The life and works of John Dryden
Dryden was born in 1631 to a Puritan family in Aldwinkle All Saints, Northamptonshire. He was the oldest of fourteen children. His family was not rich, but they managed to scrape enough money together to send him to school at Westminster and at the University of Cambridge, where he received a B.A. degree in 1654. In 1657, he went to London and briefly served Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell's government in a minor position (Sherburn 711). He wrote an elegy on the death of Cromwell called Heroic Stanzas. He then turned right around and wrote a congratulatory poem to Charles II, who was ascending the throne. He was now a Royalist, and his two poems celebrating the Restoration, Astraea Redux and Panegyric, were topics of much political controversy.
On December 1, 1663, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard. She was his friend's sister. It was rumored that John had been bullied into marriage by her brothers. Some say that they were happily married, but most of my research concluded that they did have problems. She was a woman with many issues, and she always seemed to be surrounded by unnecessary drama. She wrote a letter to the second Earl of Chesterfield, in which she vaguely depicted an intimate affair with a nobleman. John could never please her and she treated him for the most part very badly. They both loved their children though, and that was the one thing that they agreed on (Stephen 65).
In 1662, Dryden was elected as a member of the Royal Society. Until then, he had no real source of income. He began to write plays for King's Theatre. In 1665, the Plague caused 75,000 deaths in London, only to be followed the next year by the Fire of London, which left 2/3 of the population homeless. The theatres closed from May 1665 until the end of 1666. Dryden retired and spent the time writing at home. When the theatres reopened he went back to work.
He had a contract to provide three plays a year and in return he received a share and a quarter out of the twelve shares and three quarters held by the whole company (Stephen 65). He failed to hold up his end of the bargain, but he still received his share of the profit. In 1672, King's Theatre burned and Dryden's profits were diminished. Some of his most famous plays include The Rival Ladies, Ladies a la Mode, Mock Astrologer, and An Evening's Love. His play Mr. Limberham was banned because some thought it to be i!
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