AN ESSAY ON MAN. MORAL ESSAYS AND SATIRES

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[ An Essay on Man discordia concors.]

The poem consists of four epistles. The first surveys relations between humans and the universe; the second discusses humans as individuals. The third addresses the relationship between the individual and society, and the fourth questions the potential of the individual for happiness. An Essay on Man describes the order of the universe in terms of a , or chain, of being. By virtue of their ability to reason, humans are placed above animals and plants in this hierarchy.

An Essay on Man

An Essay on Man is a poem published by Alexander Pope in 1733-1734

Acknowledgments vii
Abbreviations and Frequently Cited Works ix
Introduction xv
Note on the Text cxvii
An Essay on Man 1
Pope’s Knowledge of Authors Cited 99
Bibliography 107
Index 123

[ An Essay on Man, ]

"An Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope is an outstanding example of Augustan poetic style. It is written entirely in relatively regular end-stopped heroic couplets and yet, despite this, maintains a...

[ An Essay on Man, ]


Epistle I concerns itself with the nature of man and with his place in the universe; Epistle II, with man as an individual; Epistle III, with man in relation to human society, to the political and social hierarchies; and Epistle IV, with man's pursuit of happiness in this world. An Essay on Man was a controversial work in Pope's day, praised by some and criticized by others, primarily because it appeared to contemporary critics that its emphasis, in spite of its themes, was primarily poetic and not, strictly speaking, philosophical in any really coherent sense: , never one to mince words, and possessed, in any case, of views upon the subject which differed materially from those which Pope had set forth, noted dryly (in what is surely one of the most back-handed literary compliments of all time) that "Never were penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment so happily disguised." It is a subtler work, however, than perhaps Johnson realized: G. Wilson Knight has made the perceptive comment that the poem is not a "static scheme" but a "living organism," (like ) and that it must be understood as such. The acknowledged master of the heroic couplet and one of the primary tastemakers of the Augustan age, Alexander Pope was a central figure in the Neoclassical movement of the early 18th century. He was known for having perfected the rhymed couplet form of his idol, John Dryden, and turned it to satiric and philosophical purposes. His mock epic The Rape of the Lock (1714) derides elite society, while An Essay on Criticism (1711) and An Essay on Man (1733-34) articulate many of the central tenets of 18th-century aesthetic and moral philosophy. Pope was noted for his involvement in public feuds with the writers and publishers of low-end Grub Street, which led him to write The Dunciad (1728), a scathing account of England’s cultural decline, and, at the end of his life, a series of related verse essays and Horatian satires that articulated and protested this decline. Pope is also remembered...(1) Describe the poetic structure for An Essay on Man. What is its meter and what poetic units make up the entire poem? What is the rhyme scheme (i.e., ABAB, CDCD, or what?)