they approached, my ears drank in the most delightful sounds; a band of music, as is the custom, occupied each of them, playing the softest airs; and from the tout ensemble, brought Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra to my recollection. “ (8-9)

It’s obvious, especially from the close reading on Wednesday, that Sophia is an adolescent that feeds into her own vanity. This inflated ego, is not terrible per se, but Sophia uses this vanity, as a way to show off literature she isn’t even familiar with!

 we notice that Sophia is using words such as “bugeros” and “tout ensemble”. She is also undermining Arabella’s intelligence by essentially simplifying the words, that wouldn’t have been needed simplification if she had just said the word as it is instead of using another language to appear more cultured.

Ah yes, Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra, no big deal. Except, Sophia, is that a thing? Does Sophia actually mean Antony and Cleopatra at Cydnus by…..William Shakespeare. 

Sophia is exposing this pretentiousness and British insecurity on foreign land. She tries over and over again to quote British literature and reference classics.

This demonstrates elitism within british literature, Gibbe’s is satirizing how engulfed Sophia is with the aesthetic beauty of British literature, and ignoring the other issues at hand going on in the world. 
-Beyanira Bautista

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

Honor Always Wins

Dryden’s The Emperour explores the notion that honor is everything–stronger than love even. Even Cortez, a Spaniard in love with an Aztec native, should put the public good before his own needs; with the public good being English superiority. In a sense, Dryden justifies the bloody conquering of land, with honor, “By noble ways we conquest will prepare, first offer peace, and that refus’d, make war.” “Noble” how?

The Emperor serves as an artifact during the sixteenth century. The Restoration theatre was reintroduced under the reign of the Stuart dynasty with King Charles II. Along with the restoration of the English monarchy, came the strong literary movement to establish English superiority over the French. Aiding this effort was Heroic Drama. Heroic Drama, consisting of super masculine heroic verse. We see this in The Emperor’s use of rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter. Also, as stated in Lector Note #3, Heroic Drama also “focuses on a subject that pertains to national foundations.” Dryden is a strong advocate for nationalistic feelings that twenty-first century readers can look to, in search of evidence that white supremacy was beginning to mold a new world.

-Israel Alonso

Honor runs in the blood of men… European men

I found the relationship between Cortez and Almeria to be an interesting one, although there isn’t much of a relationship to discuss. The fact that Almeria planned to kill Cortez, but in the end walks out falling in love with him because he was fearless has haunted me every night this week! The portrayal of women in this play is not only sexist, but racist, specifically one that derives from colonial powers. Due to the fact that Almeria changes her mind so quickly demonstrates how Indian women are not loyal to their country, but will be easily swayed through acts of masculinity. It seems that this play fulfills a European male fantasy of conquering the new world and its women. For Dryden, Indian women like Almeria, have no conviction or sense of honor. Also, Cydaria wants to be with Cortez, the man that is supposed to be her enemy. In the end, she chooses him, but he chooses his country. This play suggests that nationalism and honor run in the blood of men, European men. For example, when Cortez was imprisoned in he keeps on fighting on, while Montezuma commits suicide instead of working with them. This play illustrates how even the Aztec king has no honor like his women because suicide is considered to be a sin that questions honor and masculinity.

Nancy Sanchez

The Fall of Love and Honor

Dryden rewrites the event of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, revealing it to the public as a form of art in his play, “The Indian Emperour”. He succeeds in covering the grotesqueness of the factual events through the style he writes the play which not only reveal his appreciation to language and the arts but reveal its ability to sway an entire audience. In the midst of the Restoration era and given the state in which the people were in, Dryden was given the advantage to take a political stand by exposing the effects of both the Conquistadors and the Aztec natives’ destructive decisions. Metaphorically, the play demonstrated the effects of colonialism. On one hand, the Spaniards can be viewed as the evil with the goal to convert the natives into their belief system. On the other hand, they can be seen as trying to help them to become a civilized society. It is hard to say whether Dryden intended to make Cortez the hero or the villain.

On the theme of love and honor, the characters portray the downfall of the two qualities when taken to extent. Cortez’s love for Cydaria, a woman on the enemy side, does not stop him from proceeding with the war. He can see one person from the opposing side as a friend because of love? But the rest he sees as his enemy. Cydaria is a powerful character because of her sacrifice. She risks a lot falling in love with her father’s enemy. Because love can make you do crazy things even when it does not seem right, this reminded me of a similar situation in the play Romeo and Juliet, first performed in 1597, before the Restoration Era. I believe it inspired Dryden to incorporate romance in his own works. It symbolizes that love exists in events of a crisis but it can be hard to see. Although Cortez expressed his true love for her by rejecting Almeria, his selfish need to conquer outweighed anything else even if meant losing his love. Cydaria tried talking him out of it to no avail, and even one of his men tried to discuss their evil plans before it all started. The Conquistadors charged into native lands narrow-minded. Tragedy followed from wanting to take too much from those whose relations are not established, hence the war. Montezuma honored his land too much to negotiate terms with the Spaniards and refuse to surrender, and in the end, he would rather die than be taken prisoner. It seemed irrational and a bit exaggerated. Dryden chose to not bring Cortez and Cydaria together signifying that the relationship between the Spanish and the Aztec Empire was never established. Further, by not having the two lovers unite, the audience is left in drag, but moved at the same time.

-Van Vang

Beyond the Theatre

Indian Emperor was a play performed during the restoration period. There were great shifts of power and culture. The status quo is being challenged. One of the cultural and power shifts was King Charles II becoming a patron of theatre. The stage underwent great change during this time as well. It became more grand, giving plenty of room for exotic scenery. It is here that Dryden’s play will take place. His themes of love and honor are strong throughout, characteristics which fill the heroic drama requirements.

Dryden’s play follows a few complex relationships. There is an incredibly provocative affair between Cydaria, the emperor Montezuma’s daughter, and Cortez, the Spanish general. They are star crossed lovers, from two different worlds and cultures. Dryden purposefully does not resolve their relationship. He does this to show how messy it can be for love and honor to be intertwined. This is a very political statement. Can one truly give them self to another and still have unwavering honor?  Dryden is saying here that at some point a leader will have to chose to either love or be admirable. The two simply cannot mix. The whole story is a series of relationships which go escalate and decrease very rapidly. This is to demonstrate how messy love and honor are together. This is completely different than Lovelace who has very binary and strong views on love and honor. Dryden is represents his characters this way to reflect the culture he lives in. Charles II and England were going through a cultural shift, debauchery was not necessarily frowned upon. Perhaps Dryden was trying to voice his opinions to his leaders through his play. His message perhaps was work and play are both good but need to be separate. This could also explain why Dryden eventually turned to Catholicism. He was uncomfortable with the lack of structure the leadership displayed. 

  • Maya Gonzales