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date: 21 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Dryden’s early heroic plays find dramatic potential in early modern natural law debates about sovereignty, and explore the language of contract central to these debates. The Indian Emperour interrogates the context of Spain’s claims to empire in the new world, reflecting the historical moment of England’s growing colonial ambitions. The Conquest of Granada shows how natural law’s metaphors of contract can destabilize an empire from within, as Dryden’s hero Almanzor employs them to contest and divide. Almanzor’s claims connect to an earlier critical exchange between Davenant and Hobbes on the cultural influence of epic romance and theatre in relation to political instability. Dryden’s play, however, works to redeem romance from its association with the misinterpretation of passion and interest in Hobbes’s writing. In The Conquest of Granada, romance and theatre become part of the process of refined law-making, providing a culture of propriety and discrimination which supports the artifice of empire.

Keywords: Natural Law, Romance, Restoration, Heroic Drama, Dryden, Hobbes, Davenant, The Conquest of Granada, The Indian Emperour

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