The bigger Picture in Equiano’s narrative

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In the picture above the first thing that catches the reader’s eye is the quaker looking man holding a picture directly into the telescope which is directed at a merry black tribe. Beneath that picture is a man that seems to be in charge of picking out the pictures for ‘Negro Slavery’. The contradictory nature  of a quaker holding a picture of slaves being between paralleled with a nice calm looking village (even the weather is calmers and brighter over there), demonstrates a pro-slavery propaganda type of picture. As the quakers are holding their anti-slavery posters (they disagree with slavery) there are poor Irishmen and children on the streets. This Quaker holding the large sign in the middle saying “buy only West India Company Sugar” but also has a ‘East India Company’ tag in his back pocket also indicates he may be payed off and dishonest. The point of this picture may be to demonstrate that those who are against slavery are a bunch of hypocrites because as they preach to have anti-slavery they have white men on the streets (although Irish) and their children signing forms probably against their will. This relates to Olaudah Equiano’s narrative when ‘Equiano’ states

“ I was so enraged with the Governor, that I could have wished to have seen him tied fast to a tree and flogged for his behaviour; but I had not people enough to cope with his party. I therefore thought of a stratagem to appease the riot. Recollecting a passage I had read in the life of Columbus, when he was amongst the Indians in Mexico or Peru, where, on some occasion, he frightened them, by telling them of certain events in the heavens, I had recourse to the same expedient; and it succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. When I had formed my determination, I went in the midst of them; and, taking hold of the Governor, I pointed up to the heavens. I menaced him and the rest: I told them God lived there, and that he was angry with them, and they must not quarrel so; that they were all brothers, and if they did not leave off, and go away quietly, I would take the book (pointing to the Bible), read, and tell God to make them dead. This was something like magic. The clamour immediately ceased, and I gave them some rum and a few other things; after which they went away peaceably; and the Governor afterwards gave our neighbour, who was called Captain Plasmyah, his hat again.” (Equiano 2875).

This demonstrates that while Equiano may be scrutinizing the whites for their position on slavery and they treat him, he too also is focusing too much on the smaller picture than the larger one. In this case Equiano is trying so hard to be like the British (mentioning someone they would know of and talking sophisticatedly while tricking people)  that he fails to see he too does everything he hates. Right before this passage he went to help pick out slaves from his village, choosing the ones from his village because they ‘would’ be the best workers, although he just sentenced them to be slaves. The point being in both of these scenarios the person being depicted is failing to see their part in helping the encourage slavery and not abolish it.


-Haley H.


Drama in the Restoration

John Dryden changed the world with his dramas. As the puritans lost their influence, theater would rise once again with the powerful works of Dryden and his playwright counterparts. Charles the II was more than enthusiastic to see the influence of the stage, and his encouragement was more than enough to spur a movement that encompassed tremendous social, political, and religious inter-workings. The Indian Emperour, or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, is a prime example of the enormity  and impact that the theater played at the time, in an English empire that faced a plethora of widespread thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. The Indian Emperour took the stage by storm, and Dryden’s influence was thus effectively conveyed.

After reading The Indian Emperour, surely one could only wish to witness the scramble of love and honor in an actual grandeur theater of the past. Drama as it always has, is capable of captivating the audience, invoking emotion and thus possessing a power not matched by other forms of literature. However the drama during the restoration period was especially significant and influential. Behind the immediate display of glamour, the theater was a way to strengthen political ideologies and Dryden was able to reinforce the support for the monarchy. Dryden depicts the Aztec leader Montezuma in far-stretched manner to resemble a positive figure that is in peril due to the largely ill-willed Spanish conquistadors. He approaches the Catholic regime, and ultimately the Spanish nation, in the Montezuma torture scene, where the Aztec leader ultimately becomes a martyr. The oppressive tendencies of Catholicism are displayed on full blast with the priest in the torture scene, “Chr, Vr. Mark how this impious Heathen juftifies his own falfe gods, and our true God denies how wickedly he has refus’d his wealth. And hid his Gold, from Chriftian hands, by ftealth: Down with him, kill him, merit Heaven thereby. (59)” Dryden does however, leave room on a positive portrayal of the Catholic church through the heroic actions of Cortes. Where the greed-possessed Pizarro is unable to act ethically, Cortes proceeds as a heroic figure, who constantly has his honor questioned, but ultimately prevails. Cortes represents the ultimately honorable fate that avoids the love of Cyderia.

The influence of female presence is perhaps more powerful than perceived during the time of restoration. The Indian Emperor helps represent the chaotic scene of love that honor is in direct conflict with. Women have become an extremely influential force, and carry similar qualities as literature of power themselves. The anxieties of the England with Spain are portrayed through an insulting claim that the Spanish are less honorable through their choices of love and their apparent cruelty, as The Indian Emperor glorifies England through the actions of Cortes. Dryden is able to embody the celebratory feelings of newly granted freedom in his plays during the restoration, and expresses his uncertainty in the English empire, and also addresses the issue of religious fanaticism. He uses alternating paradoxes of love and pride to excite and demonstrate to his audience the complexities of the monarchy. The theater grew to become a staggering scene not just for the renovation of old plays, but as a new gathering for the social stratification of England to coincide and discuss. The impact of drama in the restoration was immense, and Dryden is largely responsible.

-Thomas Pham

John Dryden’s Martyred Cortez

Cortez is an outlier in Dryden’s play because he is not a Spaniard by essentialist standards. It is true that the context of Great Britain at the time was very anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish, but this does not explain the use of Hernan Cortez as a symbol of love within the play. There is a sense of a paradox here when the key figure in Conquistador history is utilized by an Englishman to create a play that criticizes the exploitation of the Mexican “Indians.” If Dryden’s goal was to demonize the Spanish Catholics, using a hierarchical figure like Cortez might have meant Dryden sympathized in some way. Although it might have something to do with Dryden’s eventual conversion to Catholicism, it also says something about Dryden’s admiration of characters who are not essentialized.

There is a pivotal moment in Cortez’s dynamic character when he sees Cydaria for the first time, and is infatuated with her. At this point Cortez stops being a conquistador and begins being human. In some regard, Dryden might have been showing that he appreciates bending of character, for people to step outside of their essentialism. The audience is left admiring those characters who are dynamic and despising those who stay the same. Toward the end of the play we see how Pizarro’s ambition is the worst of all by even allowing Vasquez some dynamic characteristic by fighting for his love of Alibech instead of gold. Pizarro, however, becomes essentialized by his last line in act four, scene three: “I the gold.” Dryden makes a martyr out of Cortez despite his Catholicism, which shows the discomfort he had with making Spaniards monolithic characters.

–Cesar Ramirez

“I love the name of honor, more than i fear death”

John Dryden’s Indian Emperour (1667), the author throughout the play focuses on themes of love versus honor, private interests versus the public good, and the motivation behind the character’s actions, but at the ending never explicitly states whether Cydaria and Hernan Cortez are united in matrimony. I personally believe Dryden’s purpose in doing so is to perpetuate the heroic thematic devices utilized in the play. By not explicitly addressing whether or not Cortez and Cydaria marry, the audience is then focused on the ramifications of the series of events that have just transpired in the play.Firstly, it is important to note the power that the woman have in this play. In every major scene there is a woman helping to guide the man, for example, when Guyomar is bargaining for Alibechs life and right to marry she actually says no matter what people say she isn’t an object and chooses who she shall marry. That is important to the ending of the play because it demonstrates the power of the woman’s right to choose and not be seen as an object. Had they been married at the end of the play, it would thus be a happy romance play that didn’t make the audience see the bigger picture of what Dryden was aiming to get at. Not only in the play is the power of the woman seen, but in the actuality of making the play as well. Cydaria in the play was being performed by the kings mistress (supposedly), the notion of a mistress playing such a key role and marrying someone of power doesn’t necessarily demonstrate the anxieties of the foreign imperialist and the aztec people, but the anxieties of what the modern times had come to. Dryden utilized every character and action in the play to criticize what the current society had come to, such as when Montezuma is portrayed literally like christ and even says ‘oh father’.  Had Cydaria and Cortez actually married on this stage where the nobility were present and watching it would have sent drastic ramifications to the audience that I don’t think Dryden was prepared for. He utilized the Spanish imperialism to talk about English imperialism but did it in such a way so that it was more acceptable to talk about just like the role of Cydaria, which was supposedly also written for the mistress intentionally.  By not mentioning the unity of Cortes and Cyndaria, the audience is now left to speculate and rethink the events that have just transpired instead of focusing on a happy ending. A king rather than give up his power for peace has just committed suicide after defeat, a brother betrayed his land due to unrequited love, and a woman loyal to her country has now just committed suicide rather than betray her beliefs. Each individual story intertwined in the play definitely focuses on the theme of love for something but duty to another which also centers back to the time period  of publication. During this time period it was lustful and full of partying, the playhouses were also somewhat of a brothel in a sense. Class has slipped and with the slip of class so too had the idea of love and honor. Morals were diminishing during the restoration period as people were accustomed to having mistresses and cheating on their spouses. By keeping this theme of love and duty it attempts to demonstrate the rightness of following through with you’re love and loyalty to the country. In a sense the main winner of the play was cortez and he too stayed loyal to his love, for example when he let Guyomar go to please Cydaria, but also with Duty when he still took down the native empire although he himself admits that the orders he has received may not be right and he was also going against his lover by essentially destroying her country. The other people in the play such as Montezuma for example did not stay loyal to his people, instead of listening to the spirits that told him he would loose he choose his pride over his country and lost it all including his life. Each character would die for their love or for their duty to their country even when there was other logical paths they could have taken. I think Dryden really aims to question the foundation of blind loyalty to a country and the selfish nature of listening to your heart in respects to the good of the majority. The evidence of this claim is in the ending of the play, throughout the entire play Cortes remained loyal to his country and still went to war all the while honoring his love for Cyndaria for example letting Guyomar go, and stayed true to both sides of duty and honor and he came out the best. The others either gave into blind faith to oders or their own personal love and they all perished. Cortes will have his name go down in history as the conquer of the Aztecs and the rest won’t. So no Dryden did not mention the marriage of Cortes and Cynadaria not due to his doubts of their unity but because it would dimmish the power Cynadaria and the women in the play have ever so subtly developed, but also because what Dryden was inferring by having a mistress play her role would not be scandalous for the audience and society.



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

What is Honor?

In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, the theme of love and honor helps progress the play in how the relationship between the foreign imperialists and the Aztec natives simply couldn’t be at that time. During this particular time when the play was performed, we need to remember the primary purpose for this. Of course there was going to be a big political statement, and in regards to how the audience was going to receive the play. As the play progresses we are constantly introduced to the importance of love and honor. Dryden uses love and honor just to be one of the main layers of the play itself to portray the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. While we are focused on the love between Cortez and Cydaria, we need to remember to examine both characters, to understand they are both a part of opposite sides. At the end love doesn’t win, but honor wins instead. Cortez is in love with Cydaria,  but he continues to chose his side and his conquest. In the end Dryden really portrays the relationship between both the Spanish and Aztecs can never be established, he is making that bold statement. Further as we want them to be together, by Cortez and Cydaria never establishing a relationship in marriage, really leaves the reader as to why? Its that driving question that helps us further understand what Dryden  illustrated.

Viviana Ojeda

The Indian Emperour

When King Charles ll was named to the English throne in 1660, theaters were reopened after an eighteen- year ban. Politically plays were frequently demeaning by previously dominant Puritan rule. However, now Restoration audiences enjoyed new technologies that changed how the plays were spectated. The most critical change to drama and theater was politics. As usual in politics there is division. The division started with the seating arrangements. The expensive royalist seats were closer to the stage and separated from the common seats in the galleries. Furthermore, Dryden attempted to normalize political and religious division in his play The Indian Emperour. The politics of the play was richness of the land. The Spanish are the wealthy and they intend to become more wealthy by gold, conquering, and exploiting. Dryden uses the  Spanish show the focused money oriented wealthy and oppressive mindset.  They are opposed by the less fortunate and cruel Aztecs. Dryden uses the conquest of Aztecs as a political reference to the restoration of strong ethical Royalist party over England, by replacing the savagery of commonwealth Puritan rule.Moreover, the normalization of religious division was demonstrated when Dryden never explicitly brings Cydaria and Cortez together in union and matrimony. Dryden shows that there cannot be in union if two are opposed of different ideals. Moreover, the normalization of religious division was demonstrated when Dryden never explicitly brings Cydaria and Cortez together in union and matrimony. Dryden shows that there cannot be in union if two are opposed of different ideals.  A direct example of Dryden religious division is when he uses conversation between Montezuma and the Catholic priest, “That all Religions with each other Fight, While only one can lead us in the right.” Thus, I believe Dryden attempts to normalize religious fighting such as Church of England’s current battle against the Puritans.

-Dario Lomeli






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

Love or Honor?

In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, The playwright struggles between a theme of love versus honor. It’s interesting how they’re not interrelated since a heroic drama would lead to the main character, male obviously, to desire and obtain power. Power itself is the motive for the main character however why is it that it cannot exist within this play as love? Underlining issues of unity between Catholic Conquistadors and Aztec natives display a battle that is not over; if it were then the love of Cydaria and Cortez would be established in the end of the play. Does the choice of Honor over Love have to do with a misogynistic perspective of the historical events taking place outside of the theatre?

The photograph inserted within the discussion question makes it apparent how women are being displayed as entertainment while the men watch. It’s rather my assumption that Dryden included Love elements in his play for the sake of appealing to a wide range of audiences when it should have begun and end with his true intentions for the play. Additionally, while the women are being displayed as entertainment in the photograph, there’s no sign of Aztec natives, why? Is it because they’re merely around to exploit in Dryden’s overview or for the sake of illuminating the main character into being honorable?


-Kristy Frausto


Indian Emperour

John Dryden’s play Indian Emperour is a play depicting the conquest of the Aztec Empire of Mexico by Spanish conquistadors. This play does not give us a gory battle scene but rather depicts a dramatic love battle between the characters. The particular love battle that sparks a deep interest is the love story between Cydaria an Aztec woman and Cortez a Spanish conquistador. Throughout the play it is clear they have interest in each other and even result in Cortez protecting Cydaria. However, Dryden does not allow them to have a matrimony. I argue this is due to the perspective many had Europeans of the time had about the Aztec people and any other foreign group. I believe Dryden was eager to show that there could be a relationship between both groups however knew there would still be a tremendous amount of tension. Dryden was producing what many English people wanted to see by not allowing Cydaria and Cortez to be married. However, also seemed fond of what the Spanish were doing of “mixing” with indigenous people. His interest in this is the reason for his subtle hint at a union while still not allowing it to happen.

This interpretation is also a PG version of the realities that occurred in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec people. Dryden is emphasizing the way Spanish conquistadors were simply viewing Aztec women as sexual objects in order to “mix” with them. Many indigenous Aztec women were raped by Spanish conquistadors. Though in the play there is no direct rape, there is a rape of the culture and Aztec empire. This play and the story between Cydaria and Cortez symbolizes the reality of what was occurring during the conquest.

-Alondra Morales Aguilar