Appealing to, Not Entertaining a Sympathetic Audience

In Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the choice to reference Colley Cibber’s widely produced play Love’s Last Shift shows the influence of a drama piece, or theatrical play, using messages behind its genre in order to add morality into Equiano’s audience; seeing it as something they lack. He chooses to parallel Colley’s character of Sir William Wisewoud to not only take from a sympathetic characterization and apply it to his own situation, but to use this in such a way to highlight the disparities and abuse and incite a “good, moral, Christian” audience to feel incredulous for his own situation.

Love’s Last Shift is a sentimental comedy play, where in which the main characters  include “middle-class protagonists triumphantly overcom[ing] a series of moral trials.” A large focus of sentimental comedy is promoting morals over vices, appealing to “noble sentiments” by preaching a sort of moralistic behavior through a tragic, pitying type of comedy. Many of these sentimental comedy works show how men are able to be “reformed and set back on the path of virtue” through good deeds and esteemed morals (

In one particular scene, a short scene plays out where a conceited rake, Sir Novelty Fashion, receives a letter from a woman he has been flirting with, Narcissa, right in front of her father, Sir William Wisewoud. These caricatures are a side story of the main plot, where essentially, Sir Novelty Fashion is attempting to woo Narcissa while he already has a mistress (scandalous!!), all while mocking Narcissa’s father, who’s trying to play matchmaker for his daughter to marry an actual gentleman, Elder Worthy. When courting Narcissa, he only truly decided to go meet her and potentially engaging in promiscuous behavior to exact revenge on Sir William, to “have the pleasure of making” the relationship and his “exploits” public (page 41). He even goes on, inciting a provocation by taunting, “Hark you! wou’d not it nettle you damnably to hear my Son call you Grandfather?” (page 41). This kind of tone and attitude shows not only how childish and comedically immature Sir Novelty is, but to a sympathetic audience, pitying how Sir William has to grovel in submission, even oblige Sir Novelty as to not show a crack in his demeanor when his pride has been shattered. Sir William comes to the conclusion that in order to keep his patience (and have good morals), preaching that keeping a cool head is worthwhile by stating:

“How near are men to Brutes, when their unruly Passions break the Bounds of Reason? And of all Passions, Anger is the most violent, which often puts me in mind of that admirable


He that strives not to Stem his Angers Tide,

Does a Mad Horse without a Bridle ride.” – page 42

This is seen referenced in Equiano’s work in order to parallel his and Sir William’s situations in order to garner sympathy. A large focus of this stems from Equiano praying for a sort of noble sentiments, where “resignation, that his will might be done; and the following two portions of his holy word” could lift his “born again Evangelical” spirit, and keep him from “taking the life of this wicked man” (Chapter XI). This, while notably tying into how sentimental comedy attempts to moralize noble sentiments and good deeds, when he references Love’s Last Shift, stating, “That he who cannot stem his anger’s tide/Doth a wild horse without a bridle ride” (Chapter XI). The physical abuse Equiano continues to endure throughout his journey, seen in this instance as Baker “[striking him] often, still keeping the fire in his hand for this wicked purpose” (Chapter XI). His hands, as once tied as he was “hung, without any crime committed…merely because [he] was a free man, and could not by the law get any redress from a white person” due to the degradation of African slaves and inherent racism linked to it, were tied again – his testimony and account of Baker’s exploitation and abuse “could not be admitted against a white” (Chapter XI). These two elements are used as parallels to Sir William’s ideals that one should be a master of their own temper, in that a “Fools power to provoke [one] beyond that Serenity of Temper” shouldn’t be stronger than one’s own belief in a personal moral compass (page 42). This is inherently tied to Equiano’s biblical allusions and his belief in providence and the “the good hand of God” to guide him and in a sense, save him when he’s unable to save himself (Chapter XI).

Haiku and More

Prolog: Do you see the Godliness in yourself for not complaining, the way negros do, about your everlasting pain and suffering? Do you find solace in redemption by avoiding the obvious two sided mistreatment we clearly toss at one another? To recognize your mistreatment requires you to recognize the equal demons of your own failures to adhere to your own faith. Which so clearly instructs you to befriend your neighborhood, yet you so rightly ignore. So, burn down the page your faith is written on while you simultaneously burn down our forest and homes leaving our women unprotected and children cold.

Color shades Ripple through cast

Warm white front Burn(t) Jews, God sent

Conquest comfort wipe generations away

-Jackson A

A Colonial History of Violence

Mary Rowlandson was held captive for eleven weeks and five days after she and her three children were taken captive by a Wampanoag raiding party. The details of the brutality Rowlandson witnessed and at times endured give readers a look into the conflicting relationship between the colonists and the natives. Rowlandson’s interactions with the Algonquian people complicate and contradict the history of intolerance against native people during the English colonization period. Though Rowlandson initially endures brutality and suffers the loss of her baby, the development of her writing gives the natives a sort of humanistic perspective that early writers did not give before. For example, when Rowlandson is taken to meet with King Philip, she begins to weep and when a native asked her why she cried, she said that the natives would kill her. To this, the native responded no and that “None [would] hurt [her].” Furthermore, one of the natives “gave [her] two spoonfuls of meal to comfort [her]” while another “gave [her] half a pint of peas”, which according to Rowlandson, “was more worth than many bushels at another time”. This contradicts the idea that natives only inflicted violence upon settlers. In this scene, the natives display an act of kindness during a time when Rowlandson showed vulnerability and sadness. When Rowlandson meets with King Philip, he offers her a smoke of his tobacco pipe as a compliment and though she speaks about how sinful smoking was, she never explicitly states whether or not she accepted to smoke. In the ninth remove, Rowlandson learns that her son is less than a mile from her and when she asks for permission to go and see him, they allow her to do so. The simple and seemingly meaningless acts of kindness contradict the ideas that both people were completely intolerant of one another.  In a close-up view, the threats Rowlandson faced and the deaths she witnessed in Lancaster may cause readers to have sympathy for her. However, by looking at the situation from a historical, outside, and educated perspective, the deaths that happened in Lancaster and the threats Rowlandson faced do not evoke much sympathy. The conflict that led up to the actions taken by the Algonquian people were a consequence of the white immigrant colonists’ constant invasion on native lands (a consequence of their own actions and example of hypocrisy). When taking into the consideration the years of violence and constant dehumanization natives faced, one small raiding party and the death of some white colonists does not measure up to the hundreds of native people and children brutally murdered. Rowlandson’s writing does confirm the violence that existed between natives and English people, but only to a certain extent. Many of the threats Rowlandson faced were words and actual brutality was not commonly placed upon her. Her writing complicates history because the natives did not invade the small town just to inflict violence. They acted upon violence to capture the wife of a minister and to defend themselves against the constant white invasion. Perhaps Rowlandson restrained herself from including more details in order to protect her Puritan chastity, but the small details actually mentioned and the inclusion of native words only support the idea that she actually formed some type of unspoken bond with her captors.

-Maria G. Perez

Racism and the Dream of Imperialism

In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, Cydaria and Cortez are not united explicitly and surely it is by no mistake. Though the play focuses on the dilemma of having to choose between love and honor, external factors during the time in which the play was written serve as motives behind the missing union. As mentioned in a biography about John Dryden in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Dryden was a subjected poet who wrote in a manner that would reflect the political turmoil occurring during his time. Considering this, Dryden may have not brought the two characters within the play together because such a union was unlikely. Racism and aristocratic ideals were abundant at the time as well and so the idea that an “honorable” Spaniard would be united with a foreign native would’ve been seen as an unacceptable union. By not marrying Cydaria, Dryden demonstrates that Cortez inexplicitly chose his country over love and during the play, Cydaria even states “What is this Honour that does love controul?”. Though the play explores the theme of love, racism and dreams about a successful empire were present in England. The material of the play itself was not paid attention to as much because the whole act was a large form of propaganda that sold the idea of creating an empire without carrying out the same violence as the Spaniards. The play was written during the Restoration Era and was presented to an audience that still feared the forced conversion to Catholicism. Since Montezuma resisted the conversion to Catholicism, it gives the same idea to the public; forceful conversion to Catholicism would bring chaos and two people of different religions weren’t meant to be united. A purpose of the theatre was to promote unity amongst the viewers to furthermore support the monarch (whom John Dryden supported), demonstrating how the play was designed carefully and skillfully to promote certain ideas to the public and so, by not uniting Cortez with his love, Dryden, therefore, presents his doubts about that union.

-Maria G. Perez

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

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

Catholics vs Aztecs

Tania De Lira-Miranda


John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, is a play that focuses on the Spanish’s conquest of the Aztec Empire whose plot is very similar to the Shakespearean play of Romeo and Juliet as the two main characters are from opposing sides: the house of Capulet and Montague in Romeo and Juliet and the Crown of Castile and the Aztec empire in The Indian Emperour. But unlike the Shakespearean play, Dryden’s play ends in a more hopeful note as the ending seems to hint that Cydaria and Cortez are being requited though it is not said explicitly or written.  But the positive note that the play ends with doesn’t mean that John Dryden agreed with the Crown of Castile’s conquest of the Aztec empire.

This is shown through the instances where the Spanish are made out to be horrible, oppressive, and flawed people as they put the Aztecs, such as Montezuma – Emperor of Mexico, through torture in order to convert him to Christianity or when Cortez, a Spanish general, continues to follow the orders of the king even though he doesn’t agree with them. Dryden’s disagreement with the Spanish treatment of the Aztecs is also shown through Cortez’s and Cydaria’s relationship. The relationship is one of fairy tales ideals, the two go through many different trials – being forced into an arranged marriage, a war, etc. There is a power imbalance between the relationship; Cortez is a soldier aka the conqueror while Cydaria is a princess aka the conquered. The pair will never be on equal footing and thus making the relationship, realistically doomed as there could be resentment on Cydaria’s side because of what Cortez and the Spanish did to her people. These are the doubts that Dryden is trying to make the audience understand: that the relationship between a foreign imperialist and an Aztec native cannot work out because of the power imbalance between the two.


The Social Equilibrium, Never Set in The Indian Emperor

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 9.41.01 PM.png

From any angle that we tried to see it, John Dryden’s, The India Emperor was a satirical overview of what society tended to be during his time. Yet, we see such blasphemy to this day with gender inequality within most countries of the world, especially in the United States amongst others. To many, this was considered to be the defining work in the sub-genre of heroic drama, but there was merely any joyful scenario to even categorize it as such. We undergo through the conflict of love and honor, and the Emperor of Mexico Montezuma was the primary character to influence with such beliefs that love is much more important than whatever status he has in place;

“But of my crown thou too much care dost take;  

That which I value more, my love’s at stake.”

To contrast this, Cortez, the Spanish General, takes the complete opposite route and turns back on his love for the obedience of his king, more than willingly knowing that the order commanded to him were flawed. A power whore? Yes, but that’s something that subliminally Dryden tries to convey to the reader; no such power can overlap a strong bond of love. Unfortunately for Montezuma, he never ended with a happy conclusion, as his suicide was the end of all that’s pure in love when overseeing power amongst others.

“Already mine is past: O powers divine,

Take my last thanks: no longer I repine;

I might have lived my own mishap to mourn,

While some would pity me, but more would scorn!

For pity only on fresh objects stays,

But with the tedious sight of woes decays.

Still less and less my boiling spirits flow;

And I grow stiff, as cooling metals do.

Farewell, Almeria.”

Dryden excellently portrays Cortez as deviously high-minded and magnanimous, to show what sort of influence the Spaniards are as oppressive and cruel to never establish social equilibrium amongst all people. In today’s time, we emphasize the notion of current feminist movements and insinuates that patriarchal norms that we challenge in today’s’ society aren’t equal as we set to foresee them. Men and Women are never treated equally, even to this day, we will always have something that would stray us more apart than bring us close together.

– Stephen Muñoz

Building Consensus

I agree with the statement that John Dryden is casting doubt and anxiety upon his audience regarding the relationship between Spanish imperialists and the Aztecs through the unfulfilled relationship between Cydaria and Cortez In The Indian Emperor. I believe John Dryden did not have the relationship take off in this play for the specific reason that the theater was the “Place to be” and the perfect way to get his viewpoint across to the masses was to put it into a play which would certainly be seen or at least heard by most of the population, including the king. Dryden was in favor of the restoration of Charles II to the throne, which likely meant that he shared some of the monarch’s views. Dryden probably had some misgivings about a peaceful relationship between the Aztecs and imperialists and my have sought to use the popularity of the theater to shift the public consensus toward his perspective, because even if the average attendee didn’t understand the play the more educated watchers certainly did and would be able to relay their analysis to others who didn’t understand thus spreading Dryden’s view. The spreading of his viewpoint may have also been particularly important to John Dryden because he, being a critic of Spain wanted to paint them in a negative light with his play. The added gossip from the attendees of the theater would further divide England from the Spanish emperor and make England appear more civilized as they weren’t yet in the business of empire building as Spain was. I really think that Dryden was a very opinionated person so much so that he would use his art to elevate his opinions and influence others into thinking the same as him which was the main reason as to why he left an unfinished relationship between Cydaria and Cortez.

                -Evan Klang

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.