Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 1. Characteristics of Lesser Restoration Tragedy

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

VII. The Restoration Drama

§ 1. Characteristics of Lesser Restoration Tragedy

THE LESSER tragic writers of this period, uninspired as most of their work seems when judged on its own merits, fall inevitably to a still lower level by comparison with the amazing literary powers of their great leader, Dryden. They have all his faults and only a small and occasional admixture of his strength and resource. In tragedy, as in other departments of literature, the genius of Dryden overtops, on a general estimate, the productions of his lesser contemporaries, and how closely his lead in the drama was followed may be correctly estimated from the fact that, in 1678, on his abandoning the use of rimed verse in the drama, his followers also dropped this impossible form, wisely reflecting, no doubt, that when Dryden was not satisfied as to its success, they might be sure of its failure. The productions of the lesser tragedians, however, in which a desire to catch the humour of the public and to flatter the mood of the hour is the most frequently recurring characteristic, remain most valuable as helping to furnish a clear idea of the state of the drama and the prevailing standard of taste.