Mac Flecknoe, Corrosion of an Heir College
In Dryden’s Mac Flecknoe, dullness is the defining trait of the mock epic’s “hero”, and decay is employed as a theme and a weapon within the poem, underlined mostly as the decay of wit as the speaker dangles his victim and his reputation from his rhetorical noose. As a mock epic, the poem demonstrates the themes and motifs of an epic ballad – with an entwining of satire and persecution for the subject – in this case, Thomas Shadwell. The function of the poem itself is an attack on the dullness that is synonymous with the decay of intelligent humor and lack of appreciation for wit by Shadwell, an argument made possible by Dryden’s persuasive satirical aphorism that, in truth, is little more than humorous, belittling, literary propaganda.
Before Mac Flecknoe: A Satyr upon the Trew-Blue-Protestant Poet T.S. was written or published, John Dryden and Thomas Shadwell were guilty of what is likely a prolonged series of disagreements ending in a quarrel which blossomed into a heated mock epic that wasn’t published until several years after it was written. The two have been known to disagree over an array of subjects including (but hardly limited to) their opinions on the genius of Ben Jonson, their interpretations of humor, comedy, and...
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