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Eve, Mary and Female Catholic Threat in John Dryden’s The State of Innocence and Fall of Man (1677)

Honor Jackson

Pages 47 - 65



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

This essay considers the early afterlife of Eve, one of John Milton’s bestknown characters. Although largely forgotten today, John Dryden’s adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost, The State of Innocence and Fall of Man, enjoyed significant print popularity in the seventeenth century. The abiding critical interpretation of Dryden’s semi-opera is that it reframes Milton’s poetics, politics, philosophy and theology either to provide cynical mockery of Milton or else to create a (poorly executed) Royalist heroic play. Dryden’s peculiar depictions of Adam and Eve have received far less attention and yet, as I argue in this essay, the portrayal of Adam as effeminate and Eve as a powerful, manipulative female figure offer the clearest indication of the play’s politics. I break from a critical tradition that has tended to polarise Milton and Dryden and instead read Dryden’s characters in the context of contemporary, satirical, representations of Charles II, and attacks on what were deemed to be overly-influential female Catholic figures at court, such as Mary of Modena, who married James, Duke of York – the heir presumptive of Charles II – in 1673, and to whom Dryden’s opera is dedicated.

Keywords: Milton, Dryden, gender, adaptation, Catholicism


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