chapter  2
32 Pages

Persuasion, Force, and Alternatives to Force

WithWinifred Ernst

This chapter examines persuasion/consent versus force in the fables The Wife of Bath Her Tale, Cymon and Iphigenia, Ovid XII, and Theodore and Honoria. Dryden engages the personal stories of both love and weddings and force and rape, and he connects them to larger themes of the impingement of private violence on public forms. The elaboration of persuasion and force takes a hard look at the relationship between a monarch (or usurper) and Parliament (or the king’s subjects). As Dryden articulates a pattern that has affected England through the Civil Wars and the Revolution of 1688, he exercises a detached scrutiny quite unlike the contemporary uses of historical precedent as he modernizes this form of inquiry. Under the cover of fiction, the author is able to negotiate competing ideas that gripped the nation, and he willingly engages the possibility that the Revolution of 1688 is a painful but necessary corrective in English history that avoids the even more painful experience of another civil war. The underlying influence, therefore, takes seriously both Royalist and Whig concerns and in so doing creates a literature amenable to a diverse audience with similar national interests.