An Essay on Criticism Questions and Answers
by Alexander Pope

Start Your Free Trial

I need an analysis of Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism." I am struggling to understand what it means.   

Expert Answers info

Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,269 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Pope's "Essay on Criticism" tackles not only the problems of poor criticism but also the problems of poor writing. As he writes in the first stanza of Part I, "Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill/Appear in writing or in judging ill." In other words, he asks which is worse--writing poorly or criticizing poorly? He feels that poor criticism is worse, as a poor writer bores his or her audience, while a poor critic misleads his or her audience. He goes on to say that good writing and good critical skills are both rare, as "Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light." In other words, there's a touch of the divine in both pursuits.

Critics, he feels, can go awry by relying on too much didacticism. He says in the third stanza, "So by false learning is good sense defac'd." In other words, critics' desire to seem witty can ruin their common sense. He urges critics and writers not to try to surpass their own talents. As he says, "Be sure your self and your own reach to know,/How far your...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 744 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7,057 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business




check Approved by eNotes Editorial