How John Dryden read his Milton
The State of Innocence reconsidered
in Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell
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In the winter of 1673-1674, the Stuart poet laureate and historiographer royal, John Dryden, famously undertook to recast John Milton's blank-verse epic as a rhymed semi-opera. The most immediate context for Dryden's 'tagging' of Milton's verses is the controversy over rhyme which had arisen with the new heroic drama. There is precious little extant commentary on Paradise Lost dating to the reigns of Charles and James; indeed, the earliest entries for the poem's critical reception in most sourcebooks are Andrew Marvell's commendatory poem and Dryden's praise in The State of Innocence. Marvell's humiliating image of Dryden drudging like a 'pack-horse' to tag Milton's points is thus not only interested but premature, for it is in The State of Innocence that Dryden plots the complex effects of some of his greatest Augustan poetry.

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