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
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.
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
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
The Indian Emperour, by John Dryden, touches on the Spanish and Aztec native relationship during the colonization of Latin America. An emphasis of this relationship is exhibited through the characters Cortez and Cydaria. Though romantic, the two were never under union. Dryden uses this dynamic to speak as a metaphor on two topics. The first being the uncertainty of the Imperial colonization of the new world. Cortez is shown as longing for Cydaria. Rejecting the countless advances – and threats – made by Almeria. Cortez being the conquistadors and Cydaria being the Aztec people, it can be inferred that the conquistadors longed for the New World and loved what they found. The Aztec people did love the conquistadors, while believing they were gods, however soon fell out of love when their true intentions were discovered. Like Cortez not staying with Cydaria, the conquistadors never meant to stay in the New World; they were only there to reap the benefits of “untapped” resources. Through this relationship, Dryden recognizes the potential for peace and also the potential for violence. The second heeds a precaution to the audience in Britain. That precaution being the Imperialization of other worlds. The Restoration period brought on the expansion of the British empire, thus Dryden is critiquing the British empire emphasizing the potential for peace. Imperializing a new world must be done peacefully for the alternative is violence.
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).
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.