John Dryden – “Mac Flecknoe” (ctd.)

The next stage of the poem is going to take place near London’s Barbican, which was then, judging by Dryden’s description, in ruins and a major place for sex trade. At this place was located also the Nursery, not a pre-school but a kind of acting school, which is, however, described by Dryden in disparaging terms, as not the place where you can hear the great poetry of Jonson or Fletcher but bad puns and mediocre poetry. This is the spot which Flecknoe picked for the coronation of his heir, which is portrayed in mock-epic terms. Fame spread the renown of Shadwell all the way to Watling Street, which is actually not very far. The coronation is attended by other bad poets, whose works were used either for lining pie tins or as toilet paper, and by publishers who lost money on publishing them, including Herrington, Shadwell’s and Dryden’s own publisher. Shadwell is given a mug of ale instead of the orb and the script of Love’s Kingdom, Flecknoe’s own play (very bad, as the Helpful Footnote tells us) as his sceptre. He is crowned with poppies, which implies that his readers snooze, but also is apparently a sly hint at Shadwell’s opium addiction. As every notable event, this is also attended by omens: twelve owls fly over him, like twelve vultures flew during Romulus’s coronation.

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