Home Criticism John Dryden | Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem

John Dryden | Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem


John Dryden | Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem

John Dryden Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem

John Dryden Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem

John Dryden | Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem

John Dryden’s “Mac Flecknoe” stands as a prominent example of a mock-heroic poem, a satirical genre that lampoons the conventions of the epic or heroic form. It mocks and satirizes grand themes, using them to undermine and ridicule a target, in this case, Dryden’s contemporary rival poet, Thomas Shadwell. Through its biting wit and parody of heroic poetry, “Mac Flecknoe” serves as a scathing critique of Shadwell’s literary and personal character.

Characteristics of a Mock-Heroic Poem:

A mock-heroic poem is a satirical form that imitates the structure and style of an epic or heroic poem but employs this imitation to ridicule or parody its subject matter. It often takes seemingly trivial or mundane subjects and treats them with the same seriousness and grandeur as a traditional heroic poem. The language, structure, and devices used in a mock-heroic poem mimic those of epic poetry but serve to undermine the grandiosity and significance associated with the traditional heroic form.

Elements of a Heroic Poem in “Mac Flecknoe”

Elevated Language: In “Mac Flecknoe” the poet employs elevated and grandiloquent language typical of heroic poetry, using lofty phrases to describe seemingly insignificant subjects. Dryden describes the “dullness” and inadequacy of Shadwell in epic terms, elevating mundane characteristics to epic proportions. 

The Heroic Journey: While the poem ridicules Shadwell, it employs the structure of a heroic journey. Shadwell’s succession as the king of dullness after his father’s (Richard Flecknoe) departure is depicted as an epic succession, satirizing the concept of a heroic ascension.

Allusions and Parody: Dryden makes extensive use of allusions to classical mythology and epic conventions, employing these references to undermine Shadwell’s character. The poem uses parody by imitating grand epics but applying it to a ridiculous and trivial subject.

The Mock Epic Climax: The poem’s culmination, where Shadwell is anointed as the rightful heir to “the realm of nonsense absolute,” is a mock epic climax. It’s a satirical inversion of the grand ceremonies often found in true heroic poetry, turning a ridiculous moment into an epic event.

Ridiculing Heroic Conventions: Throughout the poem, Dryden uses heroic conventions to ridicule Shadwell. The elevation of Shadwell to a throne of dullness, the use of grandiose descriptions for trivial qualities, and the imitation of heroic form all serve to mock and diminish the stature of Shadwell.

Mac Flecknoe” epitomizes the mock-heroic genre by cleverly employing the trappings of epic poetry to satirize and ridicule Thomas Shadwell, using grandeur to underscore the mundane and trivial, and undermining traditional heroic conventions to lampoon its subject. 0 0 0.

John Dryden Mac Flecknoe as a Mock Heroic Poem

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