Preferred Citation: Bywaters, David. Dryden in Revolutionary England. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.

2 "Adhering to a Lost Cause": Don Sebastian and Amphitryon

"Adhering to a Lost Cause": Don Sebastian and Amphitryon

Though it did not improve his lot, the Revolution did much to clarify Dryden's position. He needed no longer worry about defending James's impracticable policies; and he might readily defend himself by pointing to his constancy in the face of financial loss and some personal danger. In Don Sebastian and Amphitryon he avails himself fully of this newly fortified rhetorical situation—though his political rhetoric in these plays is not so overt as in The Hind and the Panther , it is both more assured and more coherent. The Revolution had brought a new series of triumphant attacks upon the fallen laureate.[1] Three Whig poems of 1689 speculate whether Dryden will again change his principles with the change in government.[2]Don Sebastian , staged in December of this year, was the first of Dryden's works to come before the public after the Revolution; its original audience must have eagerly awaited his reaction to the events that had deprived him of office, pension, and political and religious legitimacy; and in the Dedication, Preface, and Prologue of the play Dryden carefully defines that reaction. He presents himself as harmless, impoverished, an object rather of pity than of fear, yet nonetheless constant to his religion and his principles. He finds himself in "bad circumstances" and sees "very little probability of coming out" (Preface , p. 65); "the bus'ness of the Field is o'er" and he concedes himself "a vanquished foe" (Prologue , ll. 8, 12); he desires only that "the Town may be somewhat oblig'd to my misfortunes, for a part of their diversion" (Preface , p. 65), and offers to "sheath his cutting Satyr" if the audience will agree not to persecute him for his Catholicism (Prologue , ll. 33–40).[3] Both Dedication and Preface , however, conclude with an expression of defiance, the Dedication with a quo-


tation from Cicero, who like Dryden had come out on the losing side of a revolution: "Inimici mei mea mihi non meipsum ademerunt" (p. 64) [Loeb trans.: "my enemies have robbed me of all I had; but they have not robbed me of myself"]; the Preface with a quotation from the Aeneid : "Tu, ne cede malis; sed, contrà, audentior ito" (p. 72), which Dryden was to render,

But thou, secure of Soul, unbent with Woes,
The more thy Fortune frowns, the more oppose.
(Aeneis , VI. 143–144)

As in The Hind and the Panther , Dryden seeks not to persuade his audience but to display before it the wisdom and integrity, in the midst of political upheaval, of his beliefs and career; to reprove the political nation for its misdeeds and to suggest their probable consequences. He makes his case by inviting comparison between the attitudes and events of his tragedy and those of recent English history: the values of heroic poetry—constancy, fortitude, self-sacrifice and piety—are brought forth as timeless standards by which to measure the behavior of the revolutionaries.[4]

Dryden makes explicit most of these claims for himself and his party in his Dedication of the play to Philip Sidney, third earl of Leicester. Leicester is "secure in your own merit; and all Parties, as they rise uppermost, are sure to court you in their turns." On this sentence of praise Dryden hangs a lengthy digression on the instability of contemporary politics and the greed and ambition that propel them: the "leading men"

rise and fall in the variety of Revolutions; and are sometimes great, and therefore wise in mens opinions, who must court them for their interest: But the reputation of their parts most commonly follows their success; few of 'em are wise, but as they are in power; Because indeed, they have no sphere of their own, but like the Moon in the Copernican Systeme of the World, are whirl'd about by the motion of a greater Planet. This it is to be ever busie; neither to give rest to their Fellow creatures, nor, which is more wretchedly ridiculous, to themselves.
(P. 60)

Among these busy men must be classed the successful revolutionaries, and Dryden seems to have them in mind in his exultant description of their probable fall:


Ambitious Meteors! how willing they are to set themselves upon the Wing; and taking every occasion of drawing upward to the Sun: Not considering that they have no more time allow'd them for their mounting, than the short revolution of a day; and that when the light goes from them, they are of necessity to fall.
(P. 60)

Dryden here implicitly contrasts the honor and wisdom of his own constancy with the deplorable folly of those who in his view had abandoned their principles and deserted their sovereign; and this polemic agenda determines, as we shall see, the play's moral and much of its action. Dryden is able to introduce his views so openly here because of the public character of his dedicatee. Leicester had been an active servant of the Parliament and Cromwell during the interregnum; he had retired from public life after the fall of Richard Cromwell. Dryden thus describes the motive for this retirement:

But who wou'd trust the quiet of their lives, with the extravagancies of their Countrymen, when they were just in the giddiness of their turning; when the ground was tottering under them at every moment; and none cou'd guess whether the next heave of the Earthquake, wou'd settle them on the first Foundation, or swallow it?
(P. 61)

As the quotation of Cicero at the end of the Dedication suggests, Leicester's fall at the Restoration has a parallel in Dryden's at the Revolution. Both men have responded nobly to misfortune, and Dryden hints that this moral similarity far outweighs their political differences.

Yet despite this rhetorical conflation of Republican and Royalist, Dryden takes care to hint even within the Dedication at the probable resurgence of his own party. To Atticus and Leicester

the Friend was always more consider'd . . . than the cause: And an Octavius , or an Anthony in distress, were reliev'd by them, as well as a Brutus or Cassius ; For the lowermost party, to a noble mind, is ever the fittest object of good will.
(P. 62)

If Leicester is Atticus, and Dryden's "lowermost party" that of Octavius and Anthony, William's must be that of Brutus and Cas-


sius, and, we may infer, no more likely to endure than its original. The political implications of this are, however, carefully enfolded in authoritative literary claims. Leicester is not only Atticus, the great Roman patron, but a Sidney whose sponsorship of poetry rivals that of his Elizabethan great-uncle: "There is another Sidney still remaining, tho there can never be another Spencer to deserve the Favor. But one Sidney gave his Patronage to the applications of a Poet; the other offer'd it unask'd." However we may take Dryden's disclaimer, his placement of himself and his patron in the context of a long literary tradition dignifies both. Though at present Dryden suffers with the "lowermost party," he remains, with Cicero and Spenser, part of a transcendent literary tradition to which politics is ultimately irrelevant.

Dryden shows a similar desire to remove himself from his age in his prefatory account of his play:

Having been longer acquainted with the Stage, than any Poet now living, and having observ'd how difficult it was to please, that the humours of Comedy were almost spent, that Love and Honour (the mistaken Topics of Tragedy) were quite worn out, that the Theaters cou'd not support their Charges, that the Audience forsook them, that young men without Learning set up for Judges, and that they talk'd loudest, who understood the least: all these discouragements had not only wean'd me from the Stage, but had also given me a loathing of it. But enough of this: the difficulties continue; they increase, and I am still condemn'd to dig in those exhausted Mines.
(Pp. 65–66)

We may trace the political causes of this weariness if we remember that Dryden's most recent work for the stage, Albion and Albanius , had concluded with "Love and Honour" claiming "an equal place" in Albion's "glorious race." Dryden feels that England is no longer capable of sustaining the heroic values that in his earlier plays he had sought to impart to it. He responds by emphasizing literary technique over societal values:

And I dare boldly promise for this Play, that in the roughness of the numbers and cadences, (which I assure was not casual, but so design'd) you will see somewhat more masterly arising to your view, than in most, if not any of my former Tragedies. There is a more noble daring in the Figures and more suitable to the loftiness of the Subject; and besides this some newnesses of English , translated from the Beauties of


Modern Tongues, as well as from the elegancies of the Latin ; and here and there some old words are sprinkled, which for their significance and sound, deserv'd not to be antiquated; such as we often find in Salust amongst the Roman Authors, and in Milton's Paradise amongst ours.
(Pp. 66–67)

The discussion of literary techniques and the invocation of classical precedents to justify them had been a prominent feature of Dryden's presentation of his plays throughout his career; but here he implicitly presents this appeal to literary tradition as a defensive reaction against the exhaustion of contemporary English culture and society.

This defensive detachment shapes much of Dryden's political commentary in the play itself. The values by which his opponents are condemned arise naturally from the action; and the action is based on literary and historical sources that Dryden takes care to enumerate and describe in his Preface : Don Sebastian, for example, is drawn from Portuguese history:

We are assur'd by all Writers of those times . . . that some years after [the battle of Alcazar], when the Spaniards with a pretended title, by force of Arms had Usurp'd the Crown of Portugal , from the House of Braganza , a certain Person who call'd himself Don Sebastian . . . appear'd. . . . 'Tis most certain, that the Portugueses expected his return for almost an Age together after that Battel; which is at least proof of their extream love to his Memory; and the usage which they had from their new Conquerors, might possibly make them so extravagant in their hopes and wishes for their old Master.
(Pp. 67–68)

Sebastian clearly resembles James, also the victim of a foreign usurper: the alteration of a few proper names would make this a Jacobite history of the Revolution and prophecy of its consequences. Throughout the play the virtues for which the Jacobites praised James—justice, martial courage, piety—are attributed to Sebastian. Dorax lists them early in Act I, and long before his reconciliation to his king:

Brave, pious, generous, great, and liberal:
Just as the Scales of Heaven that weigh the Seasons.


To the English Catholics, the most important of these virtues was piety; only piety could not have been derived from any of Dryden's sources;[6] and Dryden's concern for the virtue in the Preface shows the importance he places on the reader's recognition of it: "In the drawing of his character I forgot not piety, which any one may observe to be one principal ingredient of it; even so far as to be a habit in him" (p. 68). However, Dryden does nothing here to force us to identify Sebastian with James, and later indeed he raises some important obstacles to an easy identification of the two. If we see any resemblance, we are to understand it as arising accidentally from our own application of Dryden's heroic standards to contemporary England.[7]

In the play itself this application is supported only by a few brief allusions, which however are sufficient to allow us to impute to the Jacobites all the lofty virtues of Sebastian and his followers. Sebastian and Muley-Moloch, for example, contend for the sovereignty of Almeyda's hand in pointed metaphors:

Emp.  Thou art not marry'd to  Almeyda ?
Seb.  Yes.
Emp.  And owns't the usurpation of my Love?
Seb.  I own it in the face of Heav'n and thee
No Usurpation, but a lawful claim,
Of which I stand possest.
Emp.  Sh' has chosen well,
Betwixt a Captive and a Conqueror.

Sebastian's subjects present in their unfailing loyalty to their unfortunate king an instructive contrast to their English counterparts. Sebastian himself lays emphasis on their dissimilarity to the general run of subjects:

For Subjects such as they are seldom seen,
Who not forsook me at my greatest need;
Nor for base lucre sold their Loyalty,
But shar'd my dangers to the last event,
And fenc'd 'em with their own.

The loyalty of the Portuguese arises apparently from their religious beliefs; it is pointedly contrasted with the love of mutiny endemic


among the Moors. The only admirable Moor, Almeyda, is a Christian convert; and Dorax claims to have given up his religion in order to abandon his loyalty to Sebastian: "I left," he says, "my foolish Faith / Because it wou'd oblige me to forgiveness" (II.i.237–238). His renewal of loyalty to his king involves also a renewal of faith: he is "in one moment . . . reconcil'd / To Heaven, and to my King, and to my Love" (IV.iii.648–649). The Portuguese thus resemble the Catholic supporters of James; their religion in the play is Catholicism in fact as well as in application. Dryden takes care to point this out in a parody of the Protestant view of popery. Benducar describes Sebastian's wedding ceremony, as conducted by

                       A puffing Fryar;
Close wrap'd he bore some secret Instrument
Of Christian Superstition in his hand:
My servant follow'd fast, and through a chink,
Perceiv'd the Royal Captives hand in hand:
And heard the hooded Father mumbling charms,
That make those Misbelievers Man and Wife.

The immediate literary precedent of this "puffing Fryar" is the Martin in the Panther's fable, and he functions in much the same manner.

The serious plot ends at a great distance from English politics, in the discovery of Sebastian's incest. Yet Dryden takes some care in the Preface to prevent the incest from presenting too great an obstacle to our admiration of Sebastian or our application of his character to James's:

It being . . . only necessary according to the Laws of the Drama , that Sebastian shou'd no more be seen upon the Throne, I leave it for the World to judge, whether or no I have disposed of him according to art, or have bungled up the conclusion of his adventure. . . . This being presuppos'd, that he was Religious, the horror of his incest, tho innocently committed, was the best reason which the Stage cou'd give for hind'ring his return. 'Tis true I have no right to blast his Memory, with such a crime; but declaring it to be fiction, I desire my Audience to think it no longer true, than while they are seeing it represented: For


that once ended, he may be a Saint for ought I know; and we have reason to presume he is.
(P. 68)

We are to attribute the incest to dramatic necessity (quite plausibly, since incest had been an important vehicle for tragedy since Sophocles) and forget it as the one fictional part of Sebastian's career when the play is over; and Dryden, faced with the laws of England as well as of drama, may have found it a convenient way of disposing of his exiled Catholic monarch. But though the incest itself has no reference to English politics, the moral Dryden derives from it applies clearly enough to the circumstances of James's "abdication."[8] As John Wallace has shown, the differences between seventeenth-century literary parallels and the political events to which they refer serve to guarantee the poet's impartiality;[9] here they serve also to lend generality and authority to Dryden's views. The "general moral" of the play is indeed so general that it may be applied with equal plausibility to Sophocles's Oedipus and to the human race after the Fall:

And let Sebastian  and Almeyda 's Fate,
This dreadfull Sentence to the World relate,
That unrepented Crimes of Parents dead,
Are justly punish'd on their Childrens head.

Yet despite its grand generality, this moral applies no less neatly to revolutionary England. It had been so applied again and again in contemporary Jacobite polemic. One writer, for example, professes to be

confounded . . . with Horrour, to look onely back upon the Miseries we have hitherto felt; but when I consider that Pandora 's Box is just open'd, and view a long Tram of War, Famine, Want, Bloud, and Confusion, entailed upon us and our Posterity, as long as this Man, or any descended from him, shall possess the Throne, and see what a Gap is opened for every ambitious Person who can cajole the People to usurp it: These Considerations, I say, chill my Bloud in my Veins, and I cannot but lament my poor Countries Misfortune with deepest Sighs and Groans . . . . [The Revolution] has brought along with it all the Plagues we dreaded under others, and gives us nothing but a dismal


Prospect of all the Misfortunes which can befall a Nation, which hath greatly provoked God Almighty's Anger.

Such polemic suggests that Dryden's audience, or at least its Jacobite element, would have noticed the contemporary implications of Dryden's moral—that by overthrowing the settled power that ensures the stability of the state and their own safety, the Protestants had in the Revolution entailed on their own posterity the war and anarchy passed on to them by the rebels of the 1640s.[10]

Dryden does not, however, maintain a uniform distance from contemporary politics throughout the play. While the story of Sebastian consistently provides a kind of instructive counterexample for Dryden's opponents, the comic plot often directly ridicules the behavior of those opponents. In the first act of the play, Mustapha, the leader of the Moorish rabble, and the Mufti, the leader of the Moorish clergy, dispute the ownership of Antonio, who, studious only of preserving his life, cowers before them. Mustapha, threatening Antonio with his whip, advises him to "Buckle to thy Geers: Behold my Ensign of Royalty display'd over thee" (I.i.514–515); and Antonio (lying down) submits: "Hold, my dear Thrum-cap: I obey thee chearfully, I see the Doctrine of Non-Resistance is never practis'd thoroughly but when a Man can't help himself" (I.i.520– 523). The Tories who made frequent professions of belief in this doctrine at the beginning of James's reign abandoned it during the Revolution. The Jacobites, and Dryden among them, retained their belief and bitterly resented the Tories' desertion.[11] Antonio, then, for the moment at least, represents a Williamire Tory; Dryden ironically suggests that such a man will recognize the doctrine only in submitting to superior force. While Mustapha is exaggerating Antonio's value to a prospective buyer, the Mufti appears, berates Mustapha for attempting to "Take Mony twice for the same Commodity" (I.i.569–570), and asks what has become of Alvarez, whom Mustapha has already sold. Mustapha answers that "while I was managing this young robustous Fellow, that old Spark who was nothing but Skin and Bone, and by consequence, very nimble, slipt through my fingers like an Eel, for there was no hold fast of him, and ran away to buy himself a new Master" (I.i.586-590). Dryden here implicitly portrays the Anglican clergy and the London mob as the dual leaders of a nation that will buy a new master


as the one or the other should direct it. Whereas the high-minded behavior of James and his allies is elevated in the serious plot, the self-nterested baseness of the revolutionaries is in the comic plot given the farcical treatment that in Dryden's view it richly deserved.

Dryden's most pointed political commentary, however, comes neither in the tragic story of Sebastian's incest, nor in the farcical story of Antonio's theft of the Mufti's daughter, but in a third plot-the story of the rebellion against Muley-Moloch. This plot partakes of both tragedy and farce; it dominates the first four acts of the play; and it embodies the concealed "moral" that in his Preface Dryden invites judicious critics to discover. This plot may at first suggest rather Williamite history than Jacobite prophecy, for though the causes of the Moorish rebellion clearly represent the Jacobite view of the causes of the 1688 Revolution, MuleyMoloch, the victim of the Moorish rebellion, is a tyrant, as James was only to the Williamires. Muley-Moloch's tyranny has, however, nothing to do with his overthrow, which is owing rather to the rebellious nature of his subjects. The Mufti is provoked to rebellion not by Muley-Moloch's cruelty, but by his mercy: the Emperor protects the Christians from the Mufti's legally and religiously based attempt to enslave them much as James had protected the Catholics from the Anglicans' attempt to persecute them and exclude them from power. Like Dryden's Whigs in other poems, Benducar rebels not so that he may free the Moors from tyranny, but so that he himself may tyrannize in his king's stead. The Muft'l incites the mob against Muley-Moloch by frightening it with the prospect of a Christian succession; and the mob, though it affects concern for religion, rebels only that it may plunder. In Don Sebastian , as in Absalom and Achitophel, The Medall, The Duke of Guise , and The Hind and the Panther , a group of selfinterested rebels plot to overthrow their king under color of serving their religion, what in the Dedication of the Aeneis Dryden contemptuously calls the "modem Motive to Rebellion."[12] It need not surprise us that this combination of Whigs, mob, and clergy should succeed in Don Sebastian where in the pre-Revolutionary work it had so often failed.

The Moors, then, represent the English Protestants,[13] and particularly the Anglicans who, Dryden felt, were provoked to rebel-


lion by James's refusal to allow them the part in government that they claimed as their right:

They love Religion sweetn'd to the sense;
A good, luxurious, palatable faith.
Thus Vice and Godliness, prepost'rous pair,
Ride cheek by joul; but Churchmen hold the Reins.
And, when ere Kings wou'd lower Clergy greatness,
They learn too late what pow'r the Preachers have,
And whose the Subjects are.

In his note on this passage, Miner cites the following lines in The Hind and the Panther , concerning which he remarks that there were. "parallels drawn between Mohammed and Luther by numerous Catholic controversialists in the debates over the celibacy of the clergy and the saintliness of life":

Though our lean faith these rigid laws has giv'n,
The full fed Musulman  goes fat to heav'n;
For his Arabian  Prophet with delights
Of sense, allur'd his eastern Proselytes.
The jolly Luther , reading him, began
T' interpret Scriptures by his  Alcoran ;
To grub the thorns beneath our tender feet, And make the paths of  Paradise  more sweet.

The Revolution, far from obliging Dryden to avoid political commentary, did not oblige him even to alter the terms in which he wrote it.

Dryden's account in the Preface of his alteration of MuleyMoloch's life and character differs substantially from his account of his alteration of Sebastian's:

I must likewise own, that I have somewhat deviated from the known History, in the death of Muley-Moloch , who, by all relations dyed of a feaver in the Battel, before his Army had wholly won the Field; but if I have allow'd him another day of life, it was because I stood in need of so shining a Character of brutality, as I have given him; which is indeed the same, with that of the present Emperor Muley-Ishmael , as


some of our English Officers, who have been in his Court, have credibly inform'd me.
(P. 70)

No laws of drama dictate this alteration—the reader is not asked to believe it only during the play; and it is suggestive that Dryden should have stood in need of a "shining character of brutality," which resembled that of a "present emperor." Muley-Moloch is, as various critics have observed, but another version of Dryden's stage tyrant and resembles in many ways his predecessors in Tyrannick Love, The Conquest of Granada, Aureng-Zebe , and other plays. Yet the William of contemporary Jacobite pamphlets and poems was hardly the glorious deliverer of Whig history; he was far more like Maximin, Boabdelin, and Muley-Moloch than Macauley's Protestant hero. The writer of one such pamphlet publishes a supposed letter of William's which, he says, "plainly discovers a Temper solely bent to pursue his own private Grandeur . . . and with that transport as to disregard the ruining himself, and sacrificing all his other Engagements, and predetermined general Goods , rather than to suffer the Diminution of the least Tittle of it." A contemporary poem corroborates this view of William: "this kingly lion would blood all the crown / If fate gives him life till his claws be but grown."[15]

Muley-Moloch is no less interested in consolidating his power; like the Jacobites' William, he is looking forward to the tyranny he can exercise after his claim to the throne is secure:

What's Royalty but pow'r to please my self?
And if I dare not, then am I the Slave,
And my own Slaves the Sovereigns,___ 'tis resolv'd,
Weak Princes flatter when they want the pow'r
To curb their People; tender Plants must bend,
But when a Government is grown to strength,
Like some old Oak, rough with its armed Bark,
It yields not to the tug, but only nods,
And turns to sullen State.

Moreover, Benducar promises Muley-Zeydan—whose character as an "easie Fool" and relationship to Muley-Moloch suggests Prince George of Denmark—to depose the Emperor in language


that recalls the doubtfulness of William's title and of the succession:

His growth is but a wild and fruitless Plant,
I'll cut his barren branches to the stock,
And graft you on to bear.

The most important topic of Jacobite polemic against William was his usurpation of the throne of his uncle, and in this he is identical to Muley-Moloch. Dryden tells us in the Preface that his sources mention one "Muley-Mahumet , who had been driven out of his Dominions, by Abdelmelech , or as others call him, Muley-Moloch , his nigh Kinsman" (p. 67). This Muley-Mahumet, whose death is mentioned at the beginning of the play, is Muley-Moloch's first cousin; in the play, however, Muley-Moloch has only prevented his cousin, Almeyda's brother, from regaining the throne and has rather dethroned his uncle, Almeyda's father, whom Dryden seems to have invented.[16] This parricidic usurpation—which is identical to William's of his uncle James II and first cousin the old Pretender—is alluded to repeatedly in the play. In one of her first speeches, Almeyda charges Muley-Moloch, whose underhand manner here resembles that attributed by the Jacobites to William, with having "Surpriz'd [her 'peaceful Father'] and his Kingdom / No provocation given, no War declar'd" (I.i.458–459). A contemporary Jacobite satirist begins his poem on the 1688 Revolution with this reference to William's usurpation:

In times when Princes cancelled nature's law
And declarations (which themselves did draw),
When children used their parents to dethrone
And gnawed their way like vipers to a crown.[17]

Almeyda describes Muley-Moloch's usurpation in exactly the same language:

but thou, Viper,
Hast cancell'd kindred, made a rent in Nature,
And through her holy bowels gnaw'd thy way,
Through thy own Bloud to Empire.


Almeyda's genealogical relation to Muley-Moloch corresponds exactly to Mary's relation to William: she is his first cousin and the daughter of the king he has overthrown. In the Preface Dryden assures us that the part of Almeyda is "wholly fictitious" (p. 69); and so indeed it is, for although Almeyda corresponds to Mary in circumstance, she directly opposes her in behavior. Mary was frequently and violently abused in the year following the Revolution for usurping the throne of her own father and brother.[18] Almeyda, given the opportunity to do the same, indignantly refuses. At her first meeting with Muley-Moloch, while in danger of immediate execution, she contrasts her "purer" blood to his, which "though deriv'd from the same Source . . . is puddl'd, and defil'd with Tyranny" (I.i.430–432), and charges him with the destruction of her family:

My murther'd Father, and my Brother's Ghost
Still haunt this Brest, and prompt it to revenge.

When later he offers her marriage and joint sovereignty—exactly Mary's position—she immediately and firmly refuses (II.i.458–468). The moral and its application to both William and Mary is even clearer in Almeyda's response to Benducar's offer of marriage:

                        to me he stood
Confest before, and own'd his Insolence
T'espouse my person, and assume the Crown,
Claym'd in my Right: for this he slew your Tyrant;
Oh no, he only chang'd him for a worse,
Imbas'd your Slavery by his own vileness,
And loaded you with more ignoble bonds.

Here the meaning of the parallel is derived equally from likeness and dissimilarity: the one establishes the correspondence so that the other may point the moral.

Sebastian's subjects not only represent the English Catholics; they also oppose the English Protestants, and so function as does Almeyda to show by contrast the injustice of the Revolution. They did not forsake Sebastian at his greatest need, as James's did his at


the Revolution; they did not for base lucre sell their loyalty, as James's did theirs in taking the oath of allegiance to William that they might retain their offices and salaries. James's subjects are to see the contrast and judge themselves accordingly. Dryden does, however, admit one exception to his general view of the perfidy of the deserters. Many of Dryden's most important patrons—Dorset, Halifax, Rochester, Ormond—had deserted James, and perhaps to reflect their case Dryden has invented Dorax, who, though unquestionably wrong in doing so, at least rebels from "avarice ofhonor" rather than of base lucre. Dorax's contempt for "the groveling sin of Crowds," for clergy who "swell to counsel Kings and govern Kingdoms," and for court favorites who "fawn and yet betray" shows that, even before his reconciliation with Sebastian, he has sound political principles; and Dryden gives him frequent opportunities of expressing these principles to advantage. Dorax's justifications of his rebellion are, by contrast, infrequent and comparatively weak and are finally refuted by Sebastian himself. The following argument, for example, by which Dorax attempts to explain himself to Benducar, carries its own refutation:

    My Master? By what title,
Because I happen'd to be born where he
Happen'd to be King?

This is obviously a far better title than Muley-Moloch's to Dorax's allegiance. From what Dorax says of his rebellion early in the play, one might assume that Sebastian had merely deprived him of his lord-lieutenancy:

Indignities, which Man cou'd not support,
Provok'd my vengeance to this noble Crime.
But he had strip'd me first of my Command,
Dismiss'd my Service, and absolv'd my Faith.

Dorax has, as we discover in Act IV, a stronger motive; yet even so he comes to regret his desertion, and may therefore serve as a model for his historical counterparts: "I should," he says, "have fallen by Sebastian's side / My Corps had been the Bulwark of my King" (IV.iii.592–593).[19]


The contemporary reference of the Mufti is far more specific: in his self-interest, officiousness, lechery, demagoguery, theological juggling, and addiction to slander and defamation, he recalls Gilbert Burnet, who is so described in contemporary satire, most of which owes something to Dryden's character of the Buzzard in The Hind and the Panther :

Broad-back'd, and Brawny built for Loves delight,
A Prophet form'd, to make a female Proselyte.
A Theologue more by need, than genial bent,
By Breeding sharp, by Nature confident.
Int'rest in all his Actions was discern'd;
More learn'd than Honest, more a Wit than learn'd
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Oft has he flatter'd, and blasphem'd the same,
For in his Rage, he spares no Sov'rains name:
The Hero, and the Tyrant change their style
By the same measure that they frown or smile.
(III.1145–1150, 1163–1166)

The Mufti's lechery is early established—he has paid Mustapha "a thousand golden Sultanins" for the "dainty virgin" Almeyda (I.i.232–238)—and remarked upon throughout the play (e.g., II.ii.77–80; III.ii.33; IV.ii.56). His service to Muley-Moloch represents the Jacobite view of Burnet's to William. A contemporary satire says of Burnet, "To serve all times he could distinctions join";[20] so when Muley-Moloch, having just won his war, is in the mood for a feast, the Mufti complies with a theological distinction:

Fasting is but the Letter of the Law;
Yet it shows well to Preach it to the Vulgar.
Wine is against our Law, that's literal too,
But not deny'd to Kings and to their Guides,
Wine is a Holy Liquor, for the Great.

Dorax then puts at least the general reference beyond all doubt: "This Mufti in my conscience is some English Renegade, he talks so savourly of toping" (I.i.184–185). Another contemporary satire accuses Burnet of "pimping and plotting for Will and his mate";[21]


so in Don Sebastian the Mufti, commanded by Muley-Moloch to "wrest and rend the Law to please thy Prince," justifies rape as a glorious form of religious devotion:

You have a Conqueror's right upon your Slave;
And then, the more despight you do a Christian,
You serve the Prophet more who loaths that Sect.

When the Mufti goes on to justify the murder of Sebastian, Muley-Moloch is moved to exclaim,

How happy is the Prince who has a Churchman
So learn'd and pliant to expound his Laws!

The Mufti later supplies his prince with a general doctrine that seems a Jacobite parody of the Williamite justification for the Revolution: "People side with violence and injustice, / When done for publick good," and Muley-Moloch approvingly replies, "Preach thou that doctrine" (III.i.377–378).

The Mufti is not, however, actually as compliant to Muley-Moloch as he seems; throughout the play he slanders the Emperor and plots against him, ostensibly to serve his religion, but actually to serve himself. The Mufti's championship of the Moorish cause is in many ways similar to Burnet's of the Anglican cause in The Hind and the Panther :

The spleenful Pigeons  never could create
A Prince more proper to revenge their hate:
Indeed, more proper to revenge, than save;
A King, whom in his wrath, th' Almighty gave;
For all the Grace the Landlord had allow'd
But made the Buzzard  and the Pigeons  proud:
Gave time to fix their Friends, and to seduce the crowd.
They long their Fellow-Subjects to inthrall,
Their Patrons promise into question call,
And vainly think he meant to make 'em Lords of all.

The Mufti first rebels because Muley-Moloch does not take that revenge upon the Christians that the Moorish religion requires, and especially because the Emperor frees those Christians whom


the Mufti longs literally to "inthrall" (I.i.409–414). Frustrated in his greed, his lust, and his revenge, the Mufti slanders Muley-Moloch to Dorax,[23] who replies with all the arguments levelled against the political interference of the Anglicans, and the vengefulness and self-interest of Burnet, in The Hind and the Panther :

Dorax . But when he made his loss the Theme, he flourish'd,
Reliev'd his fainting Rhetorick with new Figures,
And thunder'd at oppressing Tyranny.
Mufti . Why not, when Sacrilegious Pow'r wou'd seize
My Property? 'tis an affront to Heav'n
Whose person, though unworthy, I sustain.

Dorax . Your Heav'n you promise, but our Earth you covet;
The Phaethons  of mankind, who fire that World,
Which you were sent by Preaching but to warm.

Why then those forein thoughts of State-Employments,
Abhorrent to your function and your Breeding?

Of all your College Vertues, nothing now
But your Original Ignorance remains:
Bloated with Pride, Ambition, Avarice,
You swell, to counsel Kings, and govern Kingdoms.

Content you with monopolizing Heav'n,
And let this little hanging Ball alone;
For give you but a foot of Conscience there,
And you, like Archimedes , toss the Globe.

This theme recurs throughout the play. In Act III Dorax warns Muley-Moloch that

To trust the Preaching pow'r on State Affairs,
To him or any Heavenly Demagogue
'Tis a limb lopt from your Prerogative.

This gives rise to a learned debate between Dorax and the Mufti on the clergy's role in politics. There is nothing inconsistent in Dryden's setting Burnet against William. Dryden may have sus-


pected, or wanted us to suspect, that Burnet would accord no longer with his latest patron that with Lauderdale, Charles, and James. The complexity of the parallel allows Dryden at once to present his view of the causes of the Revolution against James and suggest that William will prove no more able to control his mutinous subjects.

Benducar and the Mobile function as does the Mufti: they recall the perfidy of their counterparts under James and suggest that William will suffer from it as well. Like the Whig leaders in Dryden's pre-Revolutionary poems, Benducar rebels so that he may rule. His method as Moore remarks resembles that of Sunderland, whom the Jacobites thought to have betrayed James while pretending to serve him.[24] Mustapha, the captain of the rabble, does not even bother to disguise the motive of his rebellion: "O, for some incomparable Tumult! Then shou'd I naturally wish, that the beaten Party might prevail, because we have plundered t' other side already, and there's nothing more to get of 'em."

Both rich and poor for their own interest pray,
'Tis ours to make our Fortunes while we may;
For Kingdoms are not conquer'd every day.

In the mob scene, all the rebels come together, and the political parallel becomes quite obvious. The Mufti delivers a speech to the mob that is, as critics have remarked, a parody of the Convention Parliament and, indeed, of the whole Glorious Revolution:

You are met, as becomes good Musulmen; to settle the Nation; for I must tell you, that though your Tyrant is a lawful Emperor, yet your lawful Emperor is but a Tyrant. . . . That your Emperor is a Tyrant is most manifest; for you were born to be Turks , but he has play'd the Turk with you; and is taking your Religion away. . . . He is now upon the point of Marrying himself, without your Sovereign consent; and what are the effects of Marriage? . . . Children: Now on whom wou'd he beget these Children? Even upon a Christian! Oh horrible . . . he is going to beget a Race of Misbelievers. . . . Therefore to conclude all, Believers, pluck up you Hearts, and pluck down the Tyrant. . . . your selves, your Wives and Children . . . our holy Mahomet ; all these require your timous assistance . . . they claim it of you by all the nearest and dearest Tyes of these three P's, Self-Preservation, our Property, and


our Prophet. Now answer me with an unanimous chearful Cry, and follow me, who am your Leader, to a glorious Deliverance.

So far, this may be taken as referring only to the revolution against James; what follows indicates that Dryden refers also to another against James's successor. Mustapha, seeking to persuade his followers to revolt in his name rather than the Mufti's, reminds them of his past services:

Do you remember the glorious Rapines and Robberies you have committed? Your breaking open and gutting of Houses, your rummaging of Cellars, your demolishing of Christian Temples, and bearing off in triumph the superstitious Plate and Pictures, the Ornaments of their wicked Altars, when all rich Moveables were sentenc'd for idolatrous, and all that was idolatrous was seiz'd?

This is a reference to the London riots that followed the flight of James on December 11, 1688, at which Catholic churches and the houses of Catholics were plundered and destroyed.[25] The present mob is engaged in rebellion against the successor of the king—presumably Almeyda's father—against whom they were rioting when they plundered these temples. To the mob, however, it matters little against whom they rebel, so long as they may plunder:

Second Rabble . We are not bound to know who is to Live and Reign; our business is only to rise upon command, and plunder.

Third Rabble . Ay, the Richest of both Parties; for they are our Enemies.

The same is, again, true of the Mufti and Benducar: however they may talk of freedom from tyranny and preservation of religion, they will rebel only to preserve and extend their power, no matter against whom.

In Don Sebastian as in The Hind and the Panther Dryden is aware that his opponents have a view of England's future different from his own, and in the play, as in the poem, he includes their


view so as to suggest its inaccuracy. In the Preface Dryden explains his method of building plays upon history:

This ground-work the History afforded me, and I desire no better to build a Play upon it; For where the event of a great action is left doubtful, there the Poet is left Master: He may raise what he pleases on that foundation, provided he makes it of a piece, and according to the rule of probability.
(P. 68)

On the morning before his death, Muley-Moloch has an ambiguous prophetic dream:

      methought Almeyda , smiling, came
Attended with a Train of all her Race,
Whom in the rage of Empire I had murther'd.
But now, no longer Foes, they gave me Joy
Of my new Conquest, and with helping hands
Heav'd me into our Holy Prophet's arms,
Who bore me in a purple Cloud to Heav'n.

The interpretation of this dream that Benducar foists upon Muley-Moloch is not at all "according to the rule of probability." Neither, Dryden would have us infer, is the fond hope that the Revolution of 1688 will prove to have brought England concord and stability under William.

Muley-Moloch, then, is William III in James II's plight but all the more vulnerable for being a usurper. By surrounding William with James's betrayers, Dryden predicts his probable fate: as James was slandered by the clergy, betrayed by the courtiers, and reviled by the mob, so shall be William. Dryden does not, however, leave the moral to work itself out only through disparities in the parallel; it is indeed "couched under every one of the principal Parts and Characters" (Preface , p. 71), and we may infer it by applying these parts and characters to contemporary political affairs. Moreover, it is stated in various forms by various characters throughout the play:

Dorax . And wou'd his Creature, nay his Friend betray him?
Why then no Bond is left on human kind:
Distrust, debates, immortal strifes ensue;


Children may murder Parents, Wives their Husbands;
All must be Rapine, Wars, and Desolation.

Benducar . A secret Party still remains that lurks
Like Embers rak'd in ashes___wanting but
A breath to blow aside th' involving dust,
And then they blaze abroad.

Almeyda . Thy Father was not more than mine, the Heir
Of this large Empire; but with arms united
They fought their way, and seiz'd the Crown by force;
And equal as their danger was their share:
For where was Eldership, where none had right,
But that which Conquest gave?

Antonio . . . . when Kings and Queens are to be discarded, what shou'd Knaves do any longer in the pack?

Mustapha . Nay, if he and his Clergy will needs be preaching up Rebellion, and giving us their Blessing, 'tis but justice they shou'd have the first fruits of it.

If we add to this moral the idea of ancestral sin included in the last four lines of the play, we may arrive at a full justification of Dryden's vision of unending and pointless revolution in the Dedication and his longing there for retirement. The following four lines from The Hind and the Panther embody both morals and might serve as an epigraph to Don Sebastian :

So hardly can Usurpers manage well
Those, whom they first instructed to rebell:
More liberty begets desire of more,
The hunger still encreases with the store.

Dryden presents, then, a parallel not to the 1688 Revolution, but to one of the endless counterrevolutions that he predicts in the Dedication : as he tells us in the Preface , his plot is "purely fiction;


for I take it up where History has laid it down" (p. 67). This parallel is constructed from a series of identities and oppositions, and its complexity must have been intended to protect the Jacobite poet from the hostility of a Williamite audience. What confuses the viewer, however, need not trouble the reader:

'Tis obvious to every understanding Reader, that the most poetical parts, which are Descriptions, Images, Similitudes, and Moral Sentences; are those, which of necessity were to be par'd away, when the body was swoln into too large a bulk for the representation of the Stage. But there is a vast difference betwixt a publick entertainment on the Theatre, and a private reading in the Closet: In the first we are confin'd to time . . . in the last, every Reader . . . can . . . find out those beauties of propriety, in thought and writing, which escap'd him in the tumult and hurry of representing.
(P. 66)

The political meaning of the printed text, though complex and oblique, is hardly impenetrable. The first act conveniently suggests a contemporary parallel for each character within a few lines of its first appearance; the Dedication and Preface strengthen some of the parallels and clarify the political morals we are to draw from them; and throughout the play Dryden is careful to provide a series of clear signs—descriptions, images, similitudes, and moral sentences—that direct us from fictional and historical characters to their contemporary counterparts.

Amphitryon seems to have been ready for the stage within five months of the first performance of Don Sebastian ,[26] and it shares many of the earlier play's political concerns. Dryden directly refers in the Dedication of Amphitryon to one source of continuity between the two plays:

as since this wonderful Revolution, I have begun with the best Pattern of Humanity, the Earl of Leicester ; I shall continue to follow the same Method, in all, to whom I shall Address; and endeavour to pitch on such only, as have been pleas'd to own me in this Ruin of my small Fortune; who, though they are of a contrary Opinion themselves, yet blame me not for adhering to a lost Cause; and judging for my self, what I cannot chuse but judge; so long as I am a patient Sufferer, and no disturber of the Government.[27]


Here we have the same complex self-presentation as in Don Sebastian and The Hind and the Panther : we are to recognize Dryden's harmlessness even as we admire his consistent adherence to the "lost cause" that has ruined him. Leveson Gower stands with Leicester as a model of indulgence for Williamite readers, who, if they reject this model, show themselves the ignoble tools of faction:

There is one kind of Vertue, which is inborn in the Nobility . . . of this Nation; they are not apt to insult on the Misfortunes of their Countrymen. But you, Sir . . . have . . . rais'd it to a Nobler Vertue: As you have been pleas'd to honour me, for a long time, with some part of your Esteem and your good Will; so in particular, since the last Revolution, you have increas'd the Proofs of your kindness to me; and not suffer'd the difference of Opinions, which produce such Hatred and Enmity in the brutal Part of Human kind, to remove you from the settled Basis of your good Nature and good Sence.
(P. 223)

Moreover, in thus rising above the brutal slaves of faction, Leveson Gower can make some claim on the peculiarly Jacobite virtue of adherence to a cause, a quality that was, as we have seen, of great importance to one who had been so frequently attacked as a time-server. Such "constancy to your former Choice" is a virtue "not overcommon amongst English Men." He has continued "in the same Tract of Goodness, Favour, and Protection"; and retained "a kind of unmoveable good Nature" through all political changes (p. 223). As he shares Dryden's constancy, Dryden shares his noble indifference to party prejudice: "As you, Sir, have been pleas'd to follow the Example of [the play's audience] in favouring me: So give me leave to say, that I follow yours in the Dedication, to a Person of a different Perswasion" (p. 224). Dryden and Leveson Gower, then, though divided by mere political opinions, are united in this Dedication by far more important principles of virtue and integrity. As in The Hind and the Panther and Don Sebastian , Dryden defines an area outside and above politics inhabited by noblemen and poets, from which he may survey his enemies with detachment and perspicuity.

Again as in the earlier works, this combination of consistent adherence to principle with disengagement from petty faction is


paralleled by a similar combination of patriotism unshaken by revolution with transcendence of age and country through literature. He has adapted Plautus and Molière, "the two greatest Names of Ancient and Modern Comedy" to the requirements of "our Stage," assisted by the music of Purcell, "in whose Person we have at length found an English-man , equal with the best abroad" (pp. 224–225). And he makes much of the Englishness of Leveson Gower's noble kindness, thereby implying, perhaps, that brutality is, like King William, a foreign import. But there is another, more extended assertion of patriotism and literary transendence here, which is as closely connected with the meaning of the play as is the prefatory vision of endless revolutions to Don Sebastian . Probably referring to a recent pamphlet gloating over his loss of place and pension,[28] Dryden claims that this loss "if it be a severe Penance, as a great Wit has told the World, 'tis at least enjoyn'd me by my self: And Sancho Panca , as much a Fool as I, was observ'd to discipline his Body, no farther than he found he could endure the smart" (p. 224). Unwilling to allow his enemies the comfort of supposing him unhappy, Dryden not only claims to have risen above his misfortunes but implies that he is prepared to deal with their source. In Don Quixote , Sancho gives himself "Seven or Eight" lashes and expends the rest of the six hundred required of him on the trees.[29] In the following paragraph, Dryden gives some indication of where he will bestow the rest of his:

I suffer no more, than I can easily undergo; and so long as I enjoy my Liberty, which is the Birth-right of an English Man, the rest shall never go near my Heart. The Merry Philosopher, is more to my Humour than the Melancholick; and I find no disposition in my self to Cry, while the mad World is daily supplying me with such Occasions of Laughter.
(P. 224)

By asserting the value of English liberty, Dryden at once denies the supposed connection between Jacobite Catholicism and French absolutism and suggests that the Williamites are obliged by their own principles to tolerate his. Having dressed his contempt of the present age in both homegrown tradition and ancient philosophy, he is free to project throughout the play his mockery of "the mad World"—of the Revolution, its causes, its justifications, and its consequences.


The Prologue that follows is no less like its counterpart in Don Sebastian than the Dedication : it provides the same references to the poet's renunciation of satire and the same flirtation with Jacobite polemic. In both, the audience's disfavor is briefly compared to political rebellion—to the Civil Wars in the first (l. 13), to "levelling" in the second. And both end with assurances of harmlessness. In the first Dryden reduces himself from a dangerous satirist to a poor Catholic struggling to pay his double taxes; in the second he shifts the subject from an apology for political satire, which he again claims to have renounced, to an attack on lampoons against ladies. Both prologues thus briefly and playfully embody the themes of the prose dedications: They remind us of Dryden's principles, hint at the nobility of those principles, and finally assure us that we have nothing to fear from them.

Again as in Don Sebastian , this disclaimer is immediately contradicted by the play it introduces. Dryden devotes the first scene of Amphitryon to a sustained exposition of the major political identifications and themes that he will develop throughout the play. Though it draws on the burlesque of the gods in both Plautus and Molière, the scene has no counterpart in Dryden's sources. Its action and its immediate function in the plot are both quite simple. Phoebus and Mercury speculate on why Jupiter has called them to Thebes; Jupiter joins them, explains that he wishes to impersonate Amphitryon in order to enjoy Alcmena, and sends Phoebus to delay the morning, Mercury to prolong the night and to impersonate Sosia, Amphitryon's servant. Though the bare plot provides nothing to provoke topical application, even a superficial reading of the scene itself compels such application: it is pervaded by references to councils, courts, prerogative, politics, subjects, kings, monarchs, princes, laws, arbitrary power, tyrants, governments, patriots, preferment, commissions, and deposition.[30] As usual in his postrevolutionary work, Dryden does not provide such terms without providing also some indication of how and where we are to apply them.

The scene begins with the two courtiers Phoebus and Mercury speculating on Olympian state affairs, and we can infer a great deal about that state from their language and demeanor. Jupiter's rule seems both absolute and secretive. In asking Mercury the purpose of their "consult," Phoebus places himself among a "Herd of Gods," of which the wisest are no better informed than the fools;


and Mercury counsels blind obedience: "'Tis our Part to obey our Father: for, to confess the Truth, we two are little better than Sons of Harlots; and if Jupiter had not been pleas'd to take a little pains with our Mothers, instead of being Gods, we might have been a couple of Linck-Boys" (I.i.15–19). There is no deviation here from mythological fact, but an illegitimate court upheld solely by the absolute power of a secretive ruler is strongly suggestive of the revolutionary government as it appears in contemporary Jacobite satire.[31] There follows a discussion of a quarrel between Jupiter and Juno which, though it does not confirm any specific parallel, does at least increase our sense of the disjunction between the power of the Olympian court and the low standards of conduct that prevail there.[32] This sense is deepened by the arrival of Jupiter himself, whose first speech confirms the general identification of the consult of the gods with an ill-regulated court: "What, you are descanting upon my Actions? / Much good may do you with your Politicks: / All Subjects will be censuring their Kings" (I.i.57–60). Mercury suspects Jupiter of intending to debase his "Almightyship" by fornicating "in the Shape of a Bull, or a Ram, or an Eagle, or a Swan" and so "transgressing your own Laws"; and Phoebus welcomes "Any disguise to hide the King of Gods" (I.i.73–80). Jupiter's identity as a tyrant is thus confirmed: he equates politics with "subjects censuring their kings," and Mercury justly accuses him of "transgressing his own laws." Jupiter responds to Phoebus with the first of three related justifications for royal crime:

I know your Malice,  Phoebus , you wou'd say
That when a Monarch sins it shou'd be secret,
To keep exterior show of Sanctity,
Maintain Respect, and cover bad Example:
For Kings and Priests are in a manner bound,
For Reverence sake, to be close Hypocrites.

Though William's usurpation was not secret, his intention in first coming to England was indeed hidden, and many Tories who rallied to his cause expecting only concessions from James, a regency for his son, or the accession of Mary as sole sovereign, had reason to complain of William as a "close hypocrite" in pretending only to assure a free Parliament.[33]


The connection is, however, somewhat remote, and these lines may merely provide further comment on the secrecy of William's court. What follows is far more clearly appropriate to the Jacobite view of William and the Revolution and provides the basis for Dryden's political satire throughout the play. Phoebus objects that "to be secret makes not sin the less"; and Jupiter replies, "I Love, because 'twas in the Fates I shou'd" (I.i.89–93). Phoebus is not satisfied: "With reverence be it spoke, a bad excuse: / Thus every wicked Act in Heav'n or Earth, / May make the same defence" (I.i.94–96). Jupiter responds with a circular argument to which no effective answer is possible:

Fate is, what I
By vertue of Omnipotence have made it:
And pow'r Omnipotent can do no wrong:
Not to my self, because I will'd it so:
Nor yet to Men, for what they are is mine.

We have seen that in The Hind and the Panther and Don Sebastian Dryden's most forceful satire is reserved for the Anglican Tories who reversed their political principles in order to preserve under William the power James sought to deny them. In Amphitryon he attacks them again. One chief Anglican justification for rendering allegiance to William consisted in a theological interpretation of his undeniable success: William's accession to the throne was the work of Providence.[34] Late in 1690, when the prominent nonjuror William Sherlock took the oaths to William and published a pamphlet justifying the act, both sides of the issue were thoroughly and passionately discussed in a series of pamphlets and poems;[35] but the argument from providence had been current among Williamite clergymen from the first days of the Revolution: Burnet, for example, preached a sermon on the subject before William on 23 December 1688.[36] Dryden himself repeats the argument, together with its refutation, in his "Character of a Good Parson":

The senseless Plea of Right by Providence
Was, by a flatt'ring Priest, invented since:
And lasts no longer than the present sway;
But justifies the next who comes in play.[37]


Jupiter advances a similar justification for his crime, and Phoebus a similar refutation. Jupiter, however, is not the favorite of god, but god himself, and this quality, though it may have helped conceal the parallel from Dryden's enemies, is vital to his satire. Dryden's Jupiter is a god appropriate to those who chose William as king, a god given to secrecy and crime, which he justifies by invoking the fate that he himself controls. William and the Anglicans sought to avoid responsibility for the Revolution by ascribing it to God's will and casting themselves as the passive and innocent agents of that will. By making Jupiter advance the same claim—by obligingly transforming God's chosen instrument into God himself—Dryden exposes the fallacy of this argument. Jupiter, like William and his followers, claims to be the passive agent of fate: "I love, because 'twas in the Fates I shou'd." But, being omnipotent, he himself controls this fate: "Fate is, what I / By vertue of Omnipotence have made it"; and this control clearly invalidates his denial of responsibility. Dryden suggests that William was no less the author of his fate, that the forces which brought him to the throne were no less subject to his control; and that therefore he, like Jupiter, can ultimately justify his authority only by a bare assertion of power: "And pow'r Omnipotent can do no wrong." Dryden's Jupiter neatly combines the Williamite view of providence with its Jacobite refutation; and in an omnipotent god the incongruity of unlimited power with hypocrisy and injustice becomes all the more striking.

Mercury's response pours ridicule on Jupiter's argument while it confirms the parallel between Jupiter and earthly monarchs:

Here's Omnipotence with a Vengeance, to make a Man a Cuckold, and yet not to do him wrong. Then I find, Father Jupiter , that when you made Fate, you had the wit to contrive a Holy-day for your self now and then. For you kings never Enact a Law, but you have a kind of an Eye to your own Prerogative.

Phoebus, however, attempts a more serious answer:

Phoeb.  If there be no such thing as right and wrong,
Of an Eternal Being, I have done___
But if there be___


Jup. ___Peace, thou disputing Fool:
Learn this; if thou coud'st comprehend my ways,
Then thou wert Jove , not I.

At last Phoebus is forced to capitulate: "Since Arbitrary Pow'r will hear no Reason, 'tis Wisdom to be silent" (I.i.131–132). Phoebus has earlier identified himself as a poet: Dryden here seems to have complemented his playful and mocking elevation of William with a similar elevation of himself. Like Phoebus, he had been interrupted in his discussion of right and wrong in politics by an assertion of what he considered arbitrary power, and, if we may trust his prologues and dedications, had found it wisdom to be silent. Mercury's ironic commentary confirms the identities of both king and poet:

Why, that's the Point; this same Arbitrary Power is a knock-down Argument; 'tis but a Word and a Blow; now methinks our Father speaks out like an honest bare-fac'd God, as he is: he lays the stress in the right Place, upon Absolute Dominion: I confess if he had been a Man, he might have been a Tyrant, if his Subjects durst have call'd him to account.

To Dryden, William was such a man, and Mercury's phrasing here suggests the extent to which power has overcome truth in revolutionary England: since his subjects dare not call him to account, he escapes not only the consequences of tyranny, but also the thing itself. As Jupiter's omnipotence can overcome logic, William's arbitrary power can alter truth. Mercury proceeds:

But you Brother Phoebus , are but a meer Country Gentleman, that never comes to Court; that are abroad all day on Horse-back, making Visits about the World; are drinking all Night, and in your Cups are still rayling at the Government: O these Patriots, these bumpkin Patriots, are a very silly sort of Animal.

Dryden was fond of casting himself as a country patriot in these years;[38] Mercury's view of such an animal—which recalls Dryden's self-denigrating identification with Sancho Panza in the


Dedication —playfully conveys his sense of political alienation and moral self-sufficiency in such circumstances.

Jupiter offers one further justification for his crime:

That, for the good of Human-kind, this Night
I shall beget a future Hercules ;
Who shall redress the wrongs of injur'd Mortals,
Shall conquer Monsters, and reform the World.

One critic has been misled by Jupiter's repetition of this promise at the end of the play into thinking Hercules a potential reformer of the contemporary social and political ills Dryden attacks in the play;[39] however, if the clumsy hyperbole of this speech is not enough to invite our suspicion, Dryden exposes the speciousness of Jupiter's claim in Mercury's reply: "Ay, Brother Phoebus ; and our Father made all those Monsters for Hercules to Conquer, and contriv'd all those Vices on purpose for him to reform too, there's the Jeast on't" (I.i.128–130). In fact this is a parody of another of the justifications for the Revolution: William had purportedly come to England to redress the wrongs of the people and reform James's popish tyranny. Dryden had already mocked this claim in the Mufti's statement of doctrine in Don Sebastian : "People side with violence and injustice, / When done for public good"; and other Jacobite satirists were equally given to such mockery:

Let no free quarter grieve you or disturb you,
Nor think that Dutch and Dane came here to curb you.
What though they spoil your goods and pox your wives
So long as all our throats 'scape Popish knives?
Deliverance! Deliverance! is all.[40]

Like the auditors of this satirist, Amphitryon requires deliverance only from his deliverer. He is threatened not by "monsters," but by the god who would invade his marriage and usurp his bed on the specious pretext of reform. Dryden suggests in Mercury's speech that the monsters and vices requiring reform were merely specters of Stuart tyranny raised by William's supporters to excuse his invasion.

Having established his parallel between Jupiter and William, Dryden devotes the remainder of this scene to a few illustrations


of the absolute quality of this monarch's rule and the inability of his subjects to oppose his illegitimate and injurious exercise of power. Jupiter orders his reluctant deputies to their tasks: Phoebus to delay the morning while Jupiter enjoys Alcmena, Mercury to assume Sosia's "villanous shape." Phoebus and Jupiter depart, and Mercury is left to inform Night of Jupiter's plans. Here Dryden, while following Molière's Prologue , continues to provide hints of his parallel. Night greets Mercury with speculations about his activities that further establish the venality of Jupiter and his court: "what Bankers Shop is to be broken open to Night? or what Clippers, and Coiners, and Conspirators, have been invoking your Deity for their assistance?" (I.i.213–215). Mercury refers to Jupiter's deposition of Saturn;[41] Night at first threatens to "lay down my Commission" rather than serve Jupiter's wicked aims, but at length submits, giving a reason appropriate to those politicians whose allegiance to William the Jacobites ascribed to fear of the danger and trouble of resistance: "Well, I am edified by your discourse; and my comfort is, that whatever work is made, I see nothing" (I.i.248, 270–271). Throughout the first scene, then, Dryden sets up a parallel intended to expose both the specious bases for William's authority and the irresistible power that actually enforces that authority. The opposition introduced here between power and truth recurs throughout the play and provides Dryden and the reader with an unfailing source of irony and amusement.

Indeed, we may find traces of that opposition even in those episodes of the play that have least bearing on the Jupiter/William parallel and that are adapted with relatively little change from Plautus and Molière. In II.i, for example, Sosia, having come to inform Alcmena of Amphitryon's arrival, is kept at the door by Mercury, who beats him out of his identity. Mercury takes a perverse pleasure in forcing Sosia to deny what both know to be true; and in Sosia's desperate attempts to maintain some hold on that truth, we may see a distant reflection of the plight of the Jacobites under William: "I dare say nothing, but Thought is free; but whatever I am call'd, I am Amphitryon 's Man, and the first Letter of my Name is S. , too. . . . Lord, Lord, Friend, one of us two is horribly giv'n to lying—but I do not say which of us, to avoid Contention" (II.i.169–175). We may draw similar reflection from


Mercury's reviling Amphitryon when he has locked him out of his own house (IV.i.137–193). Throughout the play, the power of the gods opposes the legitimate interests of the mortals.

The opposition is most pointed in the contest between the two claimants to Alcmena's bed, one false and powerful, the other true but weak. The situation resembles that in Don Sebastian , where the wicked king Muley-Moloch contends for Almeyda's love with the virtuous captive Sebastian: in both Dryden figures the political rivalry between William and James as an amorous rivalry the values of which may readily be transferred to a Jacobite view of the Revolution.[42] As James Garrison has remarked, Jupiter describes his love in appropriate political terms:

In me (my charming Mistris) you behold
A Lover that disdains a Lawful Title;
Such as of Monarchs to successive Thrones:
The Generous Lover holds by force of Arms;
And claims his Crown by Conquest.

These terms recur throughout the play. Amphitryon berates Alcmena for "all the prodigality of Kindness, / Giv'n to another, and usurp'd from me" (III.i.293–294); and later he arraigns Jupiter as "Thou base Usurper of my Name, and Bed" (V.i.144). The parallel is thus complete: the crimes that Jupiter justifies in the first scene on the Williamite pretexts of providence and public good are shown to be William's crimes of usurpation and conquest.

Dryden does not, however, restrict himself to attacking only the usurpation and its flimsier justifications: as in his earlier works on the Revolution, he claims to find its true source in the self-interest of the English public. The Pigeons in The Hind and the Panther and the Moors in Don Sebastian have their counterparts in the people of Thebes. Despite his omnipotence, Jupiter apparently cannot maintain his claim on Alcmena without the collusion of Phaedra, Gripus, and their kind, who respond not to threats and sophistry, but to money. Phaedra and Gripus have no counterparts in Dryden's sources; he establishes their political meaning in a series of direct topical allusions.[43] Phaedra's politics depend entirely on her interest: "what matter is it to me if my Lord has routed the Enemies, if I get nothing of their spoils" (I.ii.24–25). Her trust in Jupiter confirms the political identity of that god and suggests the


Jacobite view of the success of his English counterpart, who could absolve the clergy of their oath to James: "I hate to deal with one of your little baffling Gods that can do nothing, but by permission: but Jupiter can swinge you off; if you swear by him, and are forsworn" (I.ii.48–51). Gripus's political principles are similarly based on dishonesty and greed. Phaedra arraigns him as "Thou Seller of other People: thou Weather-cock of Government: that when the Wind blows for the Subject, point'st to Priviledge; and when it changes for the Soveraign, veers to Prerogative" (V.i.13– 16). The political terms of the accusation, though they have little bearing on the play, are obviously and directly relevant to contemporary England. The same is true of an earlier description of Gripus: "He sells Justice as he uses, fleeces the Rich Rebells, and hangs up the Poor" (II.ii. 123–124). This is the only reference to the action from which Amphitryon is returning as a civil war; the reference is again more appropriate to Jacobite polemic than to the play: among the supporters of James who lost wealth and position for their "rebellion" was Dryden himself, who was fleeced of his pension and taxed double as a Catholic. Like William's henchmen, Gripus upholds tyranny in order to reap its spoils; the Jacobites saw the same motive in William's supporters.

Nor are Phaedra and Gripus alone in their subordination of public rectitude to self-interest. Sosia complains of "great Lords" who

will say Upon my Honour , at every word: yet ask 'em for our Wages, and they plead the Priviledge of their Honour, and will not pay us; nor let us take our Priviledge of the Law upon them. These are a very hopeful sort of Patriots, to stand up as they do for Liberty and Property of the Subject: there's Conscience for you!

We may conclude that the English gentry are no less self-interested in their protection of liberty and property. Mercury provides a similar, though less overtly political, indictment of "the Great":

All seek their Ends; and each wou'd other cheat.
They onely seem to hate, and seem to love;
But Int'rest is the point on which they move.
Their Friends are Foes; and Foes are Friends agen;
And, in their turns, are Knaves, and Honest men.


Our Iron Age is grown an Age of Gold:
'Tis who bids most: for all Men wou'd be sold.

Gripus and Phaedra are only part of a general trend common to ancient Thebes and contemporary England. Gripus is typical of all lawyers, whose "long Preambles, and tedious Repetitions . . . signifie nothing, but to squeeze the Subject" (V.i.63–64); and Phaedra is typical of the population of Thebes, France, and England:

She's Interessed, and a Jilt into the Bargain. Three thousand years hence, there will be a whole Nation of such women, in a certain Country that will be call'd France ; and there's a Neighbour Island too, where the Men of that Country will be all Interest. Oh what a precious Generation will that be, which the Men of the Island shall Propagate out of the Women of the Continent!

Jupiter, like the Jacobite caricature of William, is forced to maintain his false claim by pandering to this universal self-interest. He finds quite early in the play that to gain access to Alcmena, he must first buy off Phaedra:

Phaed . Ay, my Lord, I see you are on fire: but the Devil a Bucket shall be brought to quench it, without my leave. . . .
Jup. aside . Now I cou'd call my Thunder to revenge me, But that were to confess my self a God, And then I lost my Love! . . .
Phaed . You have got some part of the Enemies Spoil I warrant you. . . .
Jupiter, taking a Ring off his Finger and giving it . Here, take it, this is a very Woman:
Her Sex is Avarice, and she, in One,
Is all her Sex.
Phaed . Ay, ay, 'tis no matter what you say of us. What, wou'd you have your Mony out of the Treasury, without paying the Officers their Fees?

Jupiter is later forced to bribe Phaedra again so that he may see Alcmena after her quarrel with Amphitryon. He throws her a purse and laments that money can do more even than divine power—and more, Dryden implies, than divine Providence as well:


"This is my Bribe to Phaedra ; when I made / This Gold, I made a greater God than Jove , / And gave my own Omnipotence away" (III.i.580–582). Phaedra bargains with Jupiter as the English nation, which she explicitly represents, bargains with William: he may raid the treasury only after he has bribed its officers.

Conversely, Amphitryon relies upon the justice of his cause: he is unwilling to bribe, and so, like James, fails to attract support. In attempting to prove to Amphitryon that he had been with her the preceding night, Alcmena appeals to Phaedra, who unhesitatingly puts her allegiance up for sale: "I am to forget all that was done over-night in Love-Matters,—unless my master please to rub up my Memory with another Diamond" (III.i.202–204). When Amphitryon is forced to seek legal authority to break open his own house, Gripus will "command nothing without any Warrant; and my Clerk is not here to take his Fees for drawing it" (IV.i.314–315). Sosia himself declares for "the inviting, and eating, and treating Amphitryon : I am sure 'tis he that is my lawfully begotten Lord" (IV.i.343–345).[44] And Phaedra chooses the Amphitryon who has bribed her:

Amph . . . Answer me precisely: do'st thou not know me for Amphitryon ?
Phaed . Answer me first: did you give me a Diamond, and a Purse of Gold?
Amph . Thou know'st I did not.
Phaed . Then, by the same token, I know you are not the true Amphitryon .

Amphitryon, knowing himself to be right, naturally expects to be believed without pay; Jupiter, knowing his imposture, is happy to purchase belief for whatever it costs. In so base a nation as Thebes/England, Dryden suggests, circumstances favor the usurper.

This national bias, and its responsibility for William's success, is even clearer in the climactic trial scene. When William was advancing upon London with his 15,000 Dutch troops and assorted English followers, he claimed to intend "no other design, but to have a free and lawful Parliament assembled as soon as is possible." James replied that William's "Designs in the bottom did tend to nothing less than an absolute usurping of his majesty's crown and royal authority."[45] The postures of both contenders—William


peaceful and ready to stand a free trial; James confused and aggrieved at having to stand trial at all—are reflected in the postures of Jupiter and Amphitryon. When Amphitryon attempts to attack him, Jupiter calmly remarks on the intemperance of such behavior:

But still take notice, that it looks not like
The true Amphitryon , to fly out, at first
To brutal force: it shows he doubts his Cause,
Who dares not trust his reason to defend it.

Amphitryon's friends justify their inaction by their inability to decide which claimant deserves their loyalty; this provides the occasion of another exchange which bears upon the Revolution:

Amph . I know it; and have satisfy'd my self: I am the true Amphitryon .
Jupit . See again.
He shuns the certain proofs, and dares not stand
Impartial Judgment, and award of right.

The true claimant naturally resents having to trust his claim to the judgment of third parties; the false stands only to gain by such a process and therefore freely undergoes it. Amphitryon does not think his own identity the proper subject of an "impartial judgment, and award of right"; Dryden implies, I think, that the kingship of England is no more than a man's personal identity the proper subject of an election.

This is, to be sure, a parallel, not an allegory, and though many of the obvious differences between the characters of the play and the actual characters they reflect help advance Dryden's satire, some do not. Thus Amphitryon is eager for battle; James avoided it. Alcmena is guiltless of intentional wrongdoing; in Dryden's view, England was not. Yet many of the more apparently refractory elements of the play do yield polemic meaning. The following exchange, for example, which has no counterpart in Dryden's sources, may seem to run directly counter to the parallel:

Alcm  . . . my Heart will guide my Eyes
To point, and tremble to its proper choice.
                      [ Seeing  Amphitryon, goes to him .
There neither was, nor is, but one  Amphitryon ;


And I am onely his       [ Goes to take him by the Hand .
Amph. pushing her away from him . Away, Adulteress!
Jupit . My gentle Love; my Treasure and my Joy;
Follow no more, that false and foolish Fire,
That wou'd mislead thy Fame to sure destruction!
Look on thy better Husband, and thy friend,
Who will not leave thee lyable to scorn,
But vindicate thy honour from that Wretch
Who wou'd by base aspersions blot thy vertue.
Alcm. going to him, who embraces her . I was indeed mistaken; thou art he! . . .
Thy kindness is a Guide that cannot err.

If we read this scene according to the parallel, we might conclude that England rightly chose William over James as the claimant most likely to favor and protect the country. Jupiter's kindness here, however, is merely apparent: he can well afford to excuse the adultery of which he is the sole beneficiary; and his own deceitful assault on Alcmena's virtue and Amphitryon's honor has provided the occasion for this specious show of kindness. He is, as Mercury points out in the first scene, the creator of the ills he pretends to remedy; and as Alcmena can protect her honor only by adhering to the ravisher who cónceals his crime, England can protect its collective political integrity only by adhering to the usurper who justifies its desertion of the true king.

Most of the play's political comment, however, is far simpler and far more direct than this. Dryden is not, as in Don Sebastian , teaching serious lessons on the nature of political institutions; he is rather laughing at the "mad world," exposing contemporary politics to ridicule by weaving it carefully into the farcical comedy that Plautus and Molière had made of the Amphitryon story. Dryden consistently uses the double identity that is the mainspring of this comedy to mock Revolutionary pretenses. Sosia's inability either to establish or abandon his identity reflects the Jacobites' position, and mocks the Williamites' denial of obvious fact. In conceding that Mercury has proven his claim to be Sosia, Sosia involves himself in absurdity: "Well, you are Sosia ; there's no denying it; but what am I then? for my Mind misgives me, I am somebody still, if I knew but who I were" (III.i.278–280); and his best efforts to maintain this falsehood are eventually frustrated:


"where ever I come, the malicious world will call me Sosia , in spight of me" (IV.i.377–378). If William is king of England, Dryden implies, James must be somebody still. In Amphitryon's quarrel with Sosia, Dryden continues to play upon the idea of duplicate monarchs:

Amph. That one shou'd be two is very probable!
Sos. Have you not seen a Six-pence split into two halves, by some ingenious School-Boy; which bore on either side the Impression of the Monarchs Face? now as those moieties were two Three-pences, and yet in effect but one Six-pence___
Amph. No more of your villanous Tropes and Figures.

Sosia goes on to describe his two selves in such a way as again to reflect upon the two kings of England:

That there was two I's, is as certain, as that I have two Eyes in this Head of mine. This I, that am here, was weary: the t'other I was fresh: this I was peacable, and t'other I was a hectoring Bully I.

Dryden later suggests the advantages of such duplication for the English public:

Sosia . You, my Lord Amphitryon , may have brought forth another You my Lord Amphitryon , as well as I Sosia have brought forth another Me Sosia ; and our Diamonds may have procreated these Diamonds; and so we are all three double.
Phaedra . If this be true, I hope my Goblet has gigg'd another Golden Goblet: and then they may carry double upon all four.

Thus as in so much of his political poetry, Dryden employs the literary qualities of the genres in which he works to advance his rhetorical purposes. The play's covert political meaning is in perfect accord with its surface wit.

It is possible that in the months since Don Sebastian , Dryden had begun to lose the already rather problematic faith in the possibility of counterrevolution which that play implies. The only allusion to such a possibility in Amphitryon comes at several removes from the action, in a rondeau at the end of a pastoral


dialogue conjured up by Mercury; and even this places more emphasis on present poverty than future restoration:

Thus at the height we love and live,
  And fear not to be poor:
We give, and give, and give, and give,
  Till we can give no more:
But what today will take away,
  Tomorrow will restore.

Indeed, Amphitryon ends with a specious prophecy of reform that in fact predicts the continuation, and even extension, of tyrannic rule. Mercury and Jupiter reveal themselves to Sosia and Amphitryon and invite them to take comfort in the dubious benefits of their impersonation. Sosia recognizes this proffered consolation for what it is:

Merc . You ought to take it for an honour to be drubb'd by the hand of a Divinity.
Sosia . I am your most humble Servant, good Mr. God; but by the faith of a Mortal, I cou'd well have spar'd the honour that you did me.

Amphitryon is given no opportunity to respond, but the solace Jupiter offers him is perhaps no less questionable:

From this auspicious Night, shall rise an Heir,
Great, like his Sire, and like his Mother, fair:
Wrongs to redress, and Tyrants to disseize;
Born for a World, that wants a  Hercules .
Monsters, and Monster-men he shall ingage,
And toil, and struggle, through an Impious Age.
Peace to his Labours, shall at length succeed;
And murm'ring Men, unwilling to be freed,
Shall be compell'd to Happiness, by need.

This is the third reference in the play to Hercules. The first, like this one, is brought forth by Jupiter in justification of his crime, and is, as we have seen, immediately and entirely deflated by Mercury's response. The second comes when Phaedra asks that Jupi-


ter's union with Alcmena produce "Some Fool, some meer Elder-Brother, or some blockheadly Hero" (I.ii.157–158); and this view is confirmed when Phaedra later asks that her son by Mercury be a hero: Mercury replies, "That is to say, a Blockhead" (V.i.363–364). For Dryden and the Jacobites, William and his supporters seemed eager to pose as Protestant heroes, protecting the world from the Romanist monster Louis XIV; as at the beginning of the play, Dryden restates this view in such a manner as to display its preposterousness. The concluding couplet of Jupiter's prophecy promises "happiness" but dwells insistently on the idea of force: "murmuring," "unwilling," "compelled," "by need"—the redundancy here makes the future seem not only dubious, but positively malevolent. We can form some idea of this compulsory happiness from Sosia's comment on the prophecy: he will "produce a Squire to attend on young Hercules , when he goes out to seek Adventures; that when his Master kills a Man, he may stand ready to Pick his Pockets" (V.i.429–432). Dryden and the Jacobites felt William's union with England had produced the kind of military "heroism" that led to dangerous foreign entanglements and high taxation; and Dryden suggests that we can hardly hope much better from a reformer produced by the collusion of an unjust king with the very "impious age" his offspring is supposed to reform. The best possible result is the compulsory happiness predicted in the final line—such happiness as "this wonderful Revolution" had brought to Dryden himself, when the tyrant was "disseiz'd," the wrongs of murmuring Englishmen were redressed, and the country was compelled to accept whatever freedom William might in the end allow it.


2 "Adhering to a Lost Cause": Don Sebastian and Amphitryon

Preferred Citation: Bywaters, David. Dryden in Revolutionary England. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.