The Dryden-Settle controversy: A symptom of the multifaceted conflicts in Restoration England and a catalyst for Dryden's satire

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

James E. Wellington - Committee Chair


John Dryden's satiric prowess developed as he reacted to political, literary, and religious conflicts in Restoration England. Charles II and his courtiers provided an audience as well as patronage for Dryden, Elkanah Settle, and other Restoration playwrights. Consequently, the heroic plays evolved as a tragedy of manners, a genre crafted to satisfy the Restoration courtiers' appetite for heroics and dalliance. Dryden wrote most of his essays, prefaces, and prologues to reinforce his dramatic principles and techniques and, ironically, to counteract charges of dramatic excesses similar to the ones he directed at Settle, his imitator. In spite of criticism, or because of it, Dryden and Settle have contributed significantly to the sociopolitical commentary on Restoration England.As a consequence of his controversy with Settle, Dryden reassessed and later abandoned the rhymed heroic play, turning to political satire instead, and reaching the zenith of his career as poet-dramatist militant. Settle, Shaftesbury, and others of the Whig faction triggered the Exclusion Crisis of the 1680s, providing the agitation that resulted in Dryden's "Absalom and Achitophel" Parts I and II, Settle's "Absalom Senior or Achitophel Transpros'd," Dryden's "The Medall," and others of his satiric masterpieces that have enriched Restoration literature.


Literature, English

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