Personalities | John Dryden | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera

1631–1700, English

John Dryden, the poet, playwright and critic, made his name writing ‘heroic’ verse and other dramas in the Restoration period, which followed the return of King Charles II (1630–85) from exile in 1660. The restoration of the king to his throne was fortuitous for Dryden and other playwrights. During the dreary years of Puritan rule that followed the English Civil War and the execution in 1649 of the new king’s father, Charles I, all theatres had been closed, and performances elsewhere – even in taverns or private houses – were forbidden by law. Dryden took full advantage of the reopening of the theatres in 1660. He wrote two plays for operatic performance – Albion and Albianus (1685) and King Arthur (1691). Dryden, together with another dramatist, Sir Robert Howard, also provided the text for Purcell’s semi-opera The Indian Queen (1695).

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