The Works of John Dryden: Plays: The Wild Gallant, the Rival Ladies, the Indian Queen - Vol. VIII

The Works of John Dryden: Plays: The Wild Gallant, the Rival Ladies, the Indian Queen - Vol. VIII

The Works of John Dryden: Plays: The Wild Gallant, the Rival Ladies, the Indian Queen - Vol. VIII

The Works of John Dryden: Plays: The Wild Gallant, the Rival Ladies, the Indian Queen - Vol. VIII

Synopsis

Volume VIII contains three of Dryden's Plays, along with accompanying scholarly appartus: Wild Gallant, Rival Ladies, and Indian Queen.

Excerpt

The Wild Gallant, Dryden says in the preface, was “the first attempt I made in Dramatique Poetry.” Perhaps he was encouraged to try his hand at a play by the great success scored by his friend Sir Robert Howard with The Committee, acted in the fall of 1662. Evelyn saw the Gallant on 5 February 1663, and, as this date agrees with that given in the original prologue to the play (1. 14), this must have been the first performance. In the same entry he mentions having been at court but pretty clearly does not mean to imply that he saw the play there. The place of performance must have been the Theatre Royal in Vere Street, the converted tennis court, Gibbons’, which the King’s Company were using at this time (Staging, p. 307). However, the play was acted at court: Pepys saw it there on 23 February. He did not like it, and this would appear to have been the reaction of the majority. “I made the Town my Judges; and the greater part condemn’d it,” Dryden admits (Preface, 3:3–4—i.e., page 3, lines 3–4).

But evidently he was not satisfied with this verdict, for on 7 August 1667 the play was entered, and publication followed in 1669 with a prologue to The Wild Gallant revived—so the play had been tried a second time on the stage, though apparently with not much greater success than on the first occasion. This prologue also (11. 19–20) testifies that Dryden had made at least one addition to the original text, the scene (IV, i) featuring Lady Du Lake and her girls.

Precisely when he thus augmented the play and set it afloat again can only be conjectured. Since the prologue “Reviv’d” refers to the date of the first acting as a time when the author was a “young beginner” (1. 25), an appreciable amount of time must be presumed to have passed since 1663; and in fact the spring of 1667, it seems, would have given Dryden just enough time, between the launching of Secret Love early in the year 1 and the work he did on Sir Martin Mar-all (on the stage by mid-August), to write the new scene for the Gallant, touch up the rest, and get the King’s Company to put it on again. In view of the successes he had scored since the initial failure of the play they could hardly have refused him. Barbara Villiers must have befriended the play at some time, for Dryden thanked her in “To the Lady Castlemaine, upon Her Incouraging His First Play” (Works, I, 45–46), but the poem does not state how or when.

The failure of the Gallant when first acted must have been due in part to competition from Sir Samuel Tuke’s adaptation from Coello . . .

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