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Mac Flecknoe

By John Dryden

The first edition of Mac Flecknoe appeared in 1682 but the badness of the text makes it unlikely that it was authorized by Dryden. The present text follows that of the "authorized edition" first published in Miscellany Poems, 1684. The sub-title, "A Satire upon the True-blue Protestant Poet T.S.", refers to Thomas Shadwell.

Thomas Shadwell
Shadwell was a staunch adherent of the Earl of Shaftesbury, and Dryden's dislike of his Whiggish opinions is sufficiently indicated in the title-page to this poem. Shadwell answered Dryden's attack on Shaftesbury in The Medall with an abusive satire entitled The Medal of John Bayes, published in May, 1682; Mac Flecknoe appeared in about October of the same year. Dryden also pilloried Shadwell in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel.

Richard Flecknoe
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.

The realms of Non-sense

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. Flecknoe must be supposed to have died (d. 1678) not long before Dryden wrote his satire, in which the aged prince is represented as abdicating his rule over the realms of Non-sense in favour of Shadwell.

Satire and mock heroic

Satire: to make fun of sb./sth. in the hope of improvement, but Mac Flecknoe seems a personal attack. Satire/ humor (Swift, Pope, Mark Twain) Tone: sharper in satire, gentle in humor Techniques used: irony, mock-epic (mock heroic) Mock heroic: uses grand style & exalted lang. to talk sth. trivial, low, mean, or absurd (at least sth. unimportant); low content with high style.

mock heroic
Mock heroic: A satirical imitation or burlesque of the heroic manner or style. Mac Flecknoe assumed the proportions of an elaborate satire against a whole tribe of dunces as well as against one egregious dunce, Drydens is a jeu desprit, 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 Drydens masterpieces in English satirical poetry.

This humorous fancy forms the slight action of the piece, which terminates with a mock catastrophe suggested by one of Shadwells 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 speciesthe mock heroicwhich it introduced into English literature.

Buskins and socks

74 The Nursery, a theatrical school for training boys and girls for the stage, was established in 1662. 79-80 Buskins and socks are symbols respectively of tragedy and comedy, associated here with the Elizabethan playwrights John Fletcher and Ben Jonson.