Fighting against Oppression

The poem, “Dear Harp of My Country” portrays fighting against oppression through love and hope. The speaker uses apostrophe throughout the poem as they are addressing an inhuman object, “DEAR Harp of my Country! In darkness I found thee” (Moore 1).  The endearment term “dear” demonstrates that the harp has an emotional significance to the speaker by using the affectionate term in the beginning of the poem, which conveys love. By discovering the harp in a time of “darkness,” it implies that the harp is a symbol of hope and happiness. The metaphor “cold chain of silence” illustrates that there were oppression and repression occurring during this dark time. There’s also this paradox because music is anything but silent. The kinesthetic and visual imagery of the cold chain also made me think about the painting, “The Harp of Eden” where the lovely woman had a chain around her waist that held her prisoner to the large rock. The harp seems to have a national sentiment to it which is conveyed by the use of diction, “light,” “freedom” and “song!” (Moore 4).

Moving onto the next stanza,  the hap brings both joy but is also affected by the grief of the Irish, “the warm lay of love and the light note of gladness” demonstrates that the harp has this ability to bring goodness and happiness onto the Irish. However, the personification of “echoes the deep sigh of sadness” illustrates that the harp conveys the grief and oppression of the country. The alliteration of “steal from thee still” emphasizes that the British are trying to take away the Irish people’s joy and hope which is symbolized by the harp.

The harp is constantly representing the abuse and oppression the Irish are facing and their will to fight against the grief and oppression. The refrain of “Dear Harp of my Country” demonstrates the importance of the harp being a representation of Irish unity and nationalism.

-Ana Diaz-Galvan


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

Swift and Free Will

The Houyhnhnms live in a utopia. There is no disease, they live simple lifestyles, and they exist peacefully among themselves. Gulliver is so in awe of this perfect society that he wishes to stay there forever. He is repulsed by the idea of returning to live with European Yahoos. Swift suggests that the harmonious lifestyle of the Houyhnhnms should be adapted by the common man. I disagree with this notion.

Swift uses the Houyhnhnm society as a metaphor for nature. Not only are they horses but they function as a pack without harming their environment. They take what they need and nothing more, much like all species besides humans. There are many lesson to be learned from nature. Nature teaches you about balance and harmony. It teaches you about life and death. One can become a much happier and enlightened individual if they implement the lessons nature gives into their life. Despite all of the good things which come from nature, there are many things which it lacks. For example (and most importantly) love. The Houyhnhnms chose their mate solely on which partner will produce the best offspring. Imagine a world where the only point of intimacy is to produce the best product. No thank you! A society where the choice of something so personal is taken away from the individual is not just. I would want no part of that society. Think of how hard people in America have fought for the right of everyone to love whoever they please in America. Marriage between same sex couples was legalized only a few years ago. The normalization of same sex couples has been met with hate and defiance for decades. In the Houyhnhnm society same sex marriage of marriage would never exist because a man with a man or a woman with a woman cannot produce a baby. This utopian society looks enticing when you read about it. But free will must always be preserved, and this is something utopias do not have.

There is also little to no pain in this society. There is only mention of “accidental bruises and cuts”, “frog of the foot”, and “other maims and hurts”. Despite these very minor ailments there is herbal medicine to cure everything. Generally they all live to be seventy and before they die they “feel a gradual decay, but without pain”. Minimal pain your entire life and when you die you just get tired. Sounds great! Except for one thing: it is impossible to feel intense joy and happiness without feeling intense pain and sadness. Humans are deeply saddened when someone they know dies because they love that person. When humans get sick they think “I will never take for granted my health”. A life without pain and sadness sounds great, but if you live this way you will also live without joy and happiness.

At first glance the Houyhnhnm society looks amazing. Especially since it is compared to the Yahoos which represent all of the terrible characteristics humans have. Swift is clearly trying to communicate to his readers that humans would be much happier if we lived as the Houyhnhnms did. I disagree. Humans are complex creatures who love, make love, cry, laugh, get hurt, hurt others, and anything else you can imagine. To live in a society where there is no free will and no pain would be terrible. Humans are messy, therefore we live in a messy society.

-Maya Gonzales


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

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 Indian Emperour Love vs. Honor

In Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, it shows a conflict between choosing love or choosing honor. Cortez, a Spanish conquistador and Cydaria, an Aztec native are intertwined in this love they have for each other. Dryden uses their love to portray battle between catholic conquistadors and the Aztecs. He used Cortez in a way where he leaves Cydaria and battles for his king. The Catholic conquistadors are people who will brutally kill people to get what they want. And Cortez did just that for his king and he knew that his king’s orders were flawed but he still obeyed it. Dryden did not want an ending where they end up happily together. Their love was a reflection of the battle between the imperialists and the Aztecs. There will be no union.

There is a sense of nationalism portrayed through Cortez and Cydaria. No matter how much Cydaria wanted to hold on to Cortez, his faithfulness to someone else was stronger; his monarchy. During their time, a white man and an indigenous woman being together was unheard of. So the story of them was not as relevant as the battle itself.

Dryden knew that realistically, Cortez and Cydaria could not end up together. There can be no unionization between the two. The same goes to the conquistadors and the Aztec natives. During the time the play took place, theater was about portraying political views and issues in politics. By having a happy ending, it would seem as if Dryden was sweeping the issues away and not giving the audience what they came to see.

-Naomi Van

Love and Honor

In the Restoration period, plays/ drama seem like a big thing as proven by the pictures we have looked at in lecture. The play was the place to be, because everyone was there, most importantly the Royal family. Which is part of the reason why they are so elaborate. The audience fills the theatres in order to be entertained. So it makes just enough sense as to why the performance should be just as interesting. With a story like “The Indian Emperour”, Dryden brings a twist that surely captures the audience, a love story entangled in a political war.

Drury Lane

The foreign imperialists and the Aztec natives, are portrayed very patriotic (yet confused) towards the decision of their kingdoms. After reading this play I asked myself “what message is the playwright trying to send to the audience during this time specific time period”? It almost seems as if he is trying to make fun of the two leaders because they are so easily swayed by love. Although it is a drama, the play can be used to convey how people of a certain monarchy behave. Even though the female characters are not portrayed as strongly as the males they have an active role in the plot. As I was reading the play I was almost frustrated because of the confusing love web that goes on with the multiple characters. In order to produce the different love angles, Dryden rushes the feelings of the characters to a very unrealistic point. For example, although Almeria is betrothed to Montezuma she falls in love with Cortez while attempting to kill him which leads Cydaria (who initially was betrothed to Orbellan) to accuse him of infidelity. It’s hard to keep up because the character’s feelings change every scene. Even after all that I would assume that at least Cydaria and Cortez end up together but Dryden doesn’t really focus on that instead he ends the play with Montezuma’s funeral. Which leads me to the question does honor trump love?

-Ravneet Dhillon

Unrealistic Love in a Spanish Conquest

Had John Dryden written this story with a sense of truth behind it–how Cortez really would have dealt about the situation–we’d have been reading a much more violent tale. The Spanish Conquistadors raided towns in Mexico, killing the men, even the children, and kept the women for sexual relations. It needn’t really to be said that the real Cortez would not have waited so long to take Cydaria; he’d have killed them all and had his way. This was the reality of the Spanish conquest. As for why he and Cydaria did not end up together, that simply ought to do with the fact that he was of a higher rank. In the real historical context, he–a spaniard general –was of higher importance, whereas Cydaria, no matter her prior position in the Aztec empire, was now merely just another “Indian woman” to them.

It was humorous to play around with the idea that they would wind up happily in love. The Spanish conquerer, who murdered one of her own (an allusion, again, to his grotesqueness) and the native woman who was succumbing to his “charm” and true love. If the image isn’t quite all that explicit, then just imagine a story of unrequited love between a Nazi general and a Jewish woman. It’s possible, yes, but only a fool would wish them to find love in each other (considering he just killed one of her loved ones).

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

For Honor, For Love, For Catholicism

John Dryden seems to be conveying his own perspective on the religion of Catholicism in The Indian Emperour. It seems to be a foreshadowing of Dryden’s own life as he himself, converts to Catholicism later on. The theme of the story seems be love vs honor, as seen in the playwright that even though Cortez falls in love with Cydaria, he still follows his orders of taking the natives to war and capturing their land.The story shows two different sides; the Aztecs and the Spanish Conquistadors. Cortez, a Spanish general, falls in love with Cydaria, the daughter of the Emperor of Mexico. As shown in act 3, scene 2, Obrellan tricks Cortez into thinking he is being harassed but is really there to assassinate Cortez. Cortez is warned about this and challenges Orbellan to a duel in which he wins but leaves Orbellan due to honor and claims that he will attack the city the next day (30-32). Because of this, it shows that Cortez is not that bad of a person. He respects the challenge of a duel when he can easily call his allies to help defeat Orbellan. This could be Dryden’s take on the idea of Catholicism; that maybe the religion and its followers are not so bad after-all. It also displays Dryden’s admiration to the idea of Catholicism. It sounds like he’s romanticizing this character of Cortez by giving him characteristics such as being honorable and flirtatious.

Dryden might also be onto something else here; Catholicism may have its good side but also its bad side. As seen in the story, Francisco Pizzaro, a commander under Cortez, is greedy and will do anything for gold. One can view this as corruption as he is motivated by the riches of gold and will do anything to get it. As seen in act 5, scene 2, Pizzaro and a Catholic priest are torturing Montezuma and the High Priest to show the location of the gold. “How wickedly he hasrefus’d his Wealth, and hid his gold from Christian hands by stealth” (57). This describes Pizzaro’s profound greed for gold and is willing to forcefully convert both Montezuma and the High Priest to Christianity. Although Montezuma refused, the High Priest wanted to reveal the location but was killed instead. Dryden could be suggesting that the idea of Catholicism might be forced upon them. This can be seen as a parallel to an event in 1670, where King Charles II signed a treaty with French King Louis XIV, in which he agrees to convert to Catholicism and support the war against the Dutch in return for money. In comparison, it shows the corruption of the Catholics and how it has spread to even the King of England. Even though King Charles II didn’t really convert until his death, it shows that Catholicism has spread to even the highest of power. Thus, showing the influence and fear of Catholicism.

Speaking of the French, during the reign of King Louis XIV, the religion of Catholicism was the norm. Not only France, but also Italy. And what is English but is inspired by the French and Italians? The Restoration Theater. As discussed in the lecture notes, the stage area during the Restoration period was borrowed from the Italian and French theatre. Now all of this may not sound so bad, but it does prove that there is French/Italian roots to English theatre. That since both of them are Catholic countries, it should imply that the fear of Catholicism is alive and well. Dryden may be using this story, The Indian Emperour as a predictor for future outcomes of what is to become of England.

-Christopher Luong