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01145-- What are the Types of Satire? [Horatian satire/Juvenalian satire]



Types of Satire 

For the most part, a satirist attempts to bring about change by exposing an oddity or a problem in an imaginative, often humorous, way.  The target is often a social or political one.  Typically, satirists use irony and exaggeration to poke fun at human faults and foolishness in order to correct human behavior.  The two basic types of satire are named after the great Roman writers Horace and Juvenal, who perfected satire in different ways.

Horatian satire

 Horatian satire is playfully amusing and urbane.  It seeks to correct vice or foolishness with gentle laughter and understanding.  A famous example of Horatian satire is Alexander Pope’s brilliant mock epic The Rape of the Lock (page 600).  The poem, which satirizes the trivial pursuits of the idle wealthy, echoes the openings of ancient epics in its famous first lines:

What dire offense from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing— . . . —Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock

In the poem, a young lord is so smitten by a lady’s beauty that he secretly cuts off a lock of her hair.  The lady’s offense at this violation takes on epic—or mock epic—proportions:

Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes,
And screams of horror rend the affrighted skies.
Not louder shrieks to pitying heaven are cast,
When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;
 — Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock

Juvenalian satire

Juvenalian satire provokes a darker kind of laughter.  It is often bitter, or even angry, and criticizes corruption or incompetence with scorn and outrage.  The most famous example of Juvenalian satire comes from Jonathan Swift, whose savage wit was unequaled among his 18th-century English contemporaries.  Swift’s fictional Gulliver’s Travels (page 624) tended toward Juvenalian satire.  But it was his famous essay, “A Modest Proposal” (page 610), that shocked and appalled readers.  Notice the biting verbal irony in this passage from the essay, which describes certain abilities of young children.

They can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts [have a promising talent]; although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier . . .  —Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal”

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