By John Dryden
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dullness from his tender years.
Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he
Who stands confirm’d in full stupidity
Reference:- The given stanza has been taken from John Dryden’s Mac Flecknoe. The poem is written in mid 1670s and published without Dryden’s authority in 1682.
Context:- Mac Flecknoe by John Dryden is one of the most popular work of English literature. It is a satiric poem, which becomes the cornerstone of Dryden’s success in his poetic career. This poem is an envision of Thomas Shadwell (the true- blue protestant poet). Dryden describes Thomas Shadwell as the heir to Richard Flecknoe’s poetic dullness.
Explanation:- In the given lines, the author has described that in his supreme dullness and stupidity, it is Shadwell alone who appears fit to inherit the throne from Flecknoe. Shadwell and Dryden were once friends, but their relationship soured over several disagreements. They had divergent political views, as Dryden supported the Stuart monarchy while Shadwell was a member of the opposing party called the Whigs. They had religious differences too. Given Dryden’s Catholic sympathies and Shadwell’s Protestantism. They also, had a running debate over the merits of Shakespeare fan, whereas Shadwell considered himself the leading student and heir to Jonson’s legacy. Both the writers have responded to each other with their writing to attack altogether as in respond to Shadwell’s “The Medal of John Bayes” in 1682, Dryden wrote “Mac Flecknoe”.
Critical comment:- Mac Flecknoe, is a mock- heroical epic framework of solemnity and grandeur in the Homeric style. Its scheme is highly ingenious. The development of the poem is masterly from the very opening in which the aged monarch of dullness, Flecknoe, is represented in the epic manner down to the closing speech in which he enjoys his heir, i.e. the supreme dullard (Shadwell) to trust nature and not labour to be dull.
In this poem Shadwell comes out as the right choice for the succession because he is described as “Mature in dullness from his tender years” and stands confirm in full stupidity”. Dryden’s personal satire against Shadwell can be noticed here as coming out very directly. The poem can be regarded as highly entertaining though abusive attack on Shadwell, light in weight, concentrated in its venom, devastating in capacity to hit by means of his satirical thrusts charges with a vision after the epic manner.