Disagreeing on how to Rule the World

Dryden’s preamble to the play begins with an immediate contradiction. The narrator claims to have “neither wholly followed the story, nor varied from it”, but this statement is both entirely accurate and completely inaccurate. The play itself is about conflicting ideology.

It is completely ahistorical, and and the creative liberty Dryden took makes the conquest Cortez led appear more superficial by portraying the general as a staunch and one-dimensional hero bound entirely by honor, but this one-dimensional superficiality is precisely that much more indicative of what colonialist ideas were at the time. The conquests Spain led were entirely one-sided and done under a guise of enlightening savages. The namesake Indian Emperor, Montezuma, was in direct opposition to Cortez, but rather than be foils to one another, the two men leading their respective factions were indelibly staunch in their principles and refused to concede them. This ultimately led to Montezuma’s demise and Cortez’ continued glorification. By humanizing the natives, Dryden serves to criticize this glorification and in turn not only criticize the effects of colonialist Spain, but emphasize a sense of moral superiority within the English audience.

The hero of the play is infallibly honorable, and although Spanish, by being infallibly honorable the English theater audience are able to both empathize with and criticize his character. They are able to promote their own notions of building an empire under a misnomer of honor, while simultaneously criticizing Spain’s atrocities. This is why Cortez and Cydaria were given an ambiguous ending to their relationship. Despite a requited romance, the two were on juxtaposing sides and cannot be together unless they entirely reconcile their differences. Similarly to how England and Spain clash ideologically, so too do the Aztecs and Spanish. Because motivations and execution differ so dramatically, the two cannot reconcile and the audience is forced to accept this.

-Kevin Martinez

Imperialism and Exotic Land: A Metaphor of Love

The Indian Emperour by John Dryden is a heroic drama that tells the story of the Spanish Conquistadors arriving in Mexico, aiming to colonize the land and conquor the Aztec empire. The main Character is the famed Spanish Explorer Hernan Cortes. As with many Heroic Dramas, the plot hinges upon both the main character’s devotion to his country and his goal, yet Dryden introduces the element of unexpected Love between Cortes and Cydaria ( A daughter of Montezuma, the Aztec ruler) to both add some moral complexity to the story as well as metaphorically capture the relationship between the imperialists and the native peoples they interacted with.

Within the play, the main character, Cortes, seems to be representative of the concept of Imperialism: he is strong, bold, willing to risk his life for his country and its inhabitants, and wishes to see whatever task he is given to the end if his goal will benefit his homeland. Conversely, Cydaria, the love interest, seems to represent the natives of the land imperialists attempt to colonize: she is exotic, feminine, and, more prominently, the daughter of the ruler of the Aztecs. These two characters and their unexpected yet passionate love seem to be a metaphor for Europe’s infatuation with exotic and unexplored lands.

Despite the passion of Cortes and Cydaria’s unrequited love, Dryden left the ultimate fate of their relationship ambiguous, only hitning at their possible union. This romantic ambiguity served two purposes: to make a statement about Europe’s relationship with Native people as well as provide drama for theatre audiences. The former purpose seemed to be Dryden’s attempt to emphasize the Imperialist countries lust for the resources, land, and power that previously unexplored places of the globe such as Mexico had to offer. In hinting at the union between Cortes and Cydaria, or, metaphorically, Imperialism and Native Land, Dryden suggests that there may always exist the love for conquering and exploring from Imperialist nations, even if nothing seems to come of it. Furthermore, the latter purpose was Dryden’s motive as a playwright to leave the audience thinking. While Dryden did craft a beautiful and bold piece of literature with The Indian Emporour, the historic manuscript was still intended to be a play, and plays, especially during the Restoration, were the most popular (and often most controversial) forms of entertainment. The ambiguity of love that Dryden leaves his audiences with is both powerful and thought-provoking, and even centuries later prompts controversial discussion.

-Shawn Pintor-Day

Unrealistic Love

In his play, The Indian Emperor, John Dryden depicts the native Aztecs and the Imperial Spanish very differently from their historical counterparts. He romanticized the relationship between these very different nations, making it seem like they got along, and that the Spanish really didn’t mean any harm. When in reality they invaded and killed off thousands of innocent natives. And even when Dryden does show this in his play, in the scene where Pizarro and the Christian Priest torture Montezuma and his high priest in hopes that one of them will tell them where all their gold is stored. To me, this scene is written in a way that criminalizes Montezuma and the high priest and makes it seem like they are greedy and deserve their punishment. He uses the trope of the most “noble hero” by having Cortez the most gracious and sympathetic conquistador who is against violence and stop the torture before Montezuma can die. Not to mention the fact that he just so coincidentally falls for Montezuma’s daughter Cydaria is also extremely romanticized and not true. This relationship is obviously fictional but it’s incredibly bizarre and uncomfortable to one if they think about the fact that the one being oppressed is supposed to be in love with the oppressor. Even if in the end they don’t actually end up together, this type of play would probably be considered propaganda that would be shown to the English general public so that they think they knew what was happening across seas when in reality it was a much more dark and violent history. I think what this shows about what the English thought of the real relationship between the Spanish Crown and the Aztec natives is that they could see that there was obviously a distrust in each other. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to unite Cortez and Cydaria who actually represents the Other that is lesser and not worthy of being united in matrimony to a civilized European man. It was known that Dryden wrote his plays because he wanted to please his audience so perhaps, he romanticized the whole relationship between Spain and the Americas because that’s what people wanted to hear at the time, they didn’t care that it wasn’t true. So long as it made them believe that what was being done was right.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

Love vs Honor

In the play The Indian Emperor by John Dyrden we see that themes love and honor have heavy influence amongst the characters, devoted to the structure of the play. This play hold a mixture of both romance and violence. The biggest conflicts we can see within the characters is choosing between self interest, and conquest. Montezuma the emperor of Mexico is a character in the play who we see refuses the chance of saving his kingdom, for his own personal self reasons. Then we have the story of Cydaria and Cortez. Cydaria is daughter of Montezuma and Hernan Cortez is a spanish conquistador. Throughout the play we never really get a chance of seeing the two together. The main thing keeping the two apart is conquest and dedication. Cortez unlike Montezuma is ignoring his self interest, which is pursing his love for Cydaria to obey the orders of the king. He is not fully in agreement with the orders that are given to him but he is still committed to getting them done. Now, Cydaria is also battling the same problem as Cortez, choosing between conquest and self interest. We see that Cydaria tries to get Cortez to prevent the battle between the Spaniards and Aztecs. Dyrden wanted to portray Cortez as a chivalrous and generous character, however he also wanted to show how the Spaniards as cold and oppressive. I think that Dyrdens avoided officially putting the two together to reveal the cruel and greedy side of the Spaniards. We can see that Cortez character hold more integrity, however he still chooses to abide by his kings decisions.

-Dariana Lara

Analyzing Love & Honor in Relation to British Imperialism

Love and honor are the two dominant themes of John Dryden’s “The Indian Emperor”. Dryden juxtaposes the two in competition with one another, with honor as the more preferred. The conclusion of the play merely echoes this sentiment with the impossible union between love and honor: Cortez and Cydaria are never married. However, this impossible union is also expressed throughout the play through the various romances. The love triangle exemplified by Guyomar, Alibech, and Odmar not only serves as a foil to the primary romance, but also as a vehicle for the ideological agenda of the play. In fact, while it might be easier to consider Cortez’s various diatribes on honor and love, I believe the conversations between Guyomar, Alibech, and Odmar, although less conspicuous, deserve attention.

In fact, it is in the conversation between Guyomar and Alibech, that readers learn that the greater exaltation lies in honor. Guyomar, after defending the country while his brother fled to protect Alibech, remarks that “Her country she did to her self prefer, Him who fought best, not who defended her…Your aiding her, your Country did betray, I aiding him, did her Commands obey” (26). Guyomar’s selfless nationalism is more greatly preferred by Alibech to Odmar’s love, which she chastises as a “common Love” (26). Indeed, she proposes that “Guyomar’s was greater” (26), because she reveres the nation more than conventional acts of love. Later in play, Guyomar argues with Alibech that he cannot submit to her command to betray the nation, because even though a king might rule ignorantly, “But Kings by free Consent their Kingdoms take, Strict as those sacred Ties which Nuptials make; And whate’er Faults in Princes time reveal, None can be Judge, where can be no Appeal” (41). This quote is telling not only in the weighing of love and honor, but as a subliminal discourse for the Restoration. This propaganda not only instills a strong sense of nationhood, but additionally, fealty to the crown, which was recently restored back in Britain. The phrase, “But Kings by free Consent their Kingdoms take” especially buttresses the notion of loyalty to the monarchy. It is in Alibech’s reply, that the message is driven in: conflicted, she criticizes honor, lamenting, “Fantastick Honour, thou hast fram’d a Toil thy self, to make thy Love thy Virtue’s Spoil” (43). Here Alibech recognizes that love cannot outmatch honor, because it only serves to “spoil” one’s virtue. In fact, Odmar’s love for Alibech, devoid of honor, is the cause of ruin for the country, just as Montezuma’s love for Almeria causes the war in the first place, and Almeria’s love for Cortez drives her to suicide. Love without honor becomes a source of tragedy in the play, and it is up to the honor of Cortez and Guyomar to salvage what is left.

Love and honor are regarded throughout the play as separate entities, and the marriage of the two is a betrayal of the ideological framework Dryden so carefully lays out. Dryden’s allegiance to nationalism and more succinctly, British imperialism, has no room for follies like love, which the natives foolishly worship in the play. The propaganda at the conclusion of the play is clear: the nation comes first, to conquer, and subdue with virtue the tempestuous passions of the conquered.


– Sara Nuila-Chae


Honor for Who?

What I found interesting in the play The Indian Emperour by John Dryden was the way religion tied back to honor and how in the play this caused war. Since the beginning when Cortez brought forth what king Charles expected to be done, Montezuma chose war over abandoning his beliefs. Even when Montezuma was being tortured he still wouldn’t renounce what he believed in.

“That all Religions with each other Fight,

While only one can lead us in the Right.

But till that one hath some more certain mark,

Poor humane kind must wander in the dark;

And suffer pains, eternally below,

For that, which here, we cannot come to know.”

This line when he was being tortured caught my attention because he was justifying why he rather would have war than chose to live in peace. He didn’t know if his belief was correct, but he didn’t believe there was a right or wrong with his belief he believed that the monarchy fought over the belief of one religion because they wanted to believe that their religion was right to fight for. Honor in what was right in their eyes lead to the decisions that arose in the play. Cortez and his loyalty to the kings demands. Cortez may not have wanted a war, but for his king he would do anything. Cortez’s love for Cydaria  was always present as a dead love because his honor was with his King and England. Reading the play in the 21st century it seems to me there wasn’t love from Cortez’s part, his loyalty was to his king. Cortez consistently had to prove that he was in fact in love with Cydaria, but he always went back to leading his army to conquer the land that didn’t want to submit to the demands that his king was expected. While Dryden doesn’t confirm or deny that in the end they end up together I would presume that they didn’t end up together. For Montezuma it was his honor with himself that caused war to spread when he had the option to prevent it. He wanted to honor himself as a ruler and not give another an option to rule him. Dryden in my opinion showcased what comes out when people put their honor first.

– Maria Mendiola

For the King and his Empire

Perhaps the reason that John Dryden did not have Cortez marry Cydaria is because he already has a love greater than the love he feels for Cydaria: the love he feels for his nation and its king. I don’t think Dryden is attempting to display any doubt or anxiety regarding the relationship between imperialists and natives as I believe the story firmly establishes a hierarchical relationship between the two groups. The goal of the conquistadors is to obtain the wealth and resources of the natives and while a peaceful relationship is offered by Cortez, the play never appears to presents the option for there to be a relationship of equals between both groups. The natives are portrayed as being beneath the imperialists, yet despite this, the natives are still portrayed as better and as more honorable than the Spaniards with the exception of Cortez whose role in the play is presented more as an English imperialist rather than that of a Spanish conquistador.

While there is no doubt that this play serves as a work of propaganda in favor of empire and criticism of the Spanish, I believe that above all else it is a play that is in support of monarchy. The audience would have seen Cortez’s unwavering loyalty to his king and commitment to the mission assigned to him by his monarch as well as the native emperor Montezuma fighting for his people and choosing to die free rather than watch his empire fall. And as the audience watches the heroics and are presented with the ideals of these characters, they would also be looking to their own monarch and the rest of the royal family given their position relative to the stage. Dryden’s play works to support the idea of an empire not just built upon honor, but also loyalty to the newly restored monarchy of England.

-Ryan Bucher

Just a Tool

John Dryden specifically made The Indian Emperor for one sole purpose; to use as a piece of nationalistic propaganda. Throughout the play, Dryden illustrates Cortez as an honorable man with an immense love for his country, and willing to make the tough decision between his honor and his love interest. Yet the decision to include a love connection between Cydaria and Cortez is merely a tool to make Cortez a better protagonist. In a way, Cydaria serves as Cortez’s Achilles’ heel and this “weakness” is what makes him a more likeable figure to the English public. He could’ve chosen to personify Cortez as a money-hungry conquistador similar to how he illustrated Pizarro, but that wouldn’t have worked as well for his heroic drama. Because at the end of the day, he needs to sell tickets right?


By choosing not to have Cortez and Cydaria end in matrimony at the end, it gives some insight into not only the mindset that Dryden possessed, but also the mindset that Britain had during the restoration period. Since this was a piece of nationalistic propaganda, it’s purpose is to illustrate the grandeur of the country, and if Dryden had decided to have Cortez and Cydaria end up in matrimony, it would defeat the purpose of the play. For the audience to completely eat it up, Dryden had to exemplify the importance of Cortez deciding to fight for his country than for his “love interest”, and by doing so the audience would feed into the purpose of the play and find themselves believing that their country was more important than love.

Obviously, we now know the reality of the Spanish Conquista, and how Cortez committed mass genocide among the Mexican natives, however during the Restoration period, it was simple for Dryden to make a dramatization of real life events like the Conquista and illustrate it into what he deemed fit.

– Arturo Raudales

First Blog Post: John Dryden’s “The Indian Emperour, or the Conquest of Mexico”

In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, the theme of love versus honor, private interests versus the public good, drives the characters’ dramatic actions, especially between the conquering male Spaniards and the female natives.  However, while the play’s ending hints at the requited love between Cydaria and Cortez, Dryden never explicitly brings them together in union and matrimony.  In making this decision, is the playwright conveying to his audience doubts or anxieties about the relationship between the foreign imperialists (Catholic Conquistadors) and the Aztec natives?  Situate your answer in the context of the Restoration theater and politics that colored the audiences’ reception of the play (feel free to reference the inserted images).

The posts are due by next Wednesday, 2/6 at 9:30am.  Before you write the post, please review the directions on blog post writing and the blog post grading rubric in the syllabus, as well as the “How to Post” tab above.  Please categorize your post under “Restoration Theatre and Drama” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  And please sign your posts so that your TA, Zakir, and I know who wrote what.

Scene from John Dryden's 'the Indian Emperor or the Conquest of Mexico', 1732 Giclee Print

Scene from John Dryden’s “The Indian Emperour or the Conquest of Mexico,” print by English artist William Hogarth, 1732.  The play is here staged in a private upper-class English residence.


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