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Biography of John Dryden

Portrait of John Dryden

John Dryden was a seventeenth century dramatist.

When and Where was he Born?

19th August 1631, Vicarage of Aldwinkle All Saints, Aldwinckle, Northamptonshire, England.

Family Background:

John Dryden was the son of a country gentleman.


Westminster School under Robert Busby.
Trinity College, Cambridge.

Timeline of John Dryden:

1657: After University Dryden moves to London to begin his career as a professional writer and stays with his cousin Sir Gilbert Pickering who was Oliver Cromwell’s Chamberlain.

1658: Dryden’s “heroic Stanzas” on the Death of Cromwell are published.

1660: Hoping to get on the right side of the new King Dryden produces “Astrea Redux” celebrating the Restoration of the Monarchy in heroic couplets.

1663: Dryden’s first play “The Wild Gallant” is a failure. He marries Lady Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of the earl of Berkshire.

1664: His second play “The Indian Queen in conjunction with Sir Robert Howard and it meets with much more success and is one of the first of the new heroic tragedies.

1665: He writes “The Indian Emperor” a mixed tragedy with comedy which dealst with the conquest of Mexico.

1667: Dryden produces “The Secret Love” which was also a successful tragi-comedy and “Annus Mirabilis”, “The Years of Wonder” which became the main work to establish his reputation.

1668: His growing fame now increases when he is created Poet Laureate in succession to Sir William D’Avenant. He now begins to write exclusively for Thomas Killigrew’s theatrical company. He begins to write an important series of critical essays as prefaces to his plays, such as “Essay of Dramatic Poesy”.

1670: He is created “Historiographer Royal”.

1672: Dryden sensed that the public mood for full blown tragi-comedies was at an end and he produces the comedy “Marriage a La Mode”.

1677: He begins to adapt a number of Shakespeare’s plays including “The Tempest”” and “Antony and Cleopatra”. He also wrote librettos for Operas such as “The State of Innocence” which was an adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost”.

1678: Dryden now breaks with Kiligrew’s company which was ridden with debts and offers his new work “Oedipus” to another company.

1682: He produces the didactic poem “Religio Laici” which argues the case for Anglicanism.

1683: He is given a post in the Customs Office for his political efforts in support of the Tories, one of the two main political groups.

1685: He converts to Catholicism.

1688: Dryden loses the Poet Laureateship when the English Revolution takes place when King William and Mary take over the throne from James the Second.

1689: Although he had now begun to write more poetry than theatrical works with masterpieces such as “Absolom and Achitophel” he still produces items for the stage including “Don Sebastien”.

1690: He produces “Amphitryon” which is based on the classic myth. He writes the Libretto for “King Arthur” with music by Henry Purcell. Over his career he translated a number of other authors including the Ancient Roman Virgil.

When and Where did he Die?

12th May 1700, London, England of gout.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1649: “Upon the Death of the Lord Hastings”.
1659: “Poem upon the Death of His Late Highness”. “Oliver Lord Protector”.
1660: “Astraea Redux”.
1661: “To his Sacred Majesty”.
1662: “To My Lord Chancellor”.
1663: “The Wild Gallant”.
1664: “The Rival Ladies”.
1665: “The Indian Emperor or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards”.
1667: “Secret Love or the Maiden Queen”. “Sir Martin Mar-All,or the Feigned Innocence”. “Annus Mirabilis”.
1668: “Essays of Dramatic Poesie”. “A Defence of an Essay of Dramatic Poesie”. “An Evening’s Love or the Mock Astrologer”.
1669: “Tyrannic Love or the Royal Martyr”.
1670: “The Conquest of Granada Part One”.
1671: “The Conquest of Granada Part 2”.
1672: “Amboyna or the cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants”.
“The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery”. “Marriage a la Mode”.
1675: “Aureng- Zebe”.
1677: “All for Love, or the World Well Lost”.
1678: “The Kind Keeper, or Mr. Himberlam”. “Oedipus”.
1679: “Troilus and Cressida or the Truth Found too Late”.
1680: “The Spanish Friar or the Double Discovery”. “Ovid’s Epistles”.
1682: “The Duke of Guise”. “Absolom and Architophel”. “MacFlecknoe”. “The Medal”. “Religio Laici”.
1684: “Miscellany Poems”.
1685: “Albion and Albanius”. “Sylvae or the Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies”. “Threnodia Augustalis”.
1686: “To the Memory of Mrs. Anne Killigrew”.
1687: “The Hind and the Panther”. “Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day”.
1688: “Britannia Rediviva”.
1689: “Don Sebastian, King of Portugal”.
1690: “Amphitryon or the Two Socias”.
1691: “King Arthur or the British Worthy”.
1692: “Cleomenes, The Spartan Hero”.
1694: “Annual Miscellany”. “To Congreve”.
1695: “Du Fresnoy’s De Arte Graphica”.
1696: “Ode on Henry Purcell”.
1607: “Alexander’s Feast, or the Power of Music”.
1700: “Fables, Ancient and Modern”.


1663 to Lady Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of the earl of Berkshire.

Site of Grave:

Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, London, England, next to Geoffrey Chaucer.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Knole House. (visited).


Canons Ashby, Daventry, NN11 3SD once Dryden’s Home (National Trust).