Satire in the Eighteenth Century

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Satire in the Eighteenth Century

New ideas, original thoughts, and fresh interpretations characterized the spirit of the eighteenth century. Science was flourishing, and therefore it brought new discoveries that challenged the traditional dominating force of religion. Influential figures of the age, such as Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, and William Hogarth, strove to assure human betterment and advance human thinking through truth and humorous criticism. They employed the use of satire in order to accomplish their common goal.

According to A Handbook of Literary Terms, satire is defined as "a work or manner that blends a censorious attitude with humor or wit for improving human institutions or humanity" (Harmon and Holman 461). The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics further asserts that satire is "both a mode of discourse or vision that asserts polemical or critical outlook, and also a specific literary genre, embodying that mode in either prose or verse" (Preminger and Brogan 1114). In essence, satire emerges as a device to successfully diagnose human faults and offer a cure for society.

Satire often includes abuse, sarcasm, irony, mockery, exaggeration, and understatements. Arguably Voltaire's most famous work, Candide presents a string of characters laced in exaggeration. For example, the Baron's lady was not only a large presence, but she weighed a striking three hundred and fifty pounds. Furthermore, the Baron's castle was considered a monument of prestige, "for his house had a door and several windows and his hall was actually draped in tapestry" (Voltaire 19). It is apparent that the use of the hyperbole, among other elements, played a crucial role in the potency of satir...

... middle of paper ... and improves judgment: he that rectifies the public taste is a public benefactor" (Preminger and Brogan 1115). The eighteenth century was a time of transformation, in which society was in constant evolution. The progress of the age was delivered to the common person's doorstep through literature and art and reached the common person's understanding through satire. Hence, satire was both a furious weapon and a common medium that was utilized by the thinkers of the eighteenth century to promote the Enlightenment.

Works Cited

"Art of William Hogarth". 7 July 2000.

Harmon, William and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook of Literary Terms. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Preminger, Alex and T.V.F. Brogan, ed. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993.

"Swift Biography". 8 July 2000.

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