What Is "Mac Flecknoe" by John Dryden About?

"Mac Flecknoe" by John Dryden is a mock-heroic poem deriding dramatist Thomas Shadwell, a contemporary of Dryden's, according to Humanities 360. A mock-heroic poem is a work that uses the style of epic poetry for a topic of satire and humor. "Mac Flecknoe" makes fun of a horrific Irish poet named Richard Flecknoe who coronates Shadwell the king of the "Realms of Non-sense."

"Mac Flecknoe" bashes Shadwell as he processes up the River Thames to his coronation, just as Virgil's Aeneas did when he returned to Rome on the Tiber River. Dryden uses allusions to give readers a sense of his mockery when he invokes classical epic poetry, writes a reviewer on Humanities 360. Toward the end of "Mac Flecknoe," Dryden points out the differences between true wit and dullness.

Critics praise Dryden's use of heroic imagery as a means to explain how poetry and literature in Dryden's time became dull. Instead of enlightening readers, Dryden-era literature was destroying the critical thinking abilities of civilization.

"Mac Flecknoe," published in 1682, uses heroic couplets. The form arose a few hundred years before Dryden's masterpiece and was considered refined poetry using five iambs and two rhymes within two lines of text, writes Jacob Erickson on Education Portal.

Shadwell, the subject of the piece, was friends with Dryden until the two feuded later in their careers. Dryden lived from 1631 to 1700 and critics consider him to be one of the best English poets for his time period.