This essay examines persuasion and force through four poems of Dryden’s Fables (1700): The Wife of Bath Her Tale, Ovid XII, Cymon and Iphigenia, and Theodore and Honoria. Dryden engages the personal stories of love and weddings, and force and rape, and he connects them to the political concerns regarding usurpation and divine right, pertinent not only to the Glorious Revolution but also to a larger and longer look backward at English history. The elaboration of persuasion and force alludes in part to the relationship between a king (or usurper) and his subjects. The following pages investigate the political implications of combining marriage and rape within the same fable, and consider the narratives of these fables that do not always prioritize Jacobite sympathies: sometimes they portray the horrors of civil war, sometimes they satirize irreverently the ongoing struggle between parliament and monarch, and sometimes they wryly appreciate the talents of William III. Through Fables, Dryden assumes a voice like Nestor’s in Ovid XII: one that is wise and authoritative as he illuminates the historical relevance of current events for his audience, but one that also is self-conscious as he recognizes his own participation in the complex and imperfect world that surrounds him.


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pp. 163-194
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