March 29th

Like Shakespeare, John Dryden, working in the latter half of the seventeenth century, was an accomplished poet and dramatist in his own right; unlike his predecessor, though, he was far more outspoken in his literary tastes. But at the center of those tastes stood Shakespeare, a point Dryden makes clear when he writes in the preface to his collaborative revision of The Tempest (subtitled The Enchanted Island), pictured here, that “Shakespeare’s power is sacred as a King’s.”

In his ardent enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, Dryden may be rightly thought of as one of the earlier exponents of Shakespeare’s enduring cultural value; while it was the work of folios, quartos, and octavos to preserve and even monumentalize Shakespeare’s corpus, it was the work of critics such as Dryden to impart that corpus with much of the prestige it retains today.

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