By: Leena Beddawi
The very existence of a stage comes with the grandeur of a curtain, which acts as the boundary between the audience and the actors, the real and the artificial, the known and the unknown. In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, the readers are shown both sides of the curtain which divided the foreign imperialists and Aztec natives, although it is worth noting that Dryden was by no means the right person for this very important job, so there was a very strong bias towards the imperialists.
Having his two characters Cydaria and Cortez fall in love only showed a romanticized version of the very extreme events going on in the world. That being said, there was always a means to his end, and that end was seemingly to propagate and influence history to show one side of the story while failing to actually depict the true horror and destruction going on behind the metaphorical curtain.
Sure, it may have been easier to minimize all the rape, destruction, dehumanization and genocide of the Mexican natives down to a simplistic love story that completely derails that which actually happened within the time period, but that is very sadly what history has very often become. Small romanticized stories about the establishment which fails to tell the stories which real people would face as a consequence of each and every historical event.
I believe it was very much Dryden’s plan to keep his ending ambiguous, just as most of the play was in terms of historical accuracy. It is quite normal to write a romanticized version of history, even if just to make it more appealing to the common person, but it is propaganda which shields future generations from being shown the truth. I’m excited to see what romance blossoms form Obama’s drone strikes or Trump’s everything.
It may have been easier for Dryden to keep the curtain pulled down, to show only the parts the imperialist regime would’ve wanted to show, but I don’t think he took into account the many other stories that were told about the time, which drowned out his falsehoods, and is the reason we are able to argue for his accuracy today. This may be the only thing giving me hope for the future anymore. As long as real stories are told, we can drown out the imperialist cover-up of history’s atrocities.