By contemporary standards is Dryden's Mac Flecknoe Satire or Libel? Justify your response with critical arguments.
Dryden in the preface to Absalom and Achitophel says, those who wrongly "imagine I have done my Worst, may be Convinc'd at their own Cost, that I can write Severely, with more ease, than I can Gently." He successfully proves this when he writes Mac Flecknoe. As an author he maintained the unity of the plot and the community of response between him and his audience. Satire was not a defined genre before the reformation period. It was thought that the word satire was derived from the Greek word satyr, which meant goat-man. Unlike a libel, a satire doesn't directly abuse the victim. Dryden has avoided the tone of direct abuse in Mac Flecknoe and has let the action speak for itself. A libel is a defamatory statement usually made to falsely accuse the victim. Samuel Johnson's eighteenth century dictionary defines slander as a libel with a casual or callous disregard for truth. A slander differs from a libel only because it is oral and libel is written. Otherwise both libel and slander are a means to defame a person. .
Satire of the late seventeenth century "lacked a self-conscious, synthetic, and both authoritative and comprehensible history and assessment of the modern's satirist's art." (Weinbrot, 2) It descended from tragedy and one had to avoid the heroic path in order to able to be truly satiric. In an age in which reason was put to use in each and every aspect of life, satire was expected to deal with everyday life and the current fancies. It was used to comment on the society and be a mirror of the times. Satire was seen as a means to 'reform' and 'improve', whereas a lampoon was meant to 'belittle' and 'destroy'. A satire was seen as a remedy for the social ills of an ailing society. In order to achieve the maximum impact of a satire needed to be realistic.