English Literature

By P Baburaj Senior Lecturer Dept. of English Sherubtse College, Bhutan MAC FLECKNOE – John Dryden In Restoration period, in 1660 was a nation divided against itself.

The plague of 1665- 70,000 people died in London alone. In September 1666- The Great fire of London. 13, 000 houses destroyed.

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
4,80
Writers Experience
4,80
Delivery
4,90
Support
4,70
Price
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
4,70
Writers Experience
4,70
Delivery
4,60
Support
4,60
Price
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
4,80
Writers Experience
4,50
Delivery
4,40
Support
4,10
Price
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

As mentioned England was in bad condition. The literature of the period was influenced by the writings of the classical poets such as Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. They tend to return Classical Period.The restoration Period was marked by an advance in colonization and overseas trade, by Dutch wars, by the great plague and the great fire of London, by the Whig and Tory parties and by the Popish plot.

Mock? heroic, written in an ironically grand style that is comically incongruous with the ‘low’ or trivial subject treated. This adjective is commonly applied to mock epics, but serves also for works or parts of works using the same comic method in various forms other than that of the full? cale mock? epic poem. Heroic couplet is a traditional form for English poetry, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry. It refers to poems constructed from sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. The rhyme is always masculine used in the heroic couplet first pioneered by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Legend Of Good Women and The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is also widely credited with first extensive use of iambic pentameter. The mock heroic style was popular in the Post-Restoration.MacFlecknoe” traces its “hero’s rise to stupidity in verse deliberately mimicking the style of and alluding to the Aeneid and other epics.

Like the Odyssey, it starts in a kind of Olympus, only it’s the realm of Nonsense, until recently ruled by Flecknoe. The dying king of dullness searches for a successor and, by virtue of his vices (as it were) MacFlecknoe (Shadwell) gets the nod. The rest of the poem develops by a pattern of mock praise of poetic vices wherein “success” is failure and the slightest deviation from the stultifying norm is a clear sign that somebody’s got poetic talent. MacFlecknoe” is the mocking Scottish form for “son-of-Flecknoe,” and the character stands for Thomas Shadwell, whose pretention to be taken for the inheritor of Ben Jonson’s poetic tradition Dryden skewers by making him the son of Richard Flecknoe, a poet even Shadwell would see was d ull. Other characters represent contemporary or recent poets (Heywood, Decker, Shirley, Fletcher), or they are allegorical, part of the epic “machinery of the gods” by which Dryden mocks Shadwell, making him inherit the throne of Nonesense. John Dryden’s “Mac Flecknoe” – is a poem in the mock-heroic tradition.Written in about 1678, “Mac Flecknoe” is the outcome of a series of disagreements between Thomas Shadwell and Dryden. Their quarrel blossomed from the following disagreements: “1) their different estimates of the genius of Ben Jonson, 2) the preference of Dryden for comedy of wit and repartee and of Shadwell, the chief disciple of Jonson, for humors comedy, 3) a sharp disagreement over the true purpose of comedy, 4) contention over the value of rhymed plays, and 5) plagiarism.

Flecknoe comprehends that it is time for his departure as he has for long reigned over the realms of dullness beginning his tenure like Augustus at an early age.The first two lines are an ostentatious platitude on the transience of Life; how Fate eventually wins over the former. The only common aspect between Flecknoe and Augustus was that both of them began to rule young; the insignificance of Flecknoe is contrasted against the huge stature of Augustus, in keeping with the mock -heroic tradition.

Flecknoe was indubitably the undisputed King of Dullness in the realms of prose and verse. He has produced a large number of dunces and now seriously contemplates over a successor. Flecknoe pitches on Shadwell owing to a persistent dullness right from his literary infancy.There is a Biblical allusion as to how God created man in his own image. Again following the mock-heroic tradition the grandeur of God is contrasted against the conformed stupidity of Shadwell The other dunces have occasionally showed flashes of genius while Shadwell has consistently exemplified his expertise in the field of dullness.

While others may create something intelligible once in a while, Shadwell never deviates from his record-his graph has been steady and consistent for dullness. Subsequently, the poet goes on to gibe at the corpulence of Thomas Shadwell with not too much of sarcasm. Dryden mocks at Shadwell’s idiocy.The man blocks the whole of vision with his huge structure. The imposing structure comes across as a huge oak that is monotonous and insensate. Just as the oak blocks the rays of the sun, Shadwell permits no enlightment of minds. As per Dryden, Shirley and Heywood were insignificant and loquacious. They utilized words extensively without communicating any real sense.

Nevertheless, Shadwell overshadowed them in their talent for verbosity. He thereby has earned himself the much coveted title of “the prophet of Tautology”. Flecknoe is ecstatic at the fact though he is greater in absurdity than Shirley and Heywood, Shadwell has outdone them all.

Verging on blasphemy, Mac Flecknoe likens himself to St. John the Baptist who arrived before Jesus to pave the way for the Saviour. Likewise, the advent of Flecknoe is merely a prelude to the heralding of the ultimate epitome of Dullness, Shadwell. Dryden also satirizes Shadwell’s poetic and musical pretensions. A cacophony (dissonance) is superior to Shadwell’s noise,says the speaker.

Shadwell penned the play called Epsom Wells, but the line “Such a fellow as he deserves to be tossed in a blanket” occurs in Shadwell’s Virtuoso. Arion was the renowned magician of Cornith.Once as he returned from a musical extravaganza, sailors robbed him of his belongings and cast him into the sea. The melodious music that he played on his lute allured the dolphins and they steered him back to safety. Shadwell could only reproduce squeaks and roars. The thick-skinned people came to laud the so-called musician.

The scum(sedimentary waste) came to cheer him just as tiny fishes rushed in for fragments of food thrown to them. With affected encomium, Dryden contests that Shadwell had a better timing than the St. Andre, the French master. His troop participated in Shadwell’s’ opera,”The Psyche”.Dryden asserts that the troop’s performance was out of rhythm owing to the unnecessary feet in Shadwell’s lines. Shadwell’s conducting of the choir was totally out of tune. Dryden showers praises on Shadwell for the extra -feet included in his poem. In an ironic tone, Dryden claims that “The Psyche” was such a masterpiece in tautology that Singleton, the actor grew green with envy.

He always enacted the role of Villerus in the lute and the sword scenes of Davenant’s play”The Siege of Rhodes”. He was now convinced that the play was worthless in comparison to Shadwell’s psyche.It was futile to be an actor any longer. Thus he disparages in the guise of praise (and employs a satiric tone in the process).

Dryden then goes on to describe Mac Flecknoe’s coronation. As he mentions the ‘nursery’, he refe rs to a theatre in Golden Home in 1664 to train children for the stage. Good plays were never performed here. It was ludicrous to find little boys and girls playing out the parts of kings and queens. The nursery comes across as a tribute to wretched playwrights.

The language employed is also deplorable. It verges merely on puns and verbosity.As the whole of London prepared themselves to welcome the coronation of Shadwell Instead of the red carpet, worthless works were strewn on the pathway in order to honour him. Dryden parodies the scene in Book V of the Aeneid where Aeneas declared to his followers that in the event of his death his son Ascanius would succeed him .

Dryden goes on to describe Shadwell that clouds of dark ignorance formed a halo around his head. The brows were thick with fogs of idiocy. Shadwell pledges that he will venture industriously to promote and support insipidness.

Like Hannibal vowed to remain an enemy of Rome, he declared to be the arch rival of good sense. Just as Homilcar forced h is son to take the oath, Flecknoe asks his son to swear. Kings often hold a ball and scepter as the emblem of sovereignity. Here, Shadwell is provided with a mug of ale, and a copy of Flecknoe’s deplorable play “Love’s Kingdom”. Dryden mocks at Shadwell’s alcoholic tendencies ,and his sexual expoilts.

Flecknoe, the celibate and his illegitimate son can only verge on degrading comments and abortive issues like the ale.In his other hand, instead of the scepter, he is equipped with “love’s kingdom” that connotes the female genitalia. The birth of psyche reinforces this aspect. As Shadwell’s artistic endeavors are termed as abortive’, he is deemed to have all the features of a woman. It functions as a response to Shadwell’s taunt: “An old gelt mastiff has more mirth than thou.

” Flecknoe adorns Shadwell with a sheath of poppies hinting at Shadwell’s addictive tendencies to opium. It also hints at the sleep-inducing merit of his monotonous works. Going back to his mock-heroic traditions, he asserts that Rome was named by Remus and Romulus.As a dispute ensued between them, they appealed to the Omens.

As Romulus saw twelve vultures, where Remus only six, Romulus attained the distinction of naming the city. The speaker here brings twelve owls, the birds of Zeus ,a symbol of ill-omen instead of vultures. The next lines reveal Flecknoe blessing his son.

Let success allow others to produce better works. Shadwell will follow Flecknoe and produce more and more literary abortions. They are feminine in character, and are sterile .

Only that they have feminine instinctive feelings. As potent ale issues forth urine, Virtuoso and Psyche are revealed to be tedious volumes of excrete.Intelligent playwrights often introduce fools in their plays to exemplify the author’s genius. Nevertheless, Shadwell’s characters illustrate the author’s stupidity. They are the best evidences of Shadwell’s stupidity. The only distinguishing factor between him and them are their names.

Shadwell was often charged with plagiarism. Particularly, he borrowed from the plays of Sedley. This adulterates his unalloyed stupidity that Flecknoe regards superior to all. Shadwell,therefore, must not rely on others, but solely depend on his spontaneous idiocy that sets him apart.

Shadwell and Ben Jonson had nothing in common but rotundity. Jonson never rose to absurd heights. Shadwell should not imitate Ben Jonson as his works were artistically sound. Flecknoe affirms that Shadwell is truly his own child.

It appears as though one dunce advocates another. Nevertheless, the stolen passages stand out conspicuously bringing out the considerable differences between both the writings. Shadwell should be proud for his dry, verbose, sleep-inducing verses. While his tragedies provoked laughter, his comedies were soporific. He always produces the opposite effect rather than the intended one.

However, in spite of himself, though the speaker endeavours to be satirical in approach, it turns out to be harmless and shallow. Shadwell was the superior writer of comedies as compared to Dryden in reality. If Shadwell really wanted to attain fame he should contest in the field of low -level and stupid idioms. Flecknoe advises Shadwell not to pen plays, but engage in shallow humour, pseudo-wit and dull expressions. The poet uses another mock-heroic feature. In the Bible (II Kings, ch:2;11-17) Elijah leaves his mantle to Elisha as he ascends towards his heaven. Thereby Elisha was endowed with the gift of prophesy.Similarly, Flecknoe conferred his mantle of dullness upon Shadwell as he descended to hell.

The term “prophet’s part” probably means “father’s part”. Nevertheless, the poem ends with an offensiv e ’fart’ as the concluding note. Satiric Perspective in John Dryden’s “Mac Flecknoe” In the poem “Mac Flecknoe,” John Dryden’s contempt for his literary contemporaries practically drips from every word. However, the effect of this arouses neither anger nor sympathy in the reader, but laughter.

How can such serious intentions produce such a seemingly inappropriate response? The answer is through satire.Satire employs wit and humor as a device of ridicule by transforming the meanings of words. Specifically, a sudden imbalance in diction triggers a sense of confusion as the reader struggles to place familiar words within an unusual context.

What was once respectable becomes disreputable; what was once praised becomes condemned. As the new meanings of the words become clear, the realization of the mockery produces laughter. However, satire is much more than a means of slandering under the guise of humor. Indeed, few would appreciate the humor in defamation executed for its own sake.Rather, satire is amusing because the new meanings of words expose a formerly unnoticed, insightful truth about the old. For example, “Mac Flecknoe” undeniably ridicules, in particular, the literary ability and accomplishments of the restoration playwright, Thomas Shadwell. However, it also ridicules the underlying literary values that qualify Shadwell’s ability as a source of praise. Specifically, by intermingling the registers of royalty and religion with the low diction of stupidity and tautology, John Dryden’s satiric perspective both makes us laugh and reveals the absurdity of the literary values of his society.

The imbalance in diction between registers of royalty and stupidity and its multiple satiric effects can be shown through an analysis of Dryden’s introduction of Shadwell through his “father” Flecknoe, and his description of Shadwell’s future kingdom. The poem begins by describing the succession of a monarchy in a tone akin to an epic masterpiece. However, instead of the praise and admiration we would expect of an Odysseus-like hero, “the aged prince” Flecknoe proclaims that his successor “should only rule, who most resembles me: / Sh—- alone my perfect image bears, / Mature in dullness from his tender years.

Sh—- alone, of all my sons, is he, / Who stands confirmed in full stupidity” (lines 14 – 18). In these lines the combination of the words “perfect” and “mature” with “dullness” and “stupidity” effectively transforms the values of the former, and this is what creates the humorous effect. The reader expects the hero who succeeds to a crown to be endowed with qualities of perfection and maturity, especially in the context of an epic poem. However, within the context of this poem, dullness and stupidity take on the register of royalty: they are now the admirable traits of a King.The sudden imbalance in diction of these words surprises the reader, and, aware of their original meanings, the absurd new definitions produce laughter. Although the example above showed how the imbalance of diction associated with the register of royalty causes a humorous effect, Dryden’s satire of royalty throughout the poem also communicates a broader commentary on the literary values of his society. This is especially shown in the description of Shadwell’s future Kingdom.According to Dryden, prostitution and bad writing characterize Shadwell’s realm.

Here, “amidst this monument of vanished minds,” Flecknoe “ambitiously designed his Sh—-’s throne. / For ancient Dekker prophesied long since, / That in this pile should reign a mighty prince” (lines 82, 86 – 88). The satiric perspective which transformed the values of the words “perfection” and “dullness” above can also be applied to the words “ambitiously,” “mighty,” and “pile” in this description.Indeed, it seems absurd for a mighty prince to aspire to rule a kingdom of brothels, and the image of such a situation is humorous.

However, the deeper satiric meaning becomes clear once it is recognized that Shadwell’s realm is, in reality, a section of London known as Grub Street. In this enclosed section of London, freelance writers make a living selling everything from epitaphs to parliamentary speeches. Through the mockery of Shadwell’s kingdom as this part of London, Dryden ridicules the literary values of a society that make a place such as Grub Street possible.The effect of this on the reader is to rethink the validity of those values, as seen in the light of the satiric humor. The register of royalty is not the only theme exploited by Dryden throughout “Mac Flecknoe” for the sake of humor and the reformation of the values of his contemporary literary audiences. Indeed, just as literary audiences of the restoration had the necessary knowledge of Grub Street that is needed to appreciate the ridicule of it, they would have also found the religious references equally witty.Perhaps the best example of the satiric reversal of values concerning the religious register appears in the description of Shadwell’s coronation ceremony: “From dusty shops neglected authors come, / Martyrs of pies, and relics of the bum” (lines 100-1). Although the incongruency between the words “martyrs” and “pies” and between the words “relics” and “bum” is obvious, the transformation of values in this is case is not to be taken literally.

Rather, the word “martyr” refers to the unsold books that were used to wrap pies and the word “relics” refers to those same unsold books that were used as toilet paper.Given this understanding, the line, “Martyrs of pies, relics of the bum,” is a combination of the highest register, the divine, and the lowest register, human refuse. Thus, in the context of the satire, the humor is derived from the imagery of the unsold books and “neglected authors,” which paved the way for Prince Shadwell’s approach to the throne and were reduced to the contemptible state of pie wrappings and toilet paper.

Although the idea of human waste as a red carpet for a King seems preposterous, it becomes more so when considering the King to be a Messiah.In addition to satirizing the societal values that produced Grub Street, Dryden denounces the values of literary audiences by equating them with followers of the prophet of tautology. Through the voice of Flecknoe, Dryden compares two playwrights of the early seventeenth century, Thomas Heywood and James Shirley, to the figures of Moses and Isaac in that they have prepared the way for the coming of Shadwell: “Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee, / Thou last great prophet of tautology” (29 – 30).In this line Dryden elevates the status of Shadwell by an increase in the diction of a prince to that of a prophet.

However, just as in the context of the satire Shadwell is succeeding to the throne of dullness, so does he take command of the backwards, circular philosophy of tautology as a prophet. In conjunction with Shadwell’s elevation in status, his supporters are satirically transformed from followers of a king of dullness to foll owers of a prophet of nonsensical reasoning. In this way, Dryden broadens the scope of ridicule to include those that, in reality, support Shadwell’s literary achievements.Of course, the purpose of this ridicule is to prompt the reader to reevaluate the soundness of praising a playwright that is not only compared to the prince of dullness, but the prophet of nonsense.

It has been shown through an analysis of the ways in which the registers of religion and royalty combine with the registers of tautology and stupidity, that satire operates by employing humor and wit in order to communicate a deeper meaning. In the poem “Mac Flecknoe,” the element of surprise and a complete transformation of the values of words is what produces humor.The admirable traits of a hero become equated with folly and dullness. Readers of “Mac Flecknoe” find their worlds linguistically turned upside down; princes are turned into dunces and prophets are turned into idiots. Through an unexpected, extreme imbalance in diction, words take on a new meaning of absurdity, creating an inappropriate tone and a morally mutated context of idiocracy. However, it is this very characteristic of transformation and reversal that makes satire so effective in its humor and its message. Through satire, Dryden’s contempt for his literary contemporaries is persuasive ather than foreboding for the reader. Rather than view Dryden as full of malice toward Thomas Shadwell, the reader is prompted to view his or her own literary values from a different, clarifyi ng perspective.

The result is that they come to realize the absurdity of their values, and with seriousness that could only be produced through tone and perspective of humor. Indeed, it is also this same aspect of satire that has caused “Mac Flecknoe” to receive such admiration, even some three hundred years after the poem’s publish.Whereas any writer can slander, to successfully produce a satire requires the skill of a true poet, such as Dryden. John Dryden’s “Mac Flecknoe” In the poem “Mac Flecknoe,” John Dryden’s contempt for his literary contemporaries practically drips from every word.

However, the effect of this arouses neither anger nor sympathy in the reader, but laughter. How can such serious intentions produce such a seemingly inappropriate response? The answer is through satire. Satire employs wit and humor as a device of ridicule by transforming the meanings of words.

Specifically, a sudden imbalance in diction triggers a sense of confusion as the reader struggles to place familiar words within an unusual context. What was once respectable becomes disreputable; what was once praised becomes condemned. As the new meanings of the words become clear, the realization of the mockery produces laughter.

However, satire is much more than a means of slandering under the guise of humor. Indeed, few would appreciate the humor in defamation executed for its own sake. Rather, satire is amusing because the new meanings of words expose a formerly unnoticed, insightful truth about the old.For example, “Mac Flecknoe” undeniably ridicules, in particular, the literary ability and accomplishments of the restoration playwright, Thomas Shadwell. However, it also ridicules the underlying literary values that qualify Shadwell’s ability as a source of praise. Specifically, by intermingling the registers of royalty and religion with the low diction of stupidity and tautology, John Dryden’s satiric perspective both makes us laugh and reveals the absurdity of the literary values of his society. The imbalance in diction etween registers of royalty and stupidity and its multiple satiric effects can be shown through an analysis of Dryden’s introduction of Shadwell through his “father” Flecknoe, and his description of Shadwell’s future kingdom. The poem begins by describing the succession of a monarchy in a tone akin to an epic masterpiece.

However, instead of the praise and admiration we would expect of an Odysseus-like hero, “the aged prince” Flecknoe proclaims that his successor “should only rule, who most resembles me: / Sh—- alone my perfect image bears, / Mature in dullness from his tender years. Sh—- alone, of all my sons, is he, / Who stands confirmed in full stupidity” (lines 14 – 18). In these lines the combination of the words “perfect” and “mature” with “dullness” and “stupidity” effectively transforms the values of the former, and this is what creates the humorous effect. The reader expects the hero who succeeds to a crown to be endowed with qualities of perfection and maturity, especially in the context of an epic poem. However, within the context of this poem, dullness and stupidity take on the register of royalty: they are now the admirable traits of a King.The sudden imbalance in diction of these words surprises the reader, and, aware of their original meanings, the absurd new definitions produce laughter. Although the example above showed how the imbalance of diction associated with the register of royalty causes a humorous effect, Dryden’s satire of royalty throughout the poem al so communicates a broader commentary on the literary values of his society. This is especially shown in the description of Shadwell’s future Kingdom.

According to Dryden, prostitution and bad writing characterize Shadwell’s realm. Here, “amidst this monument of vanished minds,” Flecknoe “ambitiously designed his Sh—-’s throne. / For ancient Dekker prophesied long since, / That in this pile should reign a mighty prince” (lines 82, 86 – 88). The satiric perspective which transformed the values of the words “perfection” and “dullness” above can also be applied to the words “ambitiously,” “mighty,” and “pile” in this description.Indeed, it seems absurd for a mighty prince to aspire to rule a kingdom of brothels, and the image of such a situation is humorous.

However, the deeper satiric meaning becomes clear once it is recognized that Shadwell’s realm is, in reality, a section of London known as Grub Street. In this enclosed section of London, freelance writers make a living selling everything from epitaphs to parliamentary speeches. Through the mockery of Shadwell’s kingdom as this part of London, Dryden ridicules the literary values of a society that make a place such as Grub Street possible.The effect of this on the reader is to rethink the validity of those values, as seen in the light of the satiric humor. The register of royalty is not the only theme exploited by Dryden throughout “Mac Flecknoe” for the sake of humor and the reformation of the values of his contemporary literary audiences. Indeed, just as literary audiences of the restoration had the necessary knowledge of Grub Street that is needed to appreciate the ridicule of it, they would have also found the religious references equally witty.Perhaps the best example of the satiric reversal of values concerning the religious register appears in the description of Shadwell’s coronation ceremony: “From dusty shops neglected authors come, / Martyrs of pies, and relics of the bum” (lines 100-1). Although the incongruency between the words “martyrs” and “pies” and between the words “relics” and “bum” is obvious, the transformation of values in this is case is not to be taken literally.

Rather, the word “martyr” refers to the unsold books that were used to wrap pies and the word “relics” refers to those same unsold books that were used as toilet paper.Given this understanding, the line, “Martyrs of pies, relics of the bum,” is a combination of the highest register, the divine, and the lowest register, human refuse. Thus, in the context of the satire, the humo r is derived from the imagery of the unsold books and “neglected authors,” which paved the way for Prince Shadwell’s approach to the throne and were reduced to the contemptible state of pie wrappings and toilet paper. Although the idea of human waste as a red carpet for a King seems preposterous, it becomes more so when considering the King to be a Messiah.

In addition to satirizing the societal values that produced Grub Street, Dryden denounces the values of literary audiences by equating them with followe rs of the prophet of tautology. Through the voice of Flecknoe, Dryden compares two playwrights of the early seventeenth century, Thomas Heywood and James Shirley, to the figures of Moses and Isaac in that they have prepared the way for the coming of Shadwell: “Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee, / Thou last great prophet of tautology” (29 – 30).In this line Dryden elevates the status of Shadwell by an increase in the diction of a prince to that of a prophet.

However, just as in the context of the s atire Shadwell is succeeding to the throne of dullness, so does he take command of the backwards, circular philosophy of tautology as a prophet. In conjunction with Shadwell’s elevation in status, his supporters are satirically transformed from followers of a king of dullness to followers of a prophet of nonsensical reasoning.In this way, Dryden broadens the scope of ridicule to include those that, in reality, support reader to reevaluate the soundness of praising a playwright that is not only compared to the prince of dullness, but the prophet of nonsense. It has been shown through an analysis of the ways in which the registers of religion and royalty combine with the registers of tautology and stupidity, that satire operates by employing humor and wit in order to communicate a deeper meaning. In the poem “Mac Flecknoe,” the element of surprise and a complete transformation of the values of words is what produces humor.

The admirable traits of a hero become equated with folly and dullness. Readers of “Mac Flecknoe” find their worlds linguistically turned upside down; princes are turned into dunces and prophets are turned into idiots. Through an unexpected, extreme imbalance in diction, words take on a new meaning of absurdity, creating an inappropriate tone and a morally mutated context of idiocracy. However, it is this very characteristic of transformation and reversal that makes satire so effective in its humor and its message.

Through satire, Dryden’s contempt for his literary contemporaries is persuasive rather than foreboding for the reader. Rather than view Dryden as full of malice toward Thomas Shadwell, the reader is prompted to view his or her own literary values from a different, clarifying perspective. The result is that they come to realize the absurdity of their values, and with seriousness that could only be produced through tone and perspective of humor. Indeed, it is also this same aspect of satire that has caused “Mac Flecknoe” to receive such dmiration, even some three hundred years after the poem’s publish. Whereas any writer can slander, to successfully produce a satire requires the skill of a true poet, such as Dryden Dryden, “Mac Flecknoe” If it isn’t too presumptious to make a statement about the entire age of the poetic style, I think the heroic couple gained popularity with the English poets because it was reminscent of classic epic poetry. On one hand, the evocation of the classics lent a sense of grandeur to the newly reinstated monarchy and the start of an empire.Yet the simplicity of the style (as opposed to the more rigid sonnets for instance) yields a mocking tone to the hopeful poet who dares to compare the present situation wi th the mightGreek/Romanempires.

Like Dryden’s “Annus Mirabilis” invokes the image of a phoenix amidst the rubble and debris left after the Great Fire of London. While the patriotic intent is commendable, there is so much enthusiam in the hope for the bright future that it induces skeptism in the earnestness of the poet.The heroic couplet contributes to the grand feeling of rebirth, while the iambic pentameter and masculine rhymes make the reading sing -song, which in turns gives the view of the future childish and naive air. In “Mac Flecknoe,” Dryden uses the heroic couplet to satirize Shadwell by giving the poem an authentic, actual historic air. All the words seem to profess the succession of a worthy heir, “and when fate summons, manarchs must obey,” that is all except the keyword in the sentence.Lines 15 and 16 show that the successor is most like the aged prince and mature in his tender years which is akin to historic precedence, but inserts “mature in dullness” to insult Shadwell. The heroic couplet works well for this because like the previous poem we read, the sing-song aspect of the poem was important in the oratory epics that reminds of empires and gods, and the tradition of passing history through poetry gives a somewhat similar authenticity to poem.

Then again, the vocabulary makes it very obvious that the heroic couplet is used more for its reminder of simplicity rather than the historic appeal.All human things are subject to decay, and when fate summons, monarchs must obey[2] Written about 1678, but not published until 1682 (see 1682 in poetry), “Mac Flecknoe” is the outcome of a series of disagreements between Thomas Shadwell and Dryden. Their quarrel blossomed from the following disagreements: “1) their different estimates of the genius of Ben Jonson, 2) the preference of Dryden for comedy of wit and repartee and of Shadwell, the chief disciple of Jonson, for humors comedy, 3) a sharp disagreement over the true purpose of comedy, 4) contention over the value of rhymed plays, and 5) plagiarism. [3] Shadwell fancied himsel f heir to Ben Jonson and to the variety of comedy which the latter had commonly written. Shadwell’s poetry was certainly not of the same standard as Jonson’s, and it is possible that Dryden wearied of Shadwell’s argument that Dryden undervalued Jonson. Shadwell and Dryden were separated not only by literary grounds but also by political ones as Shadwell was a Whig, while Dryden was an outspoken supporter of the Stuart monarchy.The poem illustrates Shadwell as the heir to a kingdom of poetic dullness, repre sented by his association with Richard Flecknoe, an earlier poet Dryden disliked, but Dryden does not use belittling techniques to satirize him. The multiplicity of allusions to 17th Century literary works and to classic Greek and Roman literature with which the poem is riddled, demonstrates Dryden’s complex approach to satire, and the fact that he satirizes his own work as well shows his mastery over and respect towards the mock-heroic style in which the poem is written.

The poem begins in the tone of an epic masterpiece, presenting Shadwell’s defining characteristic as dullness, just as every epic hero has a defining characteristic: Odysseus’s is cunning; Achilles’s is wrath; the hero of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is of holiness; whilst Satan in Paradise Lost has the defining characteristic of pride. Thus, Dryden subverts the theme of the defining characteristic by giving Shadwell a negative characteristic as is only virtue. Dryden uses the mock-heroic through his use of the heightened language of the epic to treat the trivial subjects such as poorly written and largely dismissible poetry. The juxtaposition of the lofty style with unexpected nouns such as ‘dullness’ provides an ironic contrast and makes the satiric point by the obvious disparity.

In this, it works at the verbal level, with the language being carried by strong compelling rhythms and rhymes.Unlike Absalom and Achitophel and its offshoot The Medal, Mac Flecknoe is a purely personal satire in motive and design. Richard Flecknoe was an Irishman, formerly in catholic orders, who (if a note to The Dunciad is to be trusted) had “laid aside the mechanic part of priesthood” to devote himself to literature. It is difficult to understand why (except for the fact that he had been a priest) Dryden should have determined to make this harmless, and occasionally agreeable, writer of verse a type of literary imbecility. 6 Flecknoe must be supposed to have died not long before Dryden wrote his satire, in which the “aged prince” is represented as abdicating his rule over “the realms of Nonsense” in favour of Shadwell.

This humorous fancy forms the slight action of the piece, which terminates with a mock catastrophe suggested by one of Shadwell’s own comedies. Thus, with his usual insight, Dryden does not make any attempt to lengthen out what is in itself one of the most successful examples of the species — the mock heroic—which it introduced into English literature.Pope, as is well known, derived the idea of his Dunciad from Mac Flecknoe; but, while the later poem assumed the proportions of an elaborate satire against a whole tribe of dunces as well as against one egregious dunce, Dryden’s is a jeu d’esprit, though one brilliant enough to constitute an unanswerable retort upon unwarrantable provocation. Slight as it is, Mac Flecknoe holds a place of its own among Dryden’s masterpieces in English satirical poetry