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

Unrealistic Love

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

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.


A Poet’s Alchemy

In the play “The Indian Emperor” by poet John Dryden (1631 – 1700) uncovers themes of love versus honor with a relationship between Spanish conquistador Cortez and Aztec Native Cydaria. This relationship is like an unexplainable soul connection that serves as an alchemizing aspect that Dryden focuses on as he retells a piece of history that killed many and transformed the direction of humanity. A story where you can find people are murdered for refusing to convert religion. This is a story retold of a very different, and dangerous time to be alive. Where the poet makes Love a powerful force that drives the main plot.

The fact these lovers never came together in physical union and matrimony, although these lovers were a key component of the overall story proves that love is a powerful force. Love – in this play is a symbol for humanity. While Cortez and Cydaria are lovers from different parties. Lovers who are supposed to be rivals. Their love and attraction towards each other serves as a glitch in the matrix. But Dryden left them in separation to refocus the audience on the bigger picture. The poet didn’t want them together in union because that was not humanity’s fate. Humanity’s fate requires the fall of everything good. Patterns of greed and violence replayed all over the world. The truth is – many were killed. Many are still killed. All over the world. It is the truth of this Earth experience. John Dryden, a poet, knows this. So a poet creates to alchemize. A poet creates to see what he/she could make of something.

Choosing a perspective is like picking a rose in a field of a million red and black roses. As a poet, with creativity gushing through the poet’s vision. Guiding him to channel a love story out of a tragic tale. Greed and violence is a repeated trend in the collective. But here, John Dryden takes greed and violence around a dance of love.

A dance for love.

Love that only remains true in this tale. And because it is written, it lasts forever.

That is a poet’s alchemy.

The Romanticization of Colonization

By: Katherine Hernandez

In the play The Indian Emperor by John Dryden there is a theme of romanticized colonization that is expressed through the interactions the characters have throughout the play. Upon reading the play I couldn’t help but notice the similarities it shared with a classic tale that we all know and love. The similarities that The Indian Emperor and Pocahontas share are uncanny. Both stories share threads of love and honor, honor which is linked specifically to white men and love which is linked to the female natives of the land. What comes to mind is that romanticized versions of colonization that seem to often take place in our society. These stories are told from one point of view, a point of view that strives to make The Spanish Colonizers as heroes of their story. As brave men who do not fail their inquisition. It romanticizes the way native people are treated and much like in Pocahontas, The Indian Emperor portrays how the roles of women are only to be seen as a partner who must abide by the wishes of the white males; driven by love and nothing else. In the play, the main female characters often make decisions that do not make sense to their integrity as people. Perhaps the romanticization of these acts of genocide is portrayed this way in order to feed the upper-class people in Spain things that will keep them at ease. As a way of saying “We are successful in our conquest of the New World and The Natives adore us.” A way to appease the masses who could afford to go to the theatre; especially the king. After all as a ruler, who would want to see the atrocities of their own action come to life?

The tragedy behind the way that these events are portrayed is that the romanticization of these events still exists today. Pocahontas only being one of the few movies and or stories that portray the colonization of Native as a blessing for their people. Full of fruitful love and advancements on both parties. When in reality all it is, is a portrayal of white men stroking their egos in an attempt to overshadow their actions and their lack of empathy towards the actions they took.

John Dryden leaving an ambiguous ending to his play suggests that perhaps there is happiness for Cortez and Cydia, the chance of requited love. However, that is a biased way of looking at things. It can metaphorically portray the union of the Spanish and Natives through the conversion of Catholicism, however, the supposed “requited love” is all but a facade to erase the culture and the lives that they stripped away from the natives. The play is a romanticization of the colonization of Native people, in which there is an illusion of choice sprinkled with romance in order to convince the Spanish back home that things were done correctly and with peace at bay. When in reality, as history truthfully portrays, the exact opposite was taking place.

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