Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Flecknoe, the monarch of dullness, who is prepared to abdicate and does so in the course of the action. His character is derived from that of Richard Flecknoe, an obscure seventeenth century English poet known for his insipid verses, for publishing his works at his own expense, and for his modest claims about them. His two dramas that were produced proved to be failures on stage. Like Shadwell, he was also a lute player. In the satire, Flecknoe fills the role of both monarch and prophet, the prophetic role being appropriate because the real Flecknoe was a Catholic priest. His speeches, which consist of more than 120 verses, show him to be good-humored and enthusiastic about his decision to abdicate and his hopes for Shadwell’s reign. His undisguised and energetic delight in praising inferior literary talent, low genres, and coarse humor lend an air of gaiety to the satire. Far from attacking superior dramatists such as Ben Jonson, he dismisses them as irrelevant to his purpose. As often happens to characters in Shadwell’s works, he becomes a victim of farce, falling through a trap door at the conclusion.


Shadwell, the successor to Flecknoe, designated “Mac” (son of) Flecknoe. He is modeled on Thomas Shadwell, a successful Restoration dramatist and rival of Dryden. Although his poetry generally was regarded as inferior, his comedies enjoyed a favorable reception in the theater. In the satire, he delivers no speeches, but he is...

(The entire section is 614 words.)