Mac Flecknoe Dryden

Mac Flecknoe Dryden


Mac Flecknoe Dryden
Mac Flecknoe Dryden

‘Mac Flecknoe’ is one of the most famous satires. It is a poem written in mock epic style by Dryden. The satire is significant for being a personal attack by one poet on another. Dryden wrote this poem as a personal attack on another of the famous poets of his time, Thomas Shadwell.

In the poem, Dryden has presented Shadwell as the heir to the kingdom of poetic dullness. Dryden has attacked even Shadwell’s physical appearance by presenting him as a plump person. his personal opposition to Shadwell’s political views also get reflected in the poem despite that the poem does not have political elements in it.

Richard Flecknoe was another poet whom Dryden disliked. In the poem, he talks about the occasion when Flecknoe was looking for the heir to succeed his kingdom of dullness and nonsense. Dryden has presented Shadwell as the dullest son of Flecknoe. He presents the situation depicting Shadwell’s coronation in an apparent seriousness. Using the mock-heroic style, he uses elevated language to write about ridiculous facts he attaches to Shadwell’s personality. He says that at the time of his coronation, Shadwell took an oath to devote his skills throughout his life to the maintenance of dullness.

Mac Flecknoe Dryden
John Dryden

Dryden does not satisfy in stating that Shadwell’s comedies give rise to sadness and tragedies to laughter. He even states Shadwell to be a plagiarist.

Shadwell had been quite fond of considering himself an heir to Ben Jonson. Dryden ridicules him for this as well. He says that unlike Johnson who was a learned man, Shadwell is stupid and lacks common sense utterly. He says that Shadwell is unable to satirize the persons whom he aims in his satires.

ANALYSIS – Mac Flecknoe Dryden

Many critics do not agree with Dryden about the true worth of Shadwell as a literary artist. Many consider him to be a worthy comic dramatist. However, Dryden has ridiculed every aspect of Shadwell’s personality. Moreover, he has even ridiculed another poet he disliked by connecting him to Shadwell establishing similarities in their artistic skills. Although Dryden has been quite spiteful in ridiculing Shadwell, he has not been coarse.


Mac Flecknoe Dryden. The poem displays a perfect use of mock-heroic style. The tone of the poem seems to be very serious. The language used for the description of characters and events is highly elevated. Heavy adjectives have been used to describe the qualities of the protagonist of the poem. But, all this has been done with the sole purpose of making the ridicule hurled on Shadwell to be more effective. Dryden has been able to give rise to comic effect as well by exhibiting mock graveness in making fun of Shadwell.

Dryden has used multiple allusions in the poem. He has alluded to some classical works as well as some works belonging to the 17th century. The seriousness he has shown towards maintaining the quality of his language and ideas through the poem as well as the allusions he has used show the value Dryden attached to satire as a genre.

Dryden does not leave anything to the imagination of the reader regarding the extent to which he disliked Shadwell. Mac Flecknoe’s father says that his reign will be as distended as his son’s body. So, Dryden did not hesitate even a bit in attacking the physical appearance of Shadwell.


The poem was written in 1678. However, it got published in 1682.

It is a 217 line poem. It has been written in heroic couplet.

The direct reason that inspired Dryden to devote such a thorough effort to ridiculing Shadwell was a poem written by Shadwell earlier. Shadwell had written ‘Medal of John Bayes’ in response to Dryden’s ‘The Medal’. The former was a satire on Dryden’s poem and inspired Dryden’s reaction in the form of ‘Mac Flecknoe’.

Dryden also had disagreements with Shadwell over some general issues. He has addressed all these issues in the poem like Shadwell’s support to Ben Jonson’s ‘comedy of humors’ unlike Dryden who preferred comedy based on wit; difference in their respective views about Jonson; Shadwell’s supposed involvement in plagiarism; their varying views regarding the true purpose of comedy; and, difference in their views regarding the value of rhymed plays.

Further Reading