The Dunciad


I admit to reading Alexander Pope and liking the writing. This was, of course, about a million years ago and in my first English Lit class that made any sense. It was held Tu/Th/Sat at 8:00am and tough as nails. I survived and still have the books.  I'll never throw them away.

Pope wrote The Dunciad, in 1728 and it was a pretty mean depiction of, well, those who are dunces, Actually a good English Lit scholar wrote this on Wiki and though my memory of it is cloudy, it is recognizeable - 

"The plot of the poem is simple. Dulness, the goddess, appears at a Lord Mayor's Day in 1724 and notes that her king, Elkannah Settle, has died. She chooses Lewis Theobald as his successor. In honour of his coronation, she holds heroic games. He is then transported to the Temple of Dulness, where he has visions of the future. The poem has a consistent setting and time, as well. Book I covers the night after the Lord Mayor's Day, Book II the morning to dusk, and Book III the darkest night. Furthermore, the poem begins at the end of the Lord Mayor's procession, goes in Book II to the Strand, then to Fleet Street (where booksellers were), down by Bridewell Prison to the Fleet ditch, then to Ludgate at the end of Book II; in Book III, Dulness goes through Ludgate to the City of London to her temple."

I dug around the Dunce thing after seeing the mock photo at the top. A dunce cap, also variously known as a dunce hat, dunce's cap or dunce's hat, and is by all accounts, a pointed hat, formerly used as an article of discipline in schools. In popular culture, it is typically made of paper and often marked with a D or the word "dunce", and given to unruly schoolchildren to wear. Class clowns were frequently admonished with the dunce cap. Cap was recommended to stimulate the brain - e.g. "thinking cap".
The term "dunce cap" itself did not enter the English language until after the term "dunce" had become a synonym for "fool" or "dimwit".
Why all this?
The one thing that stuck me about those adorned with a dunce cap is that they where actually bright enough to know better or "behave" and not just goof around inappropriately. 
Pope's dunces are not villains, although they can be villainous, as much as they are held up as the epitome of stupidity, imposture, and connivance. Inclusion in the list below does not imply that the figure was a dullard. In fact, the opposite is likely true, as these figures needed to rise to a position of importance to be satirized in this way. 
Instead, these are figures who were satirized particularly as symbols of all things "wrong" with society or a particular political position.
Got it?

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