This play, like "The Wild Gallant", is a drama of intrigue, borrowed from the Spanish, and claiming merit only in proportion to the diversity and ingenuity of the incidents represented. On this point every reader can decide for himself; and it would be an invidious task to point out blemishes, where, to own the truth, there are but few beauties. The ease with which the affections of almost every female in the drama are engrossed by Gonsalvo, and afterwards transferred to the lovers, upon whom the winding up of the plot made it necessary to devolve them, will, it is probable, strike every reader as unnatural. In truth, when the depraved appetite of the public requires to be gratified by trick and bustle, instead of nature and sentiment, authors must sacrifice the probable, as well as the simple, process of events.
The author seems principally to have valued himself on this piece, because it contains some scenes executed in rhyme, in what was then called the heroic manner. Upon this opinion, which Dryden lived to retract, I have ventured to offer my sentiments in the Life of the Author. In other respects, though not slow in perceiving and avouching his own merit, our author seems to consider the "Rival Ladies" as no very successful dramatic effort.
The "Rival Ladies" is supposed to have been first acted in 1663, and was certainly published in the year following. Of its success we know nothing particular. It is probable, the flowing verse, into which some part of the dialogue is thrown, with the strong point and antithesis, which distinguishes Dryden's works, and particularly his argumentative poetry, tended to redeem the credit of the author of the "Wild Gallant."
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