All for Love: Heroic Play - Summary and Analysis

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Summary
      All for Love is a heroic play written by Dryden. It is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Atony and Cleopatra. Dryden's aim was to interpret the highly elevated romantic vision of the greatest of the Elizabethan dramatist in a simplified and restrained manner. Heroic plays were not the result of classical influence. They preserve in their composition the freedom of the National Theatre. They owed much to France, but more in content than in form. They reproduced the extraordinary adventures typical of the eleventh century French novels. Here are super-human feats, Sentiments refined to absurdity, magnificent and sometimes execrable passion. The heroes are models : they are unequalled in valour and are incomparable lovers. The plays are generally full of magnificent speeches. The influence of the French heroic romances and tragedies explains why most of the themes turn on the conflict between love and honour.

All for Love is a heroic play
All for Love

Critical Analysis
      In the preface to All for Love, Dryden says that he has imitated Shakespeare's style But All for Love is regarded as a heroic play. The theme of the drama turns on the Conflict between love and honour - between love for Cleopatra and Antony's sence of duty towards his wife Octavia. Antony is described in the images that suggest his superhuman qualities. Antony throws himself down on the ground as a terrific gesture of torment. The structure of the play like that of the heroics are curbed and the verbal hyperbole is under check. Dryden adopts blank verse and seeks to imitate the elevated style of Shakespeare. In the play, Dryden wanted to adapt Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra to neo-classical rules. It has a perfect and complete structure. The play turns on the theme of love and duty. Antony is torn between his love for Cleopatra and duty to his wife Octavia. Octavia is as important a character as Cleopatra. It does not represent the all absorbing passion that is portrayed in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. The sympathy of the audience is divided between Cleopatra and Octavia.

      In spite of the flawlessness of technique and structure, the play fails to inspire that feeling of awe and pity which we feel in reading Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. In fact, the play lacks that emotional fire and ardour which Shakespeare's play does possess.

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