Catholic Conversion and Incest in Dryden's "Don Sebastian"

Document Type


Publication Title

Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture


John Dryden's decision to end his 1689 tragedy, Don Sebastian , with the discovery of an act of incest has persistently puzzled the plays readers. The historical Sebastian almost certainly died in the battle which immediately precedes the events of the play; a slightly delayed death would therefore have been a logical conclusion to the play. Or, Dryden could have followed the traditions of romance and legend, which took hope from the fact that Sebastian's body had never been found. These stories, which grew up among the Portuguese after they had been conquered by Spain in 1 580, held that Sebastian had survived and would one day return to rule Portugal. Such legends no doubt played a role in Dryden's decision to make Sebastian the subject of his first post-Glorious Revolution play. Dryden and other supporters of the recently exiled James II hoped that their lost sovereign' would return to the throne someday

Publication Date

Fall 2014