n dialogue form ofsuch matters as the merits of Elizabethan, French, and Restorationplays, the place of rhyme in drama, and the value of dramatic “rules.” It is said that the unity of time the audience can comprehend isabout 24 hours or as close to that as they can come. The reasoningbehind this is the fact the pretend action, or plot of the story should beabout the same as the time that it is representing, or as close aspossible. By doing this the viewer of the play is not getting what he orher should be. By limiting the amount of time that can be representedin a play, you are limiting the potential of the writer. And by doing thisyou are not giving the viewer what they want, a good show.
The unity of place is where the play is set, where the action takesplace. This unity says that the play should have a consistent setting. Since the stage on which the play is performed is only one stage, it isinconceivable that it be thought of as many different ones, far apart ornear to each other.
If the setting varied in position, being far apart,would not hold true to the unity of time. If you were to travel to othercities or countries it would surely take longer than twenty-four hours. The French follow this strictly, a scene is never changed in the middleof an act. If the act begins in a bedroom or on a street that is where itis going to end. The third unity touched upon is the unity of action. The unity ofaction says that there is only room in one play for one major action.
That action is to be the aim of the play. Everything in the play has todo with the completion of this action. If there are two actions in oneplay it is not one play, it is then two. This does not mean there cannotbe many actions in the play. It means that all these actions must havesomething to do with the overall, also know as sub-plots.
If there isone main action and that action is completed then the audience knowexactly what is going on. But if there are sub-plots and other thingsthat are not fully completed then there will be an element of suspense,it will keep the audience interested. If we were to compare literature of his time to these unities, I wouldbet, very few of them would measure up. For example Shakespeare, look atany one of his works. The unity of time is completely forgotten, some of hisworks are stretched on for generations. Settings in one play go from onecountry to another, city to city.
And the actions in his plays can sometimesbe the actions of a mans entire life. So in short, John Dryden is saying thatthe three unities can be, and are, forgotten.