After many years as ruler, however, it comes time for him to step down. Ultimately, he chooses his son Thomas Shadwell, a poet of unparalleled dreadfulness, as his successor. Shadwell is the worst writer in all the land, and thus, the perfect man for the job. Upon arriving in the city of August a. London , Shadwell is crowned king of the realm of nonsense. Dryden shows his cards from the get-go, informing us that this poem is intended as satire.

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The first line of the poem creates the illusion of its being an epic poem about a historical hero. The next lines talk about Mac Flecknoe , a monarch who instead of ruling an empire, rules over the realm of Nonsense. The king is old and thus must choose a successor to his throne. Dryden wonders whether the king will chose a poet who has talent and wit or if he will choose someone like him, a man with no literary talent.

Flecknoe decides upon his son Shadwell, a man with no talent and who is tedious, stupid, and always at war with wit. Shadwell is also described as a very corpulent man. Inside those places, real drama does not exist; only simple plays are welcome. It is clear that in this environment, Shadwell will rule over those who have no literary talent. The descriptions Dryden offers only serve the purpose of highlighting the incompetency of Shadwell and create the image of a fool ruling over peasants.

As the coronation begins, Dryden describes the streets as filled with the limbs of other poets, suggesting that Shadwell managed to get a hold on his position at the expense of talented writers.

After the crown is placed on his head, Shadwell sits on the throne and the former king prepares to give the cheering crowd a speech. The former king begins by presenting the land over which the new king will rule, a territory where no one lives.

Flecknoe urges his son to remain true to his writing and to not let anyone make any changes in his work. Flecknoe concludes by exhorting his son not to focus on real plays but rather to work on acrostics or anagrams. His last words are cut off and he sinks below the stage.


Mac Flecknoe Summary

The rest to some faint meaning make pretence, But Shadwell never deviates into sense. Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee, Thou last great prophet of tautology: Even I, a dunce of more renown than they, Was sent before but to prepare thy way; And coarsely clad in Norwich drugget came To teach the nations in thy greater name. Methinks I see the new Arion sail, The lute still trembling underneath thy nail. About thy boat the little fishes throng, As at the morning toast, that floats along. Here stopt the good old sire; and wept for joy In silent raptures of the hopeful boy. All arguments, but most his plays, persuade, That for anointed dullness he was made. From its old ruins brothel-houses rise, Scenes of lewd loves, and of polluted joys.


Mac Flecknoe

Mac Flecknoe is both a personal and literary satire. Dryden presents Shadwell as a dull poetaster, a corpulent man and a plagiarist. He decided to avenge himself on Shadwell and Dryden fully revenged himself by the publication of Mac Flecknoe in Mac Flecknoe is the first substantial mock-heroic poem and Thomas Shadwell is the hero of this epic. The name of his kingdom is Nonsense.

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