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A brief analysis of the play by John Dryden

The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.

All for Love; or, The World Well Lost is a tragedy by John Dryden, first acted and printed in 1678. Dryden deals in this play with the same subject as that of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Whilst, however, the elder poet "diffused the action of his play over Italy, Greece, and Egypt," Dryden laid every scene in the city of Alexandria. Moreover, he "contents himself with the concluding scene of Antony's history, instead of introducing the incidents of the war with Pompey, the negotiation with Lepidus, death of his first wife, and other circumstances which, in Shakespeare, only tend to distract our attention from the main interest of the drama" (Sir Walter Scott). Dryden, says Saintsbury, "omits whatever in the original story is shocking and repulsive from the romantic point of view.... The best pieces of All for Love cannot, of course, challenge comparison with the best pieces of Shakespeare ... but the best passages of this play, and, what is more, its general facture and style, equal, with certain time-allowance, the best things of Beaumont and Fletcher, and therefore the best things of almost any English tragedian save Shakespeare."

The original cast included Hart as Antony, Mohun as Ventidius, Clarke as Dolabella, Goodman as Alexas, Griffin as Serapion, Mrs. Boutell as Cleopatra, Mrs. Corey as Octavia. The play was revived at Lincoln's Inn Fields in February, 1704, with Betterton as Antony, Mrs. Barry as Cleopatra, Wilks as Dolabella, and Mrs. Bracegirdle as Octavia; at Drury Lane in December 1718, with Booth as Antony, Mrs. Oldfield as Cleopatra, and Mrs. Porter as Octavia.

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