Эссе: Critical Essay by Jerome Donnelly

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... The passage is witty and seems to praise what would ordinarily be a vice; as an opening rhetorical strategem anticipating and undercutting a potential rejoinder to a Whig attack on Charles, the lines do a masterful job. Granting that the passage does all of these things, however, to assert, as Miner does, that in these lines Dryden is actually praising Charles' behavior as something "unusually admirable" is to attach too definite a meaning to a passage whose virtue lies in its deliberate ambiguity. Rather than establishing a moral norm for royal behavior, the passage both deftly undercuts any attack on the king's personal life, first, by appropriating and making ironic use of the very same Biblical allegory originally used by the Whigs themselves, and second, by holding in ambiguous suspension the question of ethical propriety. Only when the ambiguity of these lines is resolved in the totality of the poem does it become clear that Dryden, while defending Charles' monarchy against the rebel faction, is not blindly uncritical, but rather that Dryden reveals through the poem's dynamic structure his disapproval of the king's promiscuity. The opening lines do not raise the issue of promiscuity simply to blunt an enemy weapon. Indeed, the issue is not raised to be dismissed; the theme of illegitimacy as the result of promiscuity dominates much of the poem and is highlighted at poetic cruxes by means of scriptural and topical allusions and images which suggest sexual impropriety. Further, Dryden not only criticizes, he finally reveals an ethical heroic norm as an alternative, a norm just as explicit as the positive political norm of authority he places in the mouth of David at the conclusion of the poem. ...