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September 13 , 2010

Marriage A-La-Mode


Dryden's audiences in 1671, both aristocratic and middle-class, would
have been quick to respond to the themes of disputed royal succession,
Francophilia and loyalty among subjects in his most successful
tragicomedy. In the tragic plot, written in verse, young Leonidas has
to struggle to assert his place as the rightful heir to the throne of
Sicily and to the hand of the usurper's daughter. In the comic plot,
written in prose, two fashionable couples (much more at home in London
drawing-rooms than at the Sicilian court) play at switching partners in
the 'modern' style. The introduction of this edition argues that
Dryden's own ambivalence about King Charles and his entourage, on whom
he came to rely more on more for patronage, manifests itself in both
plots; most of all perhaps in the excessively Francophile Melantha,
whose affectation cannot quite hide her endearing joie-de-vivre.

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