Mac Flecknoe Essays

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John Dryden's MacFlecknoe is one of the finest satires in the English language. It was Neo-classical period in English literature and Dryden, along with another brilliant satirist Alexander Pope, was the power who dominated the literary scene.  Satire was the most popular form of poetry and both Dryden and pope were great masters of this poetic genre.
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Mac Flecknoe is the product of a literary and personal rivalry.  The poem was Dryden's reply to Thomas Shadwell's poem.  The Medal of John Bayes which in turn was a criticism of Dryden's earlier poem.  The Medal. Shadwell's poem was an unfair and indecent attack.  This provoked Dryden and he brought out mac Flecknoe that silenced his adversary.

            Dryden's satirical genius is fully revealed in the poem.  It is a satire on Thomas Shadwell.  Who was once a friend of Dryden.

            Mac Flecknoe is ready to vacate his tile as the world's worst poet.  A worthy successor has to be chosen.  The choice falls on Shadwell. The coronation takes place in Barbican, London suburb notorious for its low and vulgar life.  The events are presented in an absurd ridiculous manner.
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            Dryden uses allusions, paradies and quotations profusely to ridicule the great hero of the poem.

            The gross stupidity of Shadwell is highlighted from the beginning of all the sons of Flecknoe, he Shadwell is dullest and therefore by nature the fittest to succeed his father.  His stupidity is of such comprehensive nature that the rest to some faint meaning make pretense.  But Shadwell never deviates into sense.  Shadwell is described as a giant of a man, but a pygmy intellectually.  Thus Nature designed him to be the great monarch of dullness.  Flecknoe himself was the king of the kingdom of dullness.  He says he was only a John the Baptist preparing the way to the great Jesus Christ. 

            Irony is the most potent weapon Dryden wields in his literary warfare.  Shadwell's enormous stupidity is highlighted throughout the poem.  The man's corpulence, his mountain belly and his addiction to opium are referred to.  Apart from this attack on his adversaries personal attributes, Dryden uses, most of the poem to criticise the 'poetic talents' of his rival.
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            Mac Flecknoe is designed to be a mock heroic poem.  So the interest is always focused on this aspect.

            Mock-heroic poetry employs a satirical devise in which the great ad the silly are brought together and compared.  This way the absurd nonsensical effect is largely increased.  For this purpose Dryden has chosen events and characters from the Bible and ancient history.  Shadwell is selected and put n the throne of stupidity in a coronation which is described in detail.  It is as if the audience is witnessing the coronation of a great king who is destined to rule a vast empire.  The poem ends drawing a parallel to the Biblical story of the mantle of Elijah falling on the shoulders of Elisha giving him a double portion of his sire's prophetic spirit.



Mac Flecknoe

1091 WordsSep 14th, 20115 Pages

Sashanka S. Das, 4028, B.A. (H), English, IInd year
Q. Write on John Dryden’s ‘Mac Flecknoe’ as a satire.
A. John Dryden’s Mac Flecknoe, as part of his corpus of satirical verse, is a short piece, and not as overtly political as, say, Absalom and Achitophel. It does aim to censure through indirect ridicule rather than direct condemnation, but, being a censorious poem directed specifically at an individual subject, Dryden’s literary rival Thomas Shadwell, it seems more a lampoon, as defined in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, than a proper, high satire. The object of this essay will be, therefore, to locate Mac Flecknoe, in the tradition of late 17th-century satire. Mac Flecknoe revolves around the succession of Richard…show more content…

Michael Seidel calls this assertion that “bad art is bad succession” the greatest satirical strength of Mac Flecknoe. The subtitle of the poem, which calls Shadwell a “True-Blew Protestant Poet”, introduces the issue of Protestant-Catholic tensions, and through association, makes radical Protestantism “a code for vulgar art”. The three main issues that Mac Flecknoe deals with are thus established to be literature, politics and religion. Dryden had idealized a satiric structure of one main argument, with others complementing it, in his Discourse Concerning the Origin and Progress of Satire, and so he makes Shadwell’s literary character the foremost concern of Mac Flecknoe, with the other two underlying it. The chosen idiom for its mockery is that of the mock-heroic; the familiar panegyric use of the heroic style is turned to satiric purposes. From the sententious opening couplet onward, the mock-heroic conception of the poem is clear. Dryden goes about “comparing small men to giants” – Flecknoe is compared to Augustus Caesar, John the Baptist and the prophet Elijah, and Shadwell to Arion, Ascanius, Romulus, Elisha and even Christ. These, and other instances of dignified, laudatory imagery, are used in the most undignified contexts, and as praises of the most unflattering characteristics. The use of the heroic couplet is central to this: its structure allows the sharp, ironical comparison of the solemn and the

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