Study Guide

Mac Flecknoe Competition

By John Dryden

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A little bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone. Unfortunately for Thomas Shadwell, this was not a friendly competition. John Dryden tears into Shadwell with a vengeance in "Mac Flecknoe," and by the end of the poem, the winner is obvious. Though Dryden makes a few jokes here and there at his own expense, it is clear that he has no need to actually proclaim himself the superior writer; the legacy of his work speaks for itself.

Questions About Competition

  1. Why is it that Dryden got the last laugh? Why has "Mac Flecknoe" survived, when Shadwell's own poetic critiques of Dryden have been largely forgotten?
  2. How serious was Dryden here? Was he really out to get Shadwell, or was he just having a little fun?
  3. Can you tell which writers referenced in "Mac Flecknoe" Dryden actually admires?

Chew on This

Dryden had no need to say flat out that he was a better writer; the wit and humor of "Mac Flecknoe" makes that point perfectly clear.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner—Dryden takes this war of wits. His work has stood the test of time, while Shadwell has been more or less lost in literary history.

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