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The Indian Emperor

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(1665)


The Indian Emperour, or, The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, the Sequel of The Indian Queen

This is an English Restoration era stage play, a heroic drama written by John Dryden that was first performed in the Spring of 1665. The play has been considered a defining work in the sub-genre of heroic drama, in which "rhymed heroic tragedy comes into full being." As its subtitle indicates, the play deals with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire under Hernán Cortés. In this play, Dryden presents the type of conflict between love and honour that is typical of his serious drama. Montezuma refuses a chance to save his kingdom from conquest, for personal reasons: "But of my crown thou too much care dost take; That which I value more, my love's at stake." Cortez takes the opposite course, turning his back on his love for Cydaria to obey the orders of his king, even though he acknowledges that those orders are flawed. Montezuma gets the worst of their conflict; tortured by the Spaniards, he ends the play with his suicide. Dryden wanted to portray Cortez as high-minded and magnanimous; but he also wanted to show the Spaniards as cruel and oppressive. He managed this by the wildly ahistorical recourse of bringing Francisco Pizarro into the play as a subordinate of Cortez, and making Pizarro the villain.

Dum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna limi.
--OVID.


DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

INDIAN MEN.

MONTEZUMA, Emperor of Mexico.
ODMAR, his eldest son.
GUYOMAR, his younger son.
ORBELLAN, son of the late Indian Queen by TRAXALLA.
High Priest of the Sun.

WOMEN.

CYDARIA, MONTEZUMA'S daughter.
ALMERIA, Sisters; and daughters to the late
ALIBECH, Indian Queen.

SPANIARDS.

CORTEZ, the Spanish General.
VASQUEZ, Commanders under him.
PIZARRO,

SCENE—Mexico, and two leagues about it.







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