Mac Flecknoe as a Satire

9 September 2016

Brower (1959) comments him that the whole account of poetic composition indicates clearly that Dryden sought for intellectual strength and rational precision in form. This indication is found as well in Mac Flecknoe. Dryden’s role as a poetic prophet to his literary society is emphasized through his use of satirical form. Its disparity and humour display “true wit,” the aim of any seventeenth century author. Mac Flecknoe represents the popularity of satire during Dryden’s day.

Clarence Hugh Holman and William Harmon define satire as “a literary manner that blends a critical attitude with humor and wit for the purpose of improving human institutions or humanity” (447). This literary convention, known for its use of clever and unusual conceit, seeks to both inform and educate readers about social decorum and moral values. About the poem (MacFlecknoe) Oliver Gold Smith in his article The Beauties of English Poetry (1967), as it is quoted by Wheatly writes: The severenity of this satire, and the excellence of its versification give it a distinguished rank in this species of composition.

Mac Flecknoe as a Satire Essay Example

At present, an ordinary reader would scarcely suppose that Shadwell, who is here meant by MacFlecknoe, was worth being chastised, and that Dryden, descending to such game, was like an JIBS (Jurnal Ilmu Bahasa dan Sastra) Vol. 1/ Nomor 2/ Juli – Desember 2001 127 eagle stooping to catch flies. The truth however is, Shadwell at one time held divided reputation with this great poet. Every age produces its fashionable dances, who, by following the transcient topic or humor of the day, supply talkative ignorance with materials for conversation. Wheatly, 1967: 161). zsdbn holding up vice or folly to ridicule or lampooning individuals.

The use of ridicule, irony, sarcasm, etc. , in speech or writing for the ostensible purpose of exposing and discourage vice or folly. ” Such a work uses the elevated style of the classical epic poem such as The Iliad to satirize human follies. A mock epic pretends that a person, a place, a thing, or an idea is extraordinary when—in the author’s view—it is actually insignificant and trivial. For example, a mock epic about an inconsequential U. S. resident such as Millard Fillmore might compare him to such rulers as Pericles, Julius Caesar, Saladin, Louis XIV, and George Washington. ……. In writing “Mac Flecknoe,” John Dryden imitated not only the characteristics of Homer’s epics but also those of later writers such asVirgil, Dante, and Milton. In its opening lines of MacFlecknoe introduce Flecknoe who is comparable to emperor Augustus who has power in the realms of nonsense. The faculty of the poet in creating satire is on his giving value on any element that he considers valueless.

Dryden praises Richard Flecknoe for his ignorance in poetic world. In John Dryden and His Satire MacFlecknoe (Joseph Supardjana) 128 this condition he decides to settle the question of succession. While looking for a successor he has decided on Shadwell who must reign. The reason is, it is Shadwell who can imitate the bad poetry Richard Flecknoe had written. This idea is in line with the following lines of MacFlecnoe. ’tis resolv’d; for nature pleads that he Should only rule, who most resembles me: “Sh….. lone my perfect image bears,Mature in dullness from his tender years. Sh….. alone of all my sons, is he Who stands confirm’d n full stupidity” MacFlecknoe can be read as a satire directed against a representative of what Dryden perceived as a bad poet or dramatist. He stands for dullness and fog as opposed to sharp wit. He is the king of mediocrity. The poem is also a commentary the on Art and its’ relation to Nature. Dryden saw Art as “Nature’s handmaid”, that is, true Art should imitate nature as closely as possible.

The flaw of MacFlecknoe’s poetry is that it is unnatural – poetry doesn’t flow naturally from his pen – his creative process is compared to labouring – he threshes out forced metric lines: “thy Paper in thy Thrashing-Hand”. Even the music in his plays is antithetical to nature: “The Treble squeaks doe fear, the Bases Rore;” Thus, Shadwell’s work is not true art because it is not a mirror of nature. 1 Part of this conception of a non-masculine and unnatural art emerges in images of pregnancy or fertility which do not result in creative output – what Dryden calls “Pangs without birth, and fruitless Industry”. ) Historically speaking Flecknoe assumed the throne as King of Nonsense. .When the time comes for him to choose which of his sons is worthy to succeed him and “wage immortal war with wit” (line 12), Flecknoe decides that the son most like him should receive the honor. That son is Thomas Shadwell, who has been “mature in dullness from his tender years” (line 16) and is the only one of his offspring who stands “confirm’d in full stupidity” (line 18). ……. So Shadwell inherits the throne as Mac Flecknoe (son of Flecknoe). …….

Shadwell is so witless (and, therefore, perfect for the throne) that he does no more thinking than a monarch oak shading a plain. There are others with similar virtues, such as Heywood and Shirley. However, other writers are no match for Shadwell—not even his father. True, Flecknoe was a renowned dunce, but he was merely a harbinger, a forerunner, to prepare the way for the ultimate dunce, his son. Nitwit writers who came before Shadwell occasionally displayed the dimmest glimmer of intelligence. But Shadwell never wrote a line that made any sense.

The proud father of Shadwell hopes that his son’s domain will one day encompass all the earth and that he will produce new dull plays to delight the dimwitted. “The people cry’d amen,” the narrator says. Satire focus rather on those things which we can correct in order to be better than we are. It invites us to scorn the target in order to spurn that activity,so is seen in Mac Flecknoe when Dryden mocks at Shadwell. At the basis of every good traditional satire is a sense of moral outrage or indignation.

Dryden found an inordinate reliance on the idea of Humours to be crippling to the art of characterization in dramaturgy. He found an antipathy to the use of Wit and quick repartee an equivalent to dullness and fogginess which are prevalent throughout the poem in descriptions of Flecknoe and MacFlecknoe. They are “scourge of Wit, and flayle of Sense”, and Flecknoe chooses the son “who most resembles [him]” to “wage immortal war with Wit” and “Ne’er to have Peace with Wit, nor truce with Sense”, since he perceives Shadwell and his group as adversaries of Wit.

Dryden defines the humors as employed in Shadwell’s plays in the following terms: “A Humour is the Byas of the Mind,By which with violence ‘tis one way inclin’d: It make’s our Actions lean on one side still And in all Changes that way bends the Will. ” Dryden goes on mocking Shadwell by widening the idea of succession. Flecknoe recommends Shadwell to imitate bad dramatist of Elizabethan period, Heywood and Shirley. Dryden names these two dramatists “prophet of tautology” which means perfect imitators. Dryden writes: “Heywood and Shirley were but type 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. “ In MacFlecknoe everything is regarded upside down. The same thing happens to literary world. Shadwell, the worst poet who uses tautologies becomes the successor to the throne of “dullness”. Compared to Heywood, Shirley and Flecknoe, Shadwell is the worst poet who inherits the crown of dullness. Flecknoe supports Shadwell to be his successor by a certain reason. For him, Shadwell is comparable to ancient Greek musician in Greek mythology whose name was Arion.

It was told that in a ship some sailors threatened Arion to play lyre. He jumped into the sea where dolphins carried him safely to shore. Flecknoe JIBS (Jurnal Ilmu Bahasa dan Sastra) Vol. 1/ Nomor 2/ Juli – Desember 2001129 has a great hope for Shadwell’s future as Dryden writes: here stopped the good old sire, and wept for joy/ In silent raptures of the hopeful boy. Dryden describes that Flecknoe has ever entered the “nursery”, a London theatre for boys and girls to study drama. In that place, the name of Simpkin, a representation of a bad poet, is noted as the member of the nursery.

At this place, Flecknoe designs Shadwell’s throne, Mockingly Dryden describes, instead of carpets there are piles of the limbs of mangled poets. Unknown authors emerge from their hidden place. Flecknoe is on the throne. Shadwell vows to uphold the dullness so successfully maintained by Flecknoe. Dryden continuously mocks Shadwell who has to advance ignorance and fruitless industry. The phrase fruitless industry is an irony for Shadwell indicating that Shadwell is unproductive writer. It is underscored by a long time that he has spent to write The Virtuoso. Shadwell is a slow writer.

Flecknoe advises Shadwell to John Dryden and His Satire MacFlecknoe (Joseph Supardjana) 130 let dullness naturally comes to him. The quotation above is a bitter attack to Flecknoe. As an obedient “son” Shadwell is agree with everything Flecknoe advises him. 3) This moral basis helps to explain why a satire, even a very strong one which does nothing more than attack unremittingly some target, can offer a firm vision of what is right. By attacking what is wrong and exposing it to ridicule the satirist is acquainting the reader with a shared positive moral doctrine, whether the satire actually goes into that doctrine in detail or not.

Dryden in “Mac Flecknoe” does not discuss what good literature is; but by attacking bad literature, he makes it clear what needs to occur if literature is to be valued. In MacFlecknoe, Dryden’s definition of good art also comes to be strongly associated with class. When he says that bad poetry laden with “Pure Clinches” or puns is inspired by the “suburban Muse”, his implication is that it is only the genteel circles of London that produce and read good poetry – thus, Bun-hill and Watling Street are down-market parts of London which  by virtue of their economic demography can only produce low art.

The world that MacFlecknoe reigns over is the world of artistic production which thrives in burroughs of London which weren’t seen as respectable – and it is this underbelly of the city: brothels “of lewd loves, and of polluted joys”, actors, and public playhouses which Dryden deems “realms of nonsense absolute. ” To lampoon Shadwell, Dryden employs the form of the mock epic. He uses the metaphor of kingship and succession, but inverts notions of heroism associated with the exploits of the prince to describe the epic proportions of his dullness and stupidity. It does this to magnify the mediocrity of his work.

It uses notions of lineage to speak of Shadwell as the inheritor of a lowly and artless poetic legacy. Through parallels with heroes of the past, the absolutely unheroic qualities of the mock-hero become even more pronounced. Dryden also uses opposing parallels simultaneously to indicate the nonsensical nature of Shadwell/MacFlecknoe’s status as heir-apparent of the realm of low art. For example, he simultaneously compares him to Ascanius that is, to the figure of monarchical authority as well as the enemy to Hannibal – the enemy of the State that Ascanius is supposed to protect.

By implication, then, Shadwell is a threat to the very realm of art which he is supposed to rule. These contradictions make it a realm of artistic meaninglessness. Joseph Addison, an early eighteenth century critic, explains that Dryden’s own definition of wit is “propriety of words and thoughts adapted to the subject” (Norton Anthology 2497). Although this definition is wide enough to encompass a variety of literature, one can assume through his criticism of Shadwell that unspecified rules for propriety existed in Dryden’s consciousness. As such, the challenge of exhibiting “true wit” would not have been taken lightly.

Political circumstances of the late seventeenth century gave Dryden plenty of material for writing satirical verse. According to the Penguin Dictionary, this time period between the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century is widely identified as the “golden age of satire” (783). As many other poets of his time, Dryden’s writings reflect the societal differences shaped during and after the Glorious Revolution. Thomas H. Fujimura, twentieth century Dryden critic, examines the historical context for Dryden’s work in his article, “The Personal Element in Dryden’s Poetry. Political and religious controversy saturated late seventeenth century England, and Dryden could not be immune from the turmoil surrounding him. Mac Flecknoe deals with public themes, such as carnival and prophecy, one may deduce that he intended literature to relate to community issues. Barbara M. Benedict, Trinity College professor of English literature, declares: “Dryden exemplifies the fusion of high and low culture” (659). Dryden’s classic epic form relates to local events, demonstrating his response to Britain’s changing literary culture.

Like a prophet, Dryden presents literary truths for all people and warns of impending doom, if Shadwell continues to “rule” and promote poor-quality literature. CONCLUSION MacFlecknoe does engage in part in a discussion on what consists of bad literature, and thus, by corollary, arrives at a sort of definition of good literature in its discussion on the Humours versus Wit and the relation of Art to Nature, but most often betrays personal prejudices against the origins and beliefs of his rival poet Shadwell and uses these against him, offering many clear instances of lampooning. MacFlecknoe is a satiric poem which becomes the corner-stone of Dryden success in his poetic career. It strengthened his position as a successful poet in his lifetime. Both as a poem and a satire MacFlecknoe.

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