The American Emperour: A Righteous Conquest

SCENE I

Readying his coat, reapplying his orange spray tan at the last second, our conquering hero enters onto the stage followed closely behind by his vice president into congress surrounded by his subordinates.

Trump: [Briefly casting a glance at the room full of people kneeling before him to his authority]

You’re fired!

Every single one of you is a liar!

Pence: [Smiling uncomfortably, he begins to nod his head furiously in approval]

The entire congress, pantomiming severe distress, begin to sob uncontrollably and run from the stage in fake exaggerated tears

Pence: Excellent work sir!

Democracy at its finest! That will show the people that it is only you they can trust!

A dictator you will never be! Your rule is just!

Trump: Remember that when you open your heart to patriotism

There is no room for prejudice!

And look at me, a man with no vice!

I am always right!

This is why Pence, you of all people see the light!

We will make America great again!

And I will prove above all lesser men!

SCENE II

After abolishing congress the wise president looks at the line of citizens before him from atop his new throne

Citizen 1: Sir we can’t breathe, there is too much smog in the air!

It is far too much for us to bear!

Trump: I don’t believe in global warming. You are a liar!

Big oil is more than fair!

Begone citizen and serve in the coal mines or you will feel most dire!

Citizen 2: Lord please! Our workers toil and tire, please spare your ire!

Mexico still refuses to pay for the wall and they have set it on fire!

Trump: Fear not whelp for they will pay I swear!

To disobey me they would never dare!

Citizen 3: Sir allow me to stay to feed my family! I fear they may starve!

I was born here and only want peace and a better life!

Do not torture me under the knife!

Trump: You are no citizen of mine!

Return beyond the wall or your daughters will be mine!

Much like Obama you are just a foreigner to scare!

Citizen 4: Lord how just and right you are!

Please provision my army to fight our war!

Forget the schoolchildren you eminently abhor!

Our bullets will continue to soar!

Trump: Education does not need aid!

Continue to raid!

SCENE III

Noble Emperor Trump stands proudly atop the wall, lording over the world leaders he has defeated, planting the flag over the Mexican President.

Mex. Pres: We will never pay!

All my people you will have to slay!

Trump : Much like Rocket Man wanted to say!

This refusal will lead to your last living day!

Rockets fire away!

Pence : [On his knees] Yes Mr. President, tell him how you will have your way!

Mex. Pres: [In death throes] Oh noble president, twas an honor to be cut down

By one so honorable

I praise thy name!

Never feel any shame!

Go forth, and save the day!

Review: This is a parody of John Dryden’s The indian Emperour using a more contemporary controversial figure to similar effect. Instead of Cortez, a man responsible for the destruction of the Aztec empire, Trump is used as a replacing figure for both his privileged use of power and oppression towards what is also now modern Mexico. The absurdist elements that were present in the original are changed in favor of a more easily relatable and immediately relevant approach, but the overall level of exaggerated absurdity is maintained in order to elicit a strong empathetic response from the audience. The parody serves to illustrate the propaganda effectivity of The Indian Emperour more directly via direct quotations from the current president. Similarly historical accuracy is completely foregone in favor of more flashy and emotionally evocative drama which is immediately superficial in nature. Due to brevity, the cast of characters was made more concise to directly emphasize the one-dimensionality that is President Trump. He is presented a strong and just ruler by surrounding characters much as Cortez was. The president of Mexico is used as a substitute for Montezuma to reassert this effect. Much like Dryden’s version, this play critiques government administration by implying it’s numerous shortcomings as opposed to directly stating them. Despite making numerous claims that are correlated with atrocities, Trump continually gains approval and respect from even his most confrontational opposition in order to facilitate critique of his policies through a masque of nobility, similarly to how Cortez was well respected by Montezuma, who thought him fiercely. At fundamental levels, both versions maintained fairly consistent rhyme schemes and this helps to facilitate the level of faux gravitas the characters present. They are treated as Shakespearean even in the most nonsensical of scenarios to draw the reader’s attention and deliver the many present themes.

-Kevin Martinez

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The Convoluted Nature of Reality: The “Moby Dick” Edition

In reading Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of her capture by the Algonquian tribe, I can’t help but be reminded of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, in that it complicates a history of intolerance while also providing new insight on cultural differences. Of course, Melville’s novel places a focus on native members with cannibalistic tendencies while also exploiting their most uncouth, and likely fictitious, habits. In agreement with Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Melville initially supports and encourages segregation from strange cultures through stressing concern for the safety of his narrator (Ishmael). Yet this narrative is ultimately complicated after Ishmael establishes a heartfelt friendship with one of the cannibalistic natives he feared previously: Queequeg.

As Moby Dick is a fictional novel, this transition from racism to kinship is not completely surprising. Anything can happen in fiction, after all. Even homicidal whales. This is to say that, by comparison, Mary Rowlandson’s recount of her capture and the eventual friendship she forms with her masters and company is more than a little perplexing. And though her narrative does not fail to include moments wherein she was beaten and abused, or when her own religion was mocked by members of the Algonquian culture, it also includes a number of Algonquian phrases and words which were included as a means of expressing the unique characteristics of this tribe more accurately. Though Mary Rowlandson is very much opposed to her capture, she eventually expresses a certain tone of respect for the Algonquian natives.

There are many who view this expression of respect solely as a survival tactic, which is not an unfair argument to make. This was also the foundation of Ishmael’s friendship with Queequeg in Moby Dick. Much like Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Ishmael’s deep respect and understanding of the cultural and religious beliefs of his friend Queequeg do not exempt him from believing that Queequeg’s cannibalistic tendencies are wrong. Mary Rowlandson’s personal relationship with her captors does not align with typical prejudice experienced by the majority of her own culture. This complicates the representation of these cultures in literature in that, even in fictional contexts, it is almost impossible to paint one event or culture as wholly good or bad if one wants to describe it accurately. It is important to remember that- though Moby Dick is a novel which contains its own dictionary of whaling terminology, as well as a thoroughly cited history of whaling tactics and a list of well-known species of whale and their given attributes -much of the novel is apocryphal. This pertains specifically to a great deal of the lore surrounding the natives referenced in the novel. And in cases such as John Dryden’s play, The Indian Emperour, and John Winthrop’s “Dreams of a City on a Hill”, a great deal of fictional narrative was adapted to make these realities or futures seem attainable. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dismiss Cortez’s affection for Cydaria or Ishmael’s friendship with Queequeg, nor should we disregard Winthrop’s ideals of this “city” as something entirely motivated by destruction. The irksome reality of it all is that the motives for all of these relationships, speeches, and narratives are very complex. Mary Rowlandson’s recount of her capture, and her friendship with her captors, undoubtedly complicates many other historical narratives of native intolerance. How we should compare and contrast these narratives is a question for another prompt.

-Savie Luce

They’re the Devil, Bobby Boucher

by~ Amber Loper

I would argue that any cross-cultural exchanges between Rowlandson and the natives are unimportant to the over all message she is trying to convey. By this, I mean, her target audience cares less about a few kind gestures. What matters is that those indigenous people murdered good Christian people. Therefore, validating the idea that Native Americans are savages and are everything that Christian’s are not. Rowlandson says “there was a vast difference between the lovely faces of Christians, and the foul looks of those heathens” (The Sixteenth Remove). There is a belief here, though not explicitly stated, that their skin is somehow affected by not being Christian. White skin is holy, while dark skin is unholy. I digress, what we find missing from Rowlandson’s story isn’t the reaction from her target audience. What’s missing is the countless, innumerable times the indigenous peoples had been massacred, starved, tortured, etc. Rowlandson talks about her endeavors as a victim, and to what she endured I truly do sympathize, but where is the narrative of the Natives who were put through worse? For one second did Rowlandson ever think that maybe she, with her foul white look, was the enemy? While she sits and compares herself to these people, and her audience eagerly eats it up as confirmation that the Natives are the devils,Image result for she's the devil bobby somewhere in the America’s, thousands of Indigenous peoples are being slaughtered by a different definition of devil.
Dryden’s dramatic play “the Indian Emperour” also portrays the arriving Europeans, especially Cortez, drastically different from the Natives. However, he does take a daring step further by letting Montezuma question why he should give up his faith to convert to a God he had never heard of. It is a rather bold choice, because it almost implies that it’s okay for them to have their own Gods that aren’t Christian. But at the end of the day, there continues to be the them-vs-us contrast. Here, the natives are irrational, stubborn, and emotionally unstable. Cortez, being the main European representation, is calm, and level-headed. In order for Dryden and Rowlandson to maintain the superiority complexes they uphold, there must be a blind line between the two cultures. Christians/Europeans will always be the well-meaning victims, while everyone else will always be against them.

 

The British Imperialist: A Dream of the Future

In Dryden’s The Indian Emperor, the story of conquest is not the focal point of the play. The many elements, including love stories, competition, revenge, and suffering all interact with one another and make the story confusing to follow. However, these story elements are meant only to further present the British audience with the idea that when they begin to build their empire, it will be one of peace, honor, respect, and love. These attributes are presented in the character of Cortes. Despite his Spanish origins, Cortes is meant to represent England in the sympathy and respect he shows for Montezuma and the other indigenous characters in the play. The love between Cortes and the princess Cydaria transforms Cortes from a man concerned about his mission to one who despairs of the war he must wage. To find happiness, Cortes must watch many of his comrades and the innocent native people he came to convert die. While Cortes represents the peaceful and merciful imperialist ideals of the British people, his love with Cydaria does not mean that Dryden is supporting the intermixing of British and Native American people in matrimony. Conversely, this relationship, though romantic in the play, is meant to prove that many cultures can live together in peace, just as the British idealize for their own empire. Cortes and Cydaria do not get married because their role is not to challenge classist or racist tendencies that the European world at this time very much exhibited. To have this Spanish conquistador marry the Indian princess during the play would be repelling to the audience, not to mention scandalous outside of the theater. The character of Cortes is a Spanish Catholic, and while the conquest of religious differences is supposedly an ideal of England, British society at that time was very much against the spread of Catholicism. In addition, Cydaria’s character is a member of the polytheistic Indian religion; both of these creeds are in opposition to the Church of England and Puritanism. To stage the wedding ceremony of Catholics in the play, or to present the idea that the honorable Cortes would turn his back on the Christian Lord to become a polytheistic believer would not be taken well by the audience. The Indian Emperor is full of dramatic and fantastical scenes to awe the audience, drawing them into the story in such a way as to allow them to ignore any faults of Cortes and to make them forget their racism toward the Spanish and non-Europeans. Dryden ends the play with Cortes promising a grand funeral in remembrance of the great king Montezuma because such words would not spark controversy within the theater, and leave the play out on a note of peace and mercy.

-Meredith Leonardo

Being John Dryden

John Dryden is an Imperialistic Ethno-centrist. He is racist, hateful, and as evinced by his writings, sorely ignorant of the potential damaged contained in the racial – and racist – themes of his writings. In The Indian Emperor, Montezuma is used as the tortured conduit for Dryden’s dispensing of his frustrations and nationalistic angst with the Spanish Empire’s New World colonialism yet, in doing so, Dryden dehumanizes Montezuma and warps him into a propaganda tool for the avarice of Britain. Herein lies the cru of Dryden’s contemporarily immoral stances; herein lies the fulcrum upon which we might base the age-old question – in relation to Dryden – of “Does the man make the times, or do the times make the man?”

            I find this peculiar lens an interesting angle through which to analyze Dryden because there are a lot of assumptions that will arise from even thinking of doing so. Namely, am I trying to ‘forgive’ Dryden for his sentiments? Trying to forgive the British Empire for the terror that it’s colonialism wrought? Trying to sympathize with them or only allow myself to view them through the cherry-picked context of their hundreds-year Empire? No, no, no. The British Empire and their soldiers and their explorers were agents of terror and Dryden acted to ‘paint over’ that terror. What’s strange, then – and possibly even more horrifying – is that Dryden never seemed to view that terror as actually being inflicted on other people. It’s easy to see why this might be given that the subject nation in his Indian Emperor is across the sea, miles away. Dryden never actually witnessed any of the tragedies and violence that he has so beautified with his flowery prose and melodramatic plotting…yet he seems to have no misgivings about doing so. Is that what it is like to live in a nation as it is entering it’s world-spanning prime? To survive as someone who mattered in this becoming Empire, did you have to operate with such an intense degree of certainty regarding the prestige of yourself and your people? If so, where does one attain such a mindset? Throughout his life, Dryden’s socioeconomic status never dropped below what might be considered ‘gentry.’ Was his almost constant exposure to the higher echelons of British life the cause of his sentiments? Was his mind so wrapped up in Puritan ideology that he came to embody the notion of being a paragon and being someone – and some nation – to be admired? Such arguments would seem to lend credence to the idea that Dryden is a result of his times and not – despite his writings of the coming Empire – the cause of his times. Dryden is no victim, but he was certainly not alone in fielding such ideologies.

            I found this an interesting response to give as it made me reconsider my own relationship with my country. I’d rather not get into the current debacle that is the U.S. administration, but I don’t have to look back far to find times that I could say that I was proud to be an American. During certain parts of Obama’s years, when the United States would place itself at the fore of humanitarian concerns and when a concern over citizen’s health-care was high, it was hard to not feel like I was living in, perhaps, the first ‘benevolent’ empire. That’s very nice, that patriotic feeling, as it gives you a sense of certainty that your culture and the people around you are probably at least doing somethings right. But even as progressive concerns and policies were pouring in, the United States was still involving itself in wars. Some might even suggest that the United States reaching out it’s ‘aid’ was just a duplicitous scheme to instill United States influence in developing countries. If that is the case, and if we might agree that the United States military-industrial complex is powered by propaganda and the exploitation of low-income ambition, then we might start to wonder who, exactly, is the John Dryden in our modern midst? And what would they have to say about our times and their hand in shaping them?

Foreign Insecurity, Love, and a Play

In truth, I am not one to be making any sort of egregious claims of love and who should love. Surely my modern interpretations do not comply with the time of John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, but what is clear to me is the complete fascination the two have with one another, specifically Cydaria of Cortez. Love is an emotional union, and I would certainly say that emotions are running hyper throughout the play, but romantic love is left in ambiguity between Cydaria and Cortez. Their lack of union at the play’s conclusion leaves the audience, or in my case, the reader, with questions directed towards the future. With what has occurred, how could the Aztecs and Conquistadors truly be united? It is not as simple as taking the good word of Cortez, nor by simply having faith in a rather Romeo and Juliet love relationship. The both of them truly do not know much about the other, and Cydaria has yet to see where Cortez is from. In act I, scene II, on page 13, Cortez is attempting to explain that he hails from a land across the Ocean, and Cydaria compares it to where souls go when they die. There are certainly other instances of the unknown, but this here directs my attention to two things. The first being that, again, there is a mysticism tied to Cortez that cannot be overlooked, and the second being that these two are from very different worlds, alluding to a civilized Cortez versus a curious Native. There is an Imperialist allure surrounding Cortez and his situation, where he himself is glorified. There is a lasting anxiety coating this relationship of Cortez and Cydaria that is both openly seen in the play, but also well hidden, caught up in the extravagance of theater, where the sight of power is an achievable desire.

— Joseph Rojas

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

The Black Legend and John Dryden: The Conflict of Definite Matrimony

The hinted, though never explicitly confirmed, union between the characters of Cydaria and Cortez in John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour is designed to express the tension between each character’s culture in accordance with the Black Legend. Known also as the Leyenda Negra, this term specifically applies to propaganda used to oppose both the Spanish and Aztec cultures, painting one as barbaric and the other as inherently savage. This makes Dryden’s production a work of imperialist propaganda. The contented union of these characters and their opposing cultures would thusly eliminate the effectiveness of this propaganda.

Cortez, who is a character representative of the better aspects of establishing an empire, is seen as a Spanish General driven by love and honor, especially when concerning his country. His desire for Cydaria is immediate and filled with passion, but is later confirmed to be founded upon her resemblance to his deceased wife. This is to suggest that his devotion to her is literally skin deep, though his devotion to his cause runs much deeper. Cydaria, by contrast, is the daughter of Emperor of Mexico whose want for Cortez eventually becomes fueled by jealousy for his deceased spouse. Their ethnic backgrounds alone lead to the two to be initially opposed to one another, which is due to the fact that Cortez is representative of the Catholic Conquistadors and Cydaria of the Aztec Natives; however, this fact is immediately negated when the two first catch glimpses of one another. The relationship between the two develops hastily, and as sweet as it may seem in appearance, it does not showcase any signs of lasting the wear of time. On the surface, each interaction shared between the two appears wholesome and sincere, as can be seen here:

Cyd.

Where is that other world from whence you came?

Cort.

Beyond the Ocean, far from hence it lies.

Cyd.

Your other world, I fear, is then the same

That souls must go to when the body dies.

But what’s the cause that keeps you here with me?

That I may know what keeps me here with you?

Cort.

Mine is a love which must perpetual be,

If you can be so just as I am true.” (I.II 373-381)

And the affection conveyed in those few lines may be genuine, but the reality of the situation suggests that the two foolishly committed to romantic appearances. To add to this, if the two are true representatives of their cultural ties, then their union would defeat the purpose of the production as a whole, which is to advertise imperialist propaganda in reference to the Black Legend. Their eventual marriage would undoubtedly be fruitless, but the romantic notion of the two cultures potentially settling in harmony adds a bittersweet taste to the conclusion of the play. This is likely why Dryden chose to leave the product of their relationship undefined, as defining it would marry two the cultures he designed to be exploited in this production, which would be an impossible feat if the play were to remain true to its foundation of the Black Legend.

-Savanna Luce

Shroud of Lies

The Indian Emperor is a curtain that hides the true art of the theater. The play depicts the love and conflict of Cydaria and Cortez, promoting sympathy and an emotional appeal to the audience who actually partook in the performance. The Restoration Theater, however, was mainly focused on providing the nobles and upper-class entertainment while the lower class marveled at the royalty. By depicting a world in which the people could sympathize with the conquistadors, rather than see their own faults, the upperclassmen would be entertained, as they do not wish their faults to be flaunted and presented to their faces. The fictional characters allowed Dryden to portray the true issues of love and honor from an ethical viewpoint, showing that, in this case, that the heart could have saved thousands if the war had just been postponed. This love plot is used by Dryden to entertain and shroud the true guilt that some might have had for the natives, but now sympathize with the invaders, instead; it was a wonderful distraction tactic for the upper class who served as a distraction to the lower class who would have almost no idea what was actually happening in the play. There is, however, the fact that Dryden never actually has the two characters bound by marriage. The war proceeds at the end of the play, despite the last minute request to stop the battle by Cortez. The process of the war has been romanticized heavily throughout the play to gain favor amongst the classier crowd, however, by the end of the play genocide is covered by more of the regret of ‘it couldn’t be helped, no matter what’ instead of creating a sense of wrongness that could have been promoted had the piece not been a pandering poem to the nobles.

-Asia Reyna

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