Study Guide

Mac Flecknoe Allusions

By John Dryden

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Literary and Philosophical References

Welcome to the world of "Mac Flecknoe," which contains more shout outs than sense. Dryden throws out numerous references to the classics, including to numerous Greek and Roman stories and myths and the Bible. His entire poetic style is a shout out to the epic tradition, following in the footsteps of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, while employing Chaucer's heroic couplets.

And then, of course, Dryden manages to name drop every single freaking English literary figure within 100 years. Most of these references are pretty obscure; guys like John Ogleby and Thomas Dekker aren't exactly heavy hitters in British literature. But Dryden does remind us of a few noteworthy names, including the great playwright Ben Jonson.

But the name Dryden really wants us to remember is Thomas Shadwell. Dryden's archrival and fellow English poet and playwright, the unfortunate Shadwell is the butt of pretty much every joke in "Mac Flecknoe," and the axis around which the entire poem revolves. Dryden takes care to reference what seems like every piece of writing Shadwell ever produced, and mock every one of his characters worth mentioning—probably not the most flattering shout out Shadwell could have hoped for.

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