Oliver Cromwell and Charles II in the epideictic poetry of Andrew Marvell and John Dryden




Shelton, Elizabeth Edwards

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The two leading satirists of the Restoration, John Dryden and Andrew Marvell, began their political careers in the service of Oliver Cromwell, but their perceptions of political heroism changed with the restoration of Charles II. This study examines the rhetorical methods that Dryden and Marvell used to praise and to criticize the political leadership of Cromwell and Charles II by analyzing three poems of praise by Marvell, "An Horatian Ode," "The First Anniversary," and "A Poem upon the Death of O. C."; three poems of praise by Dryden, "Heroique Stanzas," "Astraea Redux," and "To His Sacred Majesty"; and the major political satire of each writer, Marvell's The Last Instructions to a Painter and Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel.

Four traditions underlie these heroic and satiric portraits: epideictic oratory, the epic tradition, the Theophrastan character, and the traditional association of poetry and painting that resulted in the advice-to-a-painter poems of the mid-seventeenth century. In addition, rhetorical devices aid in portraying Cromwell and Charles II. In the poems of praise the analogy, classical and biblical allusions, a striking or memorable image, and the logical proposition are recurring methods of depicting the heroism of Cromwell and of Charles II. In the satires rhetorical figures such as sententiae, antithesis, and ironic juxtaposition show the contrast between present shame and past glory. Through devices of repetition such as polyptoton and anaphora, Marvell develops his recurrent theme that England's heroic past has been reduced to an ignominious present. Through balanced and parallel constructions such as isocolon and compar, Dryden separates the ideal world of heroic virtue from the real world of political rebellion.

These traditions and rhetorical devices contribute to the overall presentation of Cromwell as a forceful and dynamic hero of epic proportions and of Charles II as a mild and merciful hero of Christian dimensions. In the major satires both The Last Instructions to a Painter and Absalom and Achitophel present a plea to Charles II to restore the heroic ideal of virtue that both Dryden and Marvell had delineated in their poems of praise.



British and Irish literature, John Dryden, Andrew Marvell, Oliver Cromwell, King Charles II, Language, literature, and linguistics