Mac Flecknoe: Poem by John Dryden - Summary

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Flecknoe and his Deliberation (L. 1-6)

      After enjoying for a long time the reputation of being the ruler in the realms of absolute Nonsense, the monarch of the Kingdom of Dullness, Flecknoe, realised that his life must come to an end.

The Selection of Shadwell (L. 7-63)

      He had many sons from whom to choose his successor. He chose Shadwell to succeed him as he was the perfect nadir of genius. Of all his sons, Flecknoe selected Shadwell because he was "mature in dullness" from his early years. He was "confirmed full stupidity." His other sons did sometime deviate into sense but Shadwell never wrote anything sensible even by chance. He belonged to the class of dull authors like Heywood and Shirley. Even Flecknoe himself was no more than a prelude to the empire of Shadwell. His stupidity was so limitless that John Singleton, a noted actor and bandmaster decided to give up the role of Villerius. All these facts sufficiently proved his foolishness and stamped him as the fittest heir of Flecknoe.

The Coronation of Mac Flecknoe (L. 64-127)

      Flecknoe made arrangements for the coronation ceremony of Shadwell. An infamous place outside the walls of London was chosen as the site. Near the place stood a Nursery where raw actors were instructed in the art of acting. The atmosphere was morally unwholesome and no great play, tragedy or comedy, was ever enacted there. The unthinking audience with blank minds, who attended the theatre, applauded only crude performances. This place was chosen for the coronation as it had been prophesied sometime before that a great Emperor of Dullness would rule there.

      The news of shadwell's coronation spread far and wide. A vast gathering came to witness the ceremony. The path to the royal throne was strewn with torn and loose fragments of worthless poems, particularly of Shadwell himself. Mangled poets too lay on the road. Flecknoe sat high on a throne consisting of a pile of books written by himself. Shadwell sat on his right with dullness writ large on his face. Shadwell was anointed' by Flecknoe himself. In his left hand Shadwell held not the globe or the orb, but a large mug of powerful ale. In his right hand he held Flecknoe's book, Love's Kingdom. Immediately after the ceremony was over, a dozen aged owls were seen flying on Shadwell's left. The admiring crowd greeted it as an auspicious omen.

Flecknoe's Blessings and Advice (L. 128-210)

      Flecknoe then stood up and visualized the great future of Mac Flecknoe. He wished that his son Shadwell should reign over a vast stretch of territory from Ireland to the distant Barbados. He advised him not to depend on anybody except his stupid brain. By being natural, he would produce the best. He should never bother his head over success or reputation. He should also not imitate others but follow his own dull brain. Wit, rhetoric and sense should be eternally exiled from his literary domain' and his characters should fully reveal the barrenness of his mind, and the nadir of his genius. He should not claim any literary kinship with Ben Jonson though he did have a corpulent body like him. He should write feeble verses. His tragedies as well as comedies should be purely ineffective. His satires too should not have any force. He should only attempt anagrams. Anything better than acrostics, he was incapable of writing.

The Sudden Disappearance of Flecknoe (L. 211-217)

      The last words of Flecknoe could not be heard because he was dragged down by a trap-door laid by two characters of Shadwell's play. Flecknoe's woolen robe was carried upward and fell on Shadwell and thus endowed him with double measure of the dullness and stupidity of his old father.

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