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00030— Why is Dryden called “the Father of English Criticism?”

John Dryden
                                         
Dr.Johnson called Dryden “the father of English Criticism who first taught us to determine upon principles the merit of composition.”  Dr.Johnson was very correct in giving Dryden this honour because before him there was no consistent critic in England.  Sidney and Ben Jonson were, of course, there but they only made occassional observations without producing any consistent critical work or establishing any critical theory. 

Dryden’s principal critic work is his Essay of Dramatic Poesy, though his critical observations are also found in the prefaces to several of his works, specially in the Preface to the FablesThe Essay of Dramatic Poesy establishes him as the first historical critic, first comparative critic, first descriptive critic, and the Independent English critic.

The Essay of Dramatic Poesy is developed in the form of dialogues amongst  four interlocuters representing four different literatures or literary ages. They are:
·          
1.  CRITES  speaks for the ancient Greek and      Roman authors.  
     
2.  LISIDEIUS speaks for the French.
     
3.  EUGENIUS speaks for the English literature of the ‘last age.’ 
    
4.  NEANDER speaks for England and liberty. 

   
 In this way he (Dryden) develops historical, comparative, and descriptive forms of criticism, and finally gives his own independent views through the replies of Neander.  He respects the ancient Greek and Roman principles but he refuses to adhere to them slavishly, specially in respect of Tragi-comedy and observance of the three Dramatic Unities.  Thus Dryden began a great regular era of criticism, and showed the way to his countrymen how to be great as creative authors as well as critical evaluators and what makes great literature.  Thus he is indeed the “Father of English Criticism.”


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