Only a portion of the ' Rival Ladies ' was in rhyme, and that a small portion; — all but parts of the third and fourth acts being in unrhymed measure. Dryden's defence of rhyme is interesting from the line of argument taken. He argues that the dignity of tragedy requires rhyme, and he does not fear to say that Shakespeare wrote blank verse to save himself the trouble of rhyming. Sir Robert Howard, who was opposed to Dryden in opinion on this question, also took it for granted that blank verse was too mean a measure for 'a copy of verses ,' and only urged that rhyme was unnatural in a play. Had Johnson better loved to study accurately, and investigate chronologies, he would not have missed the point here, that while Dryden was teaching his age to be too polite and too dignified for the measures of Shakespeare, at that very time Milton was winning for blank verse another immortal crown by the writing of his Paradise Lost , which was finished in 1665. Johnson was himself a strenuous supporter of rhyme as opposed to blank verse. Cf. Boswell, Life, p. 116:
'He enlarged very convincingly upon the excellence of rhyme over blank verse in English poetry. I mentioned to him that Dr. Adam Smith, in his lectures upon composition, when I studied under him in the College of Glasgow, had maintained the same opinion strenuously, and I repeated some of his arguments.
Johnson. "Sir, I was once in company with Smith, and we did not take to each other, but had I known that he loved rhyme as much as you tell me he does, I should have hugged him."
This preference however did not prevent his knowing that rhyme is unfit for tragedy. In spite of his admiration for Dryden he was not led away by an imitation of the French tragedians in a measure which Byron was afterwards to describe as ' Monotony on wires .'
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