18th century as the age of satire - Discuss 18th century as the age of satire.

Discuss 18th century as the age of satire.


         Satire can be described as the literary art in verse or prose, the function of which is to expose the vices or follies  of some person or persons with the purpose of ridiculing or bantering. The objective of satire is critical, but a good satire, as noted by Dryden, has clinical and corrective effects too.

                    The 18th century is essentially an age of satire. Judging and condemning became common to the society of this age and this habit naturally gave birth to the spirit of satire. Actually, in the 18th century Satire is everywhere in the air. There is satire in poetry, in drama, in prose as well as in the essay and novel. Indeed, it is a great age of prose-satire and Jonathan Swift, the greatest of prose satirists in English, belongs to this period. Addison and Steele are the other  remarkable prose satirists of the century.

                   Jonathan Swift is the prince of English satirists. Every kind of affection, hypocrisy,folly,vices, pretension etc comes under his lash. His contribution to English literature is immense and he stands out primarily as an innovator in his prose  satire. As an author of prose satire, he is remembered particularly for a number of works including The Battle of the Books, The Tale of a Tub and Gulliver's Travels.


                 The Battle of the Books is a quite engaging work, where the satire is both personal and general.It is a highly successful exercise in Belittlement.  Swift's purpose here is to expose and ridicule modern literary men and life under the cover of an ingenious allegory of the fable of The Spider and The Bee.

                   The Tale of a Tub is a virulent satire on the three principal forms of religion. Here he lashes at the follies and corruptions of religion.

                    Gulliver's Travels is a sort of allegory in which the author's purpose is satirical. Swift, here under the cloak of fantastic stories, satirises the politics of his days, the religious quarrels, the worse  of ambition, the lubrications of science, as also the very nature of man and of the whole human species. The allegorical element is presented in an entertaining way and the moral aspect is nowhere  rudely pushed forth.

                 In the late 17th and early 18th century, we find Dryden, Swift and Pope satirizing their personal and political enemies, though when at their best, they rise from the personal to the impersonal. Politics and literary  rivalry  are all transformed by them into genuine Satire and we get a general view of the follies and vices of the period.

              In the satirical literature of England, Dryden remains an unforgettable name. He is given a dignified place in the temple of poetic fame for his principal satires - Absalom and Achitophel, The Medal and Mac Flecknoe.

              Satire predominates in the work of Pope. The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, Moral Essays, Satires and Epistles of Horace. Imitated Epistles to Arbuthnot are the best of his Satires.

              Dr. Johnson is another verse satirist. His two verse satires are London and The Vanity of Human Wishes.

               The English satire developed more powerful in prose literature of the 18th century also. Swift,Addison, Steele are the remarkable prose satirists of the age. Swift's Gulliver's Travels, The Tale of a Tub, The Battle of the Books etc are noteworthy. The tatler and The Spectator are remarkable prose works of Addison. As Satire is the predominant form of literature of the 18th century. Swift, Addison and Steele used this powerful weapon in their famous works.The Satire note is also seen in Fielding's novels like Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones. After all, the New Classical age was an age of Satire and there was satire everywhere.

How would you portray the 18th century as the age of satire?
18th century as the age of satire

 Honours in English, NU,BD

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