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hopes, he only discharges the duty of a good knight, who was bound to sacrifice himself, and all his hopes and wishes, at the slightest command of her, to whom he had vowed his service, and who, in the language of chivalry, was to him as the soul is to the body. The reader may recollect the memorable invasion of England by James iv. of Scotland, in which he hazarded and actually lost his own life, and the flower of his nobility, because the queen of France, who called him her knight, had commanded him to march three miles on English ground for her sake.
Less can be said to justify the extravagant language in which Almanzor threatens his enemies, and vaunts his own importance. This is not common in the heroes of romance, who are usually as remarkable for their modesty of language as for their prowess; and still more seldom does, in real life, a vain-glorious boaster vindicate by his actions the threats of his tongue. It is true, that men of a fervent and glowing character are apt to strain their speech beyond the modesty of ordinary conversation, and display, in their language, the fire which glows in their bosoms; but the subject of their effusions is usually connected not with their own personal qualities, or feats, but with some extraneous object of their pursuit, or admiration. Thus, the burst of Hotspur concerning the pursuit of honour paints his enthusiastic character; but it would be hard to point out a passage indicating that exuberant confidence in his own prowess, and contempt of every one else, so liberally exhibited by Almanzor. Instances of this defect are but too thickly sown through the piece; for example the following rant:
If from thy hands alone my death can be,
This curious passage did not escape the malicious criticism
of Settle, who, besides noticing the extravagant egotism of the hero, questions, with some probability, whether Abdalla would have chosen to scale Almanzor's fate, at the risk of the personal consequences of having all his men piled on his own back. In the same scene, Almanzor is so unreasonable as to tell his rival,
Thou shalt not dare
To be so impudent as to despair.
What are ten thousand subjects, such as they?
Dryden's apology for these extravagances seems to be, that Almanzor is in a passion. But, although talking nonsense is a common effect of passion, it seems hardly one of those consequences adapted to show forth the character of a hero in theatrical representation.
It must be owned, however, that although the part of Almanzor contains these and other bombastic passages, there are many also which convey what the poet desired to represent -the aspirations of a mind so heroic as almost to surmount the bonds of society, and even the very laws of the universe, leaving us often in doubt whether the vehemence of the wish does not even disguise the impossibility of its accomplish
Good heaven! thy book of fate before me lay,
In the less inflated parts, the ideas are usually as just, as ingenious and beautiful; for example :
No; there is a necessity in fate,
The character of Almanzor is well known as the original of Drawcansir, in “The Rehearsal,” into whose mouth parodies of some of Dryden's most extravagant flights have been put by the Duke of Buckingham. Shaftesbury also, whose family had smarted under Dryden's satire, attempts to trace the applause bestowed on “ The Conquest of Granada' to what he calls “the correspondence and relation between our Royal Theatre and popular Circus, or Bear-Garden. For, in the former of these assemblys, 'tis undeniable, that, at least, the two upper regions, or galleries, contain such spectators as indifferently frequent each place of sport. So that 'tis no wonder we hear such applause resounded on the victories of an Almanzor, when the same parties had possibly no later than the day before bestowed their applause as freely on the victorious Butcher, the hero of another stage. Miscellaneous Reflections. Miscell. 5.
The other personages of the drama sink into Lilliputians beside the gigantic Almanzor, although the under plot of the loves of Ozmyn and Benzayda is beautiful in itself, and ingeniously managed. The virtuous Almahide is a fit object for the adoration of Almanzor; but her husband is a poor pageant of royalty. As for Lyndaraxa, her repeated and unparalleled treachery can only be justified by the extreme imbecility of her lovers.
The plot of the play is, in part, taken from history. During the last years of its existence, Granada, the poor remnant of the Moorish empire in Spain, was torn to pieces with intestine discord, and assailed without by the sword of the Christians. The history of the civil wars of Granada, affirmed to be translated into Spanish from the Arabian, gives a romantic, but not altogether fabulous, account of their discord. But a romance in the French taste, called Almahide, seems to have been the chief source from which our author drew his plot.
In the conduct of the story there is much brilliancy of event. The reader, or spectator, is never allowed to repose on the scene before him ; and although the changes of fortune are too rapid to be either probable, or altogether pleasing, yet they arrest the attention by their splendour and importance, and interest us in spite of our more sober judgment. The introduction of the ghost of Almanzor's mother seems to have been intended to show how the hero could support even an interview with an inhabitant of the other world. At least, the professed purpose of her coming might have been safely trusted to the virtue of Almahide, and her power over her lover. It afforded an opportunity, however, to throw in some fine poetry, of which Dryden has not failed to avail himself. Were it not a peculiar attribute of the heroic drama, it might be mentioned as a defect, that during the siege of the last possession of the Spanish Moors, by an enemy hated for his religion, and for his success, the principle of patriotism is hardly once alluded to through the whole piece. The fate, or the wishes, of Almahide, Lyndaraxa, and Benzayda, are all that interest the Moorish warriors around them, as if the Christian was not thundering at their gates, to exterminate at once their nation and religion. Indeed, so essentially necessary are the encouragements of beauty to military achievement, that we find Queen Isabella ordering to the field of battle a corps de reserve of her maids of honour, to animate the fighting warriors with their smiles, and counteract the powerful charms of the Moorish damsels. Nor is it an inferior fault, that, although the characters are called Moors, there is scarce any expression, or allusion, which can fix the reader's attention upon their locality, except an occasional interjection to Allah or Mahomet.
If, however, the reader can abstract his mind from the qualities now deemed essential to a play, and consider the Conquest of Granada as a piece of romantic poetry, there are few compositions in the English language, which convey a more lively and favourable display of the magnificence of fable, of language, and of action, proper to that style of composition. Amid the splendid ornaments of the structure we lose sight of occasional disproportion and incongruity; and, at an early age particularly, there are few poems which make a more deep impression upon the imagination than the Conquest of Granada.
The two parts of this drama were brought out in the same season, probably in winter 1669, or spring 1670. They were received with such applause, that Langbaine conceives their success to have been the occasion of Dryden's undervaluing his predecessors in dramatic writing. The Conquest of Granada was not printed till 1672.
[This play is beyond all question the representative piece of heroic drama, and the fact that it owes a certain amount of suggestion to the romances of Ibrahim and Almahide is probably the ground, as far as there is any, for the general affiliation of that drama to the singular work of Mademoiselle de Scudéry and her fellows. The somewhat unintelligent industry of Langbaine, Gildon, etc., has traced various scenes to separate passages of the two romances just mentioned. sounder criticism will see in the drama only a certain indebted
ness to the general spirit of the said romances, an indebtedness which is less fully shared by the contemporary drama of France itself. The play (or rather the two plays) is so decidedly the specimen of the style, and its argument is so intricate, that it seems worth while to reproduce (as I am enabled to do by the kindness of Messrs. Macmillan) the sketch of the plot and incidents given in my Dryden (English Men of Letters) pp. 46-51 :
“ The kingdom of Granada under its last monarch, Boabdelin, is divided by the quarrels of factions, or rather families --the Abencerrages and the Zegrys. At a festival held in the capital this dissension breaks out. A stranger interferes on what appears to be the weaker side, and kills a prominent leader of the opposite party, altogether disregarding the king's injunctions to desist. He is seized by the guards and ordered for execution, but is then discovered to be Almanzor, a valiant person lately arrived from Africa, who has rendered valuable assistance to the Moors in their combat with the Spaniards. The king thereupon apologises, and Almanzor addresses much outrageous language to the factions. This is successful, and harmony is apparently restored. Then there enters the Duke of Arcos, a Spanish envoy, who propounds hard conditions ; but Almanzor remarks that 'the Moors have Heaven and me,' and the duke retires. Almahide, the king's betrothed, sends a messenger to invite him to a dance; but Almanzor insists upon a sally first, and the first act ends with the acceptance of this order of amusement. The second opens with the triumphant return of the Moors, the evervictorious Almanzor having captured the Duke of Arcos. Then is introduced the first female character of importance, Lyndaraxa, sister of Zulema, the Zegry chief, and representative throughout the drama of the less amiable qualities of womankind. Abdalla, the king's brother, makes love to her, and she very plainly tells him that if he were king she might have something to say to him. Zulema's factiousness strongly seconds his sister's ambition and her jealousy of Almahide, and the act ends by the formation of a conspiracy against Boabdelin, the conspirators resolving to attach the invincible Almanzor to their side. The third act borrows its opening from the incident of Hotspur's wrath, Almanzor being provoked with Boabdelin for the same cause as Harry Percy with Henry iv. Thus he is disposed to join Abdalla, while Abdelmelech, the chief of the Abencerrages, is introduced in a scene full of sighs and flames,' as the prince's rival for the hand of Lyndaraxa. The promised dance takes place with one of Dryden's delightful, and, alas, scarcely ever wholly