What is Dryden’s writing style like in “Mac Flecknoe”?

Dryden’s writing style in “Mac Flecknoe" is commanding, grand, ornate, and fundamentally satirical.

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In “Mac Flecknoe,” John Dryden’s writing style is ostensibly commanding and grand. On the surface, his subjects are worldly and royal. He’s dealing with topics like power and government. The lofty focus of the poem makes the style puffed up and overwrought.

Of course, Dryden is purposely...

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In “Mac Flecknoe,” John Dryden’s writing style is ostensibly commanding and grand. On the surface, his subjects are worldly and royal. He’s dealing with topics like power and government. The lofty focus of the poem makes the style puffed up and overwrought.

Of course, Dryden is purposely affecting an excessive majesty. Underneath the pomp and circumstance is satire. Thus, the style is commanding, grand, worldly, and regal in a tongue-in-cheek way. He’s not attempting to compose a serious poem about princes and their empires; he’s subverting such stately conventions with a style that could be described as mocking and mean.

Dryden’s derisive poem is aimed at one of his real-life literary rivals, Thomas Shadwell. It’s as if Dryden takes up the elevated style to lambast the lowly character of Shadwell. In Dryden’s view, Shadwell is thoughtless, dull, and tortuously bad at “writing plays.” His lack of intelligence makes him suitable to rule the “realms of Non-sense.”

Besides touching on the snarky style of “Mac Flecknoe,” one might want to call attention to the ornate style of the poem. Dryden is not content with making fun of Shadwell in a general or sweeping fashion. Dryden goes into detail about the kingdom that Shadwell is about to inherit. He spotlights the decaying brothels, the “lewd loves,” and “polluted joys.” By taking the time to tease out the nuances of this land, Dryden amplifies Shadwell’s ridiculous dearth of admirable qualities. As Dryden quips, “[I]n this pile should reign a mighty prince.”

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