Re-Imagining Cortez’s Legacy

The ending of the play in my opinion states a lot about what Dryden was attempting to deliver with this piece. For example Cortez’s valor and willingness to provide to attempt to start a relationship with Cydaria even though due to the conquest she should have been seen as simply a Mexican and nothing else shows in what light Dryden saw the spaniards. He acknowledges the fact that the conquest was a prideful nationalistic accomplishment but demonstrates their weakness by his love for Cydaria showing how Cortez is willing to fall in love with an indigenous woman. In history books Cortez is seen as a strict conquistador not capable of falling in love let alone with a native woman yet Dryden is trying to challenge the previous notion by including a more affectionate side of Cortez.They also even included a character out of history Pizarro in attempt to even further take blame away from Cortez. I believe Dryden had this in mind when writing the play and writing it in english for that matter to justify the events and bring Cortez down from this pedestal that Spain had put him on while

In the first picture of the theatre, we can see how much admiration people had for the theatre during the time. The building is incredibly big having multiple floors for seating and booths around and some even on the stage. It’s clear from the pictures how English people thought of going to the theatre as an event in itself making sure that everything is beautifully done and executed. In the second picture however we can see that the admiration for theatre wasn’t only for show but also the content and love for the arts. They were so into theatre they were willing to put on private performances in their home with friends and family.


-Noel Nevarez


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

In John Dryden’s Indian Emperor there is an evident constant battle between love and honor. The Conquistadors and the Aztecs’ battle is occurring during this time however the story that is heavily emphasized in this play is the love between Cydaria and Cortez. This love is seen as “forbidden” because given the circumstances they should be enemies. I believe this is used to mask the actual horror that actually occurred at the time.

The fact that the contrast between love heroism was incorporated into the play in order to cater to the audience who had previously enjoyed plays by Shakespeare, after all Shakespeare’s plays relied heavily on both love and tragedy. Both characters show strong commitment to their lands as Cortez fights for what he considers to be victory and Cydaria fights to keep her farther alive even if that means Cortez must disobey orders. It was important that during time period the theatre remain a place for many to enjoy, perhaps that is why for many the ending of the play remains unclear and one can believe that Cortez and Cydaria lived a happily ever after but that is not guaranteed. The exact future of Cortez and Cydaria  is not stated  clearly in the end of the play. This is great for many people because its appeals to those who like happy endings and those who prefer mysterious/tragic ones .One can say that not only did Cortez conquest the Spaniards he also conquests Cydaria’s heart. Although now it is more acceptable for people of different background or sex to marry there are still religions that will not allow people to marry until both people are converted to that religion. I believe that people today  are more tolerant than they were before and are happy  to see others happy no matter what their orientation or ethnicity is. Although there is still a huge amount of progress we have come a long way.

In the photos provided below we are able to see what the performances looked like, it is noticeable that in one of the photographs there are hundreds of people in the theatre divide by economic status and power. While discussing this photo in class many were drawn to the center of the stage which is of course the focal point. In the second photograph the play appears to be performed in a more private setting such as a house, there are children watching the play too which further emphasizes the fact that love was more present in this tale of Cortez than the one told to many in history books. This factor perhaps made the play more enjoyable for a younger audience.

– Luz Zepeda


Cortez the Doubly Blessed (possibly)

At the very end of Dryden’s “The Indian Emperour,” Cortez thanks God for his pair of blessings, saying “while I loud thanks pay to the Powers above, thus doubly blessed with conquest, and with love” (68). This is the very last line of the play proper, before the epilogue, and with that in consideration, this line must be taken into special consideration.

Given the Restoration theater’s focus on “seeing and being seen,” as well as its status as a social event, it is entirely within the scope of reason to assert that for the most part, playgoers would not be incredibly focused on deep, contextual analysis of the play itself. However, the last lines could ingrain themselves in a viewer’s brain, and must function as a summary for the central themes of the play.

Thus, with the final line possibly serving as a summary of theme, one is drawn to the phrase “doubly blessed.” Dryden is showing that love and conquest are irreconcilable, as they are seen as two different gifts. Cortez believes he has both, and yet the question remains: why then does the play not end with him running off into the sunset with Cydaria? Why does the play end, instead, with a praising of God, and a promise of a grand funeral?

A possible answer to this question comes earlier, where Cydaria herself says “death only stands between me and happiness” (66). Here, perhaps, the implication is such that maybe Cydaria does not want to rush off with Cortez. She wants death instead. Thus comes the answer: Cydaria does not love Cortez, specifically, Cydaria does not love this conqueror.

Cortez is not “doubly blessed.” Cortez has won only conquest. Therefore, the final question remains: was Dryden’s intent here to show to vast difference between conquest and love, and by association honor and love? Then, by extension, the question becomes “is there really love anymore, in this age of conquest?” 

-Ross Koppel

Love and Honor

In the Restoration period, plays/ drama seem like a big thing as proven by the pictures we have looked at in lecture. The play was the place to be, because everyone was there, most importantly the Royal family. Which is part of the reason why they are so elaborate. The audience fills the theatres in order to be entertained. So it makes just enough sense as to why the performance should be just as interesting. With a story like “The Indian Emperour”, Dryden brings a twist that surely captures the audience, a love story entangled in a political war.

Drury Lane

The foreign imperialists and the Aztec natives, are portrayed very patriotic (yet confused) towards the decision of their kingdoms. After reading this play I asked myself “what message is the playwright trying to send to the audience during this time specific time period”? It almost seems as if he is trying to make fun of the two leaders because they are so easily swayed by love. Although it is a drama, the play can be used to convey how people of a certain monarchy behave. Even though the female characters are not portrayed as strongly as the males they have an active role in the plot. As I was reading the play I was almost frustrated because of the confusing love web that goes on with the multiple characters. In order to produce the different love angles, Dryden rushes the feelings of the characters to a very unrealistic point. For example, although Almeria is betrothed to Montezuma she falls in love with Cortez while attempting to kill him which leads Cydaria (who initially was betrothed to Orbellan) to accuse him of infidelity. It’s hard to keep up because the character’s feelings change every scene. Even after all that I would assume that at least Cydaria and Cortez end up together but Dryden doesn’t really focus on that instead he ends the play with Montezuma’s funeral. Which leads me to the question does honor trump love?

-Ravneet Dhillon

Language in Indian Emperor

John Dryden uses his heroic play as a way to rewrite time and history. He demonstrates this by using real life characters and certain historical events (ex: Conquering the Aztec Empire). Dryden could have done this as a way to stimulate ideas such as Cortez and Montazumi representing the conflict between the church and monarchy or Catholicism vs Christianity. However, although Dryden portrayed Cortez as a masculine, heroic leader, Cortez is often making his decisions based on what the women in the play advise him to do. Although Cortez manages to obtain the highest social status of the play, he does not get Cydaria.

The play also analyzes representations of English culture and values and gender. The overseas colonization is done the ideal English way. Cortez doesn’t set out to conquer and destroy with no restraints, he attempts to be civilized and gentlemanly about it, “By noble ways we Conqueft will prepare,/ Firft offer peace,/ and that refus’d make War.” Throughout the play, Cortez makes it clear that he offers peace in order to avoid war and makes decisions that illustrate this value of honor and love. Although Cortez falls in love with Cydaria, he doesn’t let that get in the way of conquering Mexico nor shatter his loyalty to the King. We can see how far Dryden has projected English culture unto them since he has the Spaniards and Indians speaking the English language rather than their own native tongue. Language is important to Dryden. We can see this by the way the characters use their words to maintenance the  value of hierarchy. Cortez attempts to sway Montazumi into giving up his power to gain peace. He also uses romantic language towards Cydaria, “Like Travellers who wander in the Snow,/ Ion her beauty gaze till I am blind.” Language is also an instrument of cunningness and manipulation as we witness Almeria attempt to falsely claim Cortez’s affections, “She’l have too great content to find him true/ And therefore fince his Love is not for me,/ I’le help to make my Rivals mifery./ Spaniard, I never thought you falfe before:/ Keep the poor Soul no longer in fufpence,/ Your change is fuch as does not need defence.” As we can see, Almeria is cunning to turn Cydaria’s misunderstanding to her advantage. If there is one thing to be admired in this play is the use of figurative language and structure.

Dryden might not have included the ending as Cortez marrying Cydaria because it would have scandalized the audience. It would also have been better for Cydaria to not marry because then Cortez would have had control over her social, economic, and political status.

-Ana Diaz-Galvan

Beyond the Theatre

Indian Emperor was a play performed during the restoration period. There were great shifts of power and culture. The status quo is being challenged. One of the cultural and power shifts was King Charles II becoming a patron of theatre. The stage underwent great change during this time as well. It became more grand, giving plenty of room for exotic scenery. It is here that Dryden’s play will take place. His themes of love and honor are strong throughout, characteristics which fill the heroic drama requirements.

Dryden’s play follows a few complex relationships. There is an incredibly provocative affair between Cydaria, the emperor Montezuma’s daughter, and Cortez, the Spanish general. They are star crossed lovers, from two different worlds and cultures. Dryden purposefully does not resolve their relationship. He does this to show how messy it can be for love and honor to be intertwined. This is a very political statement. Can one truly give them self to another and still have unwavering honor?  Dryden is saying here that at some point a leader will have to chose to either love or be admirable. The two simply cannot mix. The whole story is a series of relationships which go escalate and decrease very rapidly. This is to demonstrate how messy love and honor are together. This is completely different than Lovelace who has very binary and strong views on love and honor. Dryden is represents his characters this way to reflect the culture he lives in. Charles II and England were going through a cultural shift, debauchery was not necessarily frowned upon. Perhaps Dryden was trying to voice his opinions to his leaders through his play. His message perhaps was work and play are both good but need to be separate. This could also explain why Dryden eventually turned to Catholicism. He was uncomfortable with the lack of structure the leadership displayed. 

  • Maya Gonzales