As the Worlds Turn

Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, is a dramatic play on the history of Mexico’s conquest at the hands of the Spanish. In a highly dramatized version of the events that occurred, Dryden managed to turn the conquering of the indigenous people of Mexico by the Spanish, into a soap opera. Of course, this play had to take a massive amount of liberties, it must appeal to the noble class, and those who find entertainment in the theater. Dryden does a well job adding suspense, and interesting love triangles into an already tense situation of a soon to be conquered people. Credit where its deserved, Dryden has created a heroic play, with couplets paired with iambic pentameter, which gives him credit in the poetry world.

Where he doesn’t deserve credit is closed-minded Eurocentric thinking and writing of the play. In Scene 1, Act 1, Cortez, Pizzaro, and Vasquez talk about the potential bountiful of food they can grow on the land, almost as if it was granted to them by God. The conquering by Cortez is hidden by love triangles, and dry romances that lead nowhere.

Cortes’s change of heart isn’t a change of heart, but a fear of the supernatural. A curse brought upon the ‘gold’ and riches of the empire. His attempts to be charitable to Montezuma, who was his enemy is in vain, he’d rather choose death than to receive charitable help from the Spanish. Honor plagues this play, whether it be to the Gods, or for country, honor dictates this play.

Cydaria’s attempts to curtail Cortez’s campaign are useless. Cortez choose pride and country, he conquers for a flag, for Spain, for God.

Nationalism, Patriotism, Imperialism plague this soap-opera of a play, I might even call propaganda. It diminishes the power of the indigenous people who were conquered, as the Spanish got off with seemingly no punishment, hell, they even got a play dedicated to their greatest bounty.

: Robert Morales


Maintaining Pride


In his play The Indian Emperor, John Dryden sets out to create a piece of imperialist propaganda elevated through the structure of the heroic drama that explores themes of honor versus love merely to capture the audience’s attention and romanticize brutal concepts like war. As such, Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortez and his love interest Cydaria, daughter of the Emperor of Mexico Montezuma, never had a chance to truly be together as it risked detracting the play from its true purpose and damaging the brutal conquest’s idealistic image. First and foremost, the play serves to embody the ideals of Spainiards at the time, represented through Cortez, the supposed hero of the story that will eventually bathe in the glory for creating an empire before it became an empire. The love he holds for Cydaria only serves to add to Cortez’s all-powerful demeanor that goes hand in hand with a heroic drama. Along with his undying devotion to his nation by staying loyal to his king, Cortez’s love for Cydaria propels his status , and that of the Spanish, even more, as is the intention with a propaganda piece such as this one.


Another reason Cortez and Cydaria’s love remained unresolved by the end of the play was because it would destroy the proud and strong image of Spain it is trying to uphold and elevate. When it comes to National Propganda, one of the main focuses is to convince anyone who consumes it that the nation being represented is the greatest of them all and whose accomplishments were possible through sheer will power, not through alliances. Having Cortez and Cydaria accept one another would severely diminish the propaganda’s effect along with Cortez’s loyalty to his own nation. Overall, Dryden decides to forgo a fairy tail ending in the end in favor of maintaining nationalistic pride.


–Jose Ramirez

the Harp as a symbol of Irish Nationalism

Ireland was consumed by the Britain’s imperialistic conquests of the 17th and 18th century. Since it was maliciously added Irland has been constant resistance to British rule. This opposition and rejection of british involvement in Ireland is seen in Irish Literature. One of the biggest symbols of this opposition was the symbolic meaning of the Harp. The poem Dear Harp of My Country By Thomas Moore is a great example of the Harp used as a symbol of Irish disdain for British Rule. Moore’s use of this symbol is portrayed when he says “DEAR Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee” Moore uses the Harp to represent Irish Nationalism in a time when Britain seemed to silence and suppress Irish cultural. The uses of the term “darkness” further illustrate how Ireland sees British rule as negative to Irish nationalism. Even in the modern day this opposition to british control is still seen. Because of this literature, it caused the birth of the IRA in the 20th century. This Irish republican paramilitary organization sought to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and to bring about an independent republic encompassing all of Ireland. Ireland still remains today hostile to British rule, and most like will remain until it becomes a sovereign nation.

  • Conor Morgan

Ireland’s Everlasting Harp

I chose to write about Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country.” While reading reading up about Thomas Moore, I had found out he had been exiled from Britain if I recall correctly and had gone back to Ireland. His exile is what stirred up his passion for Ireland. It makes me wonder if he had not been exiled from Britain would he have still written Irish Melodies. In the poem, Moore is talking directly to the harp of Ireland not the people of Ireland but to the harp. Part of his first line is ““DEAR Harp of my Country!,” While it may seem obvious to point out that he is talking to the “harp of Ireland” I believe it is important because it helps give the poem that rebellious tone. Knowing that he is no longer welcome in Britain helps push the idea that he feels scorned and wants to get rid of all British ties and influence from Ireland, his safe haven. “The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long” In this line, Moore is expressing how he feels that Ireland has been suffering in silence for a long time due to the British. Moore is trying to get the message that Ireland’s harp has been quieted due to British. “If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,  Have throbb’d at our lay, ’tis thy glory alone;…”It is in these two lines, that I believe Moore is calling the end of the British’s oppression on Ireland. Moore believes that Ireland;’s harp has been silenced by the oppressive British, and that the only way to find Ireland’s true spirit and harp would be through expelling the British. The Harp stands for Ireland’s purity and true spirit in the poems. Moore makes the argument, that Ireland’s true spirit can only manifest itself if the Harp is not silenced. Moore holds the harp in high regards, “The warm lay of love and the light note of gladness Have waken’d thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill;” These lines help show how the harp is giving that wonderful feeling and the purity of Ireland. Moore goes on to ta;k about how the harp has also seemed to play sad sounds, which could represent the muffling of Ireland’s harp by the British.

-Andres Quezada

The Irish Harp: History, Politics, and Art

Image result for guinness beer harp logo

Since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the harp became synonymous with Irishness, an association most notable today in the Guinness Beer Company’s trademark logo (est. 1759).  For next Friday (4/28), students will write a blog post on the symbolic significance of the Irish harp in ONE of the three assigned poems for that week: Thomas Moore, Sydney Owenson, or Henry Derozio.  How do these poets use the cultural history of the harp to convey their nationalist message?  Explain how their poems extend, rewrite, or complicate this history. To help you answer this question, I’ve inserted a link to a scholarly website that traces the long and complex history of the Irish harp in Britain:

Please explain your answer through a CLOSE READING of the poem, paying careful attention to rhyme, tone, diction, imagery, and form.

Please categorize your post under “The French Revolution” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  The post is due by Friday (4/28) 1pm, but students have the option to revise it until 6pm that day.  And please sign your posts so that your TA, Hannah, and I know who wrote what.  Warning: blank or filler “placeholder” posts submitted after the deadline will not receive a grade!

Colonization: A Right and A Wrong

There is a criticism of colonization at work within Dryden’s work. However, not of its entirety. Instead, there is an underlying hint that Pizzaro and even Cortez are wrong, not for their goal of conquesting the Americas, rather for their manner of going through it as well as the motivations. There is definitely a reason then, why Cortez never ended with Cydaria in a typical hero’s wedding, that classic trope does not fit with the ideals Dryden has kept buried in the play. If one is to find this ideal, we must think like Dryden, worry of English colonists and how they compare with Spanish conquistadors…what makes the English so great then?

Beginning with the depiction of evil, greedy Pizarro – Dryden emphasized the typical villain for his lust for money, money, money. He tried to reap as much as he wanted, and he failed. Then it must be that Dryden condemns this greed, one must not attempt to conquest the Americas solely for the monetary gain. While that definitely plays a factor, there is something much more valuable in the Americas than just money. Then is the protagonist, Cortez, the man of honor swayed away by love. Dryden displays a man capable of so much power, who is then captivated by native beauty, represented by Cydaria. Because of this, he stalls in his effort to conquest America, but only succeeds when he focuses on the main purpose of Spanish conquest – to claim what must be rightfully theirs.

What exactly could Dryden have in mind? Many things, specifically highlighted by Cortez’s victory only when he regains focus on his main goal. This reflects on the idea that there must be a certain way to colonize in order to be successful, as well as the dangers of colonizing. The manner to conquest that is respected by Dryden must be that of passionate yet controlled focus. There is no need for native integration, not to be distracted by the natural beauty nor by the overwhelming lust of gold, greed. There must be a middle ground, the middle ground that the English must surely take. The natives must not be slaughtered, nor they be called in and welcomed, but they must serve under the colonists, pushed away and cornered. They should be kept under control. The Catholic way is like a hungry beast, consuming and feeding, taking in the natives to add to their masses. Dryden still condemns this, despite illuminating Cortez. How? It’s only when he abandons his native love that he succeeds, that definitely points in the direction that an English conquest would prefer. After all, native love got one prideful monarch killed and his people taken in by the cruel conquistadors…do the English people truly want to take lands in such a savage manner, ruin their blood for the sake of expanding their religion? Dryden may romanticize his characters, but there are certainly nationalistic values still at stake, still applied in the underlying meanings of the text. Be warned colonies, do not be distracted, focus on the goal not to expand religion, not to gain money, not to fall in love with new peoples, but just as Dryden put Cortez forward only when he got to the real goal, the English colonies must focus on their love of their nation, their honor, if they want to progress and move forward. This must be, and ultimately was, the English colonial ideal.

-William Fernandez

Nationalism and Morality

John Dryden`s play clearly reflects an anti- colonialist view, however, by preparing this play for audiences of imperialists, he calls attention to the tyranny that the European people have forced on the world. With theatrical settings, as shown in pictures provided, and romantic undertones Dryden mimics the separation between nationalism and morality that people face as residents of  an imperialist nation. Cortez`s inner dialogue reflects that he understands that his orders are immoral and unjust, however, he chooses to follow them instead of his heart.

Even more than his feelings for a native woman, Corte`s sense of moral sense of right in wrong is exaggerated in this play in order to create his persona as a apathetic protagonist. He is able to recognize that his superiors are wrong, although he refuses to act against them. The issue of Cortez being seen as the reflection of British colonialism has been reflected upon numerous of times, however, there was also another major issue at hand while Dryden`s play was being preformed. Catholicism was the most dominant religion in Spain at that time. Thus, perhaps Cortez was, instead, the embodiment of the moral dilemma that conflicted so many in the British empire as they had to choose between Catholicism and nationalism. Many were torn apart internally and even put to death because their moral beliefs opposed that of the monarchy. Perchance Cortez`s bond with Cydaria mimics the internal strife within the nation as they are conflicted with adhering to moral consciousness and fear of opposing their superiors. Therefore, Dryden`s play is a way for him to document how the nationalist pride is being defaced by the conflict between Protestant and Catholic religion while still maintaining the degrees of separation between the two subjects simply by portraying the main character as a Spanish Conquistador.

– Kamani Morrow


John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour is a play fit for the restoration theater. In making the decision to not unite Cydaria and Cortez the play writer is consciously catering to an audience which is dedicated to parading nationalism within the theatre, however, not just any nationalism. The restoration theatre focused it’s honor upon the English. For this reason Cortez is an unlikely hero because he is Spanish, however, he bares what we call “english” qualities. Such as not mixing with those terrible indigenous people! According to the play, anyway.

It was not something out of the ordinary for the Spanish to take women, but Cortez does not in the play. While it may be said that he leaves her in order to represent an english hero, I think that it is deeper than that. To me, not taking Cydaria holds a darker truth. No matter how much Cortez thinks he loves Cydaria, he doesn’t because he doesn’t love her people. Despite however he thinks felt for her, he only felt that way because she was a woman that awakened passions in him. However, that was all. He could not truly love Cydaria if he thought deep down the people she came from were “savages”. He fetishized how different she was from the women he was accustomed to seeing were, but in the end he didn’t see her as a person. Given women were already not seen as actual people, a colored woman didn’t stand a chance.

Although he does try to stop the massacre because of her when he goes to Pizarro and says:

Honour, be gone, what art thou but a breath?
I’le live, proud of my infamy and shame,
Grac’d by no Triumph but a Lover’s name;
Men can but say Love did his reason blind,
And Love’s the noblest frailty of the mind.
Draw off my Men, the War’s already done.

He only does it because he is infatuated with Cydaria, and listens to what she says, but he never tries in the play to see the people around her as actual people. Although the audience sees Cortez in a good light, it’s only because Dryden uses Pizzaro as a character foil to suggest Cortez isn’t THAT bad. After all, even though Cortez is also only there for the gold, he’s also in Mexico to save those savages! His white man’s burden of being the savior of these people is amplified. In the end Cortez can’t truly truly love Cydaria if he thinks she would be so much better if she just wasn’t everything she was (not catholic). Truly loving someone means not seeing ourselves as being superior to them.

-Beyanira Bautista

How Dryden’s Play Conjoins Nationalism and Anti-Colonialism Perspectives

John Dryden promotes themes of nationalism in The Indian Emperor or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, yet, ironically, he also hints at anti-colonialism ideas in his heroic play.  Given the context of the restoration period, and Dryden’s background as a royalist, his overarching undertones of nationalistic consent should come as to no surprise to the audience.  Charles II knew the vitality of theatre and heroic plays as patriotic forms of expression. As mentioned in lecture, watching a live performance was more preferable than having to scrutinize the small font of a text.  Such plays that spotlighted the stage must relate to the politics of the era, so Dryden was careful to focus on the restoration, and use Mexico and the empire as a metaphor for the actual period. The playwright’s reasons for the transient romance between Cortes and Cydaria stems from his desire to showcase Protestant nationalism and to innovate stories told during the restoration era.

Dryden wanted to show how England was not only more tolerant of natives, but also more civilized as well.  Since the English did not largely interbreed with natives as much as other cultures, this not only showcases a respect for them, but also reveals how civilized they are for not dominating them sexually to the point of a population overgrowth. Notably, a romance between such two persons of different political rank “excites the passions” as is the aim of Dryden as a poet and playwright. Cortez’s affair is not only forbidden, but also risky in the political realm, and imagining such an encounter would heighten the audience’s fantasy and the drama of such a situation. Instead of displaying doubts between these two unlikely partners, his play functions to reveal the struggle between honor and love. Even Cortez tells Pizarro he is “graced by no triumph, but a lover’s name.”  He still prioritizes love, even after the war has started, and Cydaria places importance on love rather, than her people, based on her pursuit of her relationship with Cortez. Dryden tries to instill an image of the Spanish Conquistadors as an oppressive, hyper-Catholic people, so his consistency with this stereotype works in his favor for England’s anti-Catholic nationalism. The play poses questions to the audience even after they have left the theatre; were Cortez’s actions moral?  Should Cortez still be seen as the heroic character or should Montezuma be the titular hero?  The relationship has nothing to do with anxieties about foreign imperialists, since it is evident to England that they are seen as antagonists, but moreover to accomplish what he desires in his art. Whatever are the politics of the time, Dryden must conform to England’s set of values, while also innovating his story with anti-colonial thinking to spark an interest in his audiences.-Jessica Mijares