In many ways, "Mac Flecknoe" is not merely a critique of a single bad writer, but a commentary on bad literature in general. Dryden, through his impeccable use of satire and irony, points out the mistakes that bad writers make. Then, through his own terrific writing, he shows them to do it right. Much of the poem's strength comes from Dryden's appreciation and knowledge of the classics, especially the heroic epic style. Dryden still draws upon these past influences to create "Mac Flecknoe," but instead of falling into trite, hackneyed patterns (Shadwell, cough), he invents something ingenious and wholly new.
Questions About Literature and Writing
In what ways do the many literary references strengthen the poem?
In what ways do the many literary references detract from the poem?
What factors make for a bad piece of writing? What factors lead to successful writing? Would Dryden agree with you? Why or why not?
Chew on This
"Mac Flecknoe" is a goofy, but still extremely clever and effective, critique of the literature of the day.
With this new style of satire, Dryden was pretty much singlehandedly responsible for setting the stage for a whole new generation of legendary English satirists, including Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.