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Dunciad, The.

Dunciad, The

(1728; revised 1729, 1742, 1743) The " dunce - epic, " a satire in heroic couplets by Alexander Pope. The first version, in three books, was written under the influence of Swift; it attacked all critics of Pope 's works, as poetasters, publishers, and pedants. In 1729 this version, with changes, was republished as The Dunciad Variorum. A fourth book, The New Dunciad, appeared in 1742, and the final version, The Dunciad in Four Books, was published a year later. In the first book, the leading role was initially given to playwright and critic Lewis Theobald (1688 - 1744), who had attacked Pope's edition of Shakespeare; in the final version, it is Colley Cibber who is named king of the Dunces, his rule extending over the empires of Emptiness and Dullness. The second book, a burlesque of the account of funeral games for Anchises in Vergil's Aeneid, depicts Cibber 's coronation; it is celebrated with games and contests and, as everyone drowses off to sleep, poetry - reading. In the third book, Cibber falls asleep and sees, in his dreams, the past, present, and future; in all three, Dullness prevails. In the fourth book, Dullness reigns supreme over scholarship, art, and science. The goddess of Dullness, thus firmly entrenched, gives directions to her several agents to encourage foolish and trifling pursuits and to discourage thought, and night and chaos are finally restored. The Dunciad is considered among Pope's crowning achievements, and, in spite of its topicality, its satire is still fresh and biting.

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Publication:Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, 3rd ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1987
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