Predominance of Satire in English Literature

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      'Satire' in literature means "the expression in adequate terms, of the sense of amusement or disgust excited by the ridiculous of the unseemly, provided that the utterance is invested literary form". The true end of the satirist is the amendment of vices by castigation. The satirist, in Dryden's own language, "is no more an enemy to the offender than the physician to the patient, when he prescribes harsh remedies to an inveterate disease". The satiric spirit may appear in verse as well as prose.

'Satire' in literature means "the expression in adequate terms, of the sense of amusement or disgust excited by the ridiculous of the unseemly, provided that the utterance is invested literary form".
Satire in English literature

      The period from the Restoration to the middle of the eighteenth century, comprising the ages of Dryden and Pope, was the rich flowering time of satirical literature. Two causes concurred to make the age particularly suited to the growth of satire. These are literary and social.

      On the literary side, the great romantic school of the poetry of the Elizabethan age was practically over in the early years of the seventeenth century. The creative impulse which led to such brilliant productions of the age had exhausted itself. Poetry and drama in the age had become extravagant and frivolous and the need for a change or reform made itself increasingly felt. At the Restoration the break with the past was completed. "A kind of school of good sense in poetry" was growing with Waller, Denham, Cowley and Devenant as its chief exponents. The works of these writers had the seeds of life in them. They formed the popular tastes of the period and satisfied them. They trained up successors to continue their works. They were greatly influenced by the French classicists of the time and wrote poems in imitation of the ancient Latin writers like Virgil, Horace, Juvenal etc.

      Thus a new spirit had entered into English literature changing its whole tone and temper. "This new spirit is above all critical and analytical not creative and sympathetic; it brings the intellect rather than the poetic imagination into play Literature thus became criticism of life, rather than imaginative interpretation of life. Its strength lay in its intellectual force and realism. It dealt with outward manners and superficialities rather than the elemental things and the larger issues of life. Analysis, reasoning, realism, criticism- these sum up the literary methods of this neo-classical school of poetry. Hence the predominance ot satire in the literature of the period.

      This change of literary fashion is also deeply rooted in the spirit of the time. There are the social causes, which intensified the intellectual awakening. It was an age of bitter party strife. Politically the whole nation was divided into sharply defined hostile groups (later known as Whigs and Tories) over the question of the Exclusion Bill which sought to exclude the Catholic Duke of York (James 11) from the succession to the throne of Charles II. The old religious feud was replaced by fierce political antagonism. Party spirit passed into social and individual lives. While clubs and coffee-houses began to be infected by this party-spirit, the men or letters too entered into the fray with their pen and advocated their cause. Thus Dryden went over to the Tory or Royalist side, while his friend Shadwell to the whigs and the result was Mac Flecknoe, a masterpiece of English satire. In the next place, the Restoration age was an age of immorality and licence, due to the reaction against the Puritan regime which suppressed even the healthy joys of life. he upper classes, as if to justify their superior culture had aso indulged in all sorts of Vices and inelegances. Morality had sunk low. This invited the satirical attacks of well-thinking people, preachers and poets. As a result the history of the literature of the time is a history of personal rivalries and acrimonies that found expression in satires.

      Dryden's satires remain unsurpassable even till this day by their genuine literary merits and comprehensiveness of application. Other satirist of the age of Restoration is Samuel Butler (1612-80) whose Hudibras (1663) is a remarkable achievement in satiric art. Two other parts of the satire followed in 1664 and 1678. Hudibras is a biting satire on the Puritans who became unpopular when Charles II returned to the throne. In general, it is modelled on the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza who find their respective parallels in Sir Hudibras and his squire Ralpho. Sir Hudibras is a Puritan knight who undergoes many absurd adventures with Ralpho, his independent squire. It is wholly satirical. The poem is composed artfully. The adventures are well chosen in order to throw the greatest amount of ridicule on the maladroit hero. The satire is keen and caustic, but is never brutal in expression. The metre of Hudibras is remarkable. It is varied and uniform and it carries the tale with an easy relish. It is almost doggerel, but each couplet is clenched with an ingenious rhyme that is the most amusing feature of all:

"He was in logic a great critic
Profoundly skilled in analytic;
He could distinguish, and divide
A hair' tuist South and South-West side."

      Other satirists of the Restoration age are Andrew Marvel who ridiculed religious intolerance and autocratic tendencies in his prose pamphlets. John Oldham, John Wilmot are inferior satirists of the period.

      In the next age Alexander Pope was a worthy successor of Dryden. The age of Pope is not far remove from Dryden's in temper and tone.

      "All finer and delicate graces were practically dying out. Passions of political party occupied all minds. Learning was a low ebb. Literature was a mere arena of partisan warfare - The people could relish nothing but blows and blows were then most applauded when they drew blood" (Mark Pattison). Pope did not escape the spirit of the age and wrote some of fiercest satires, his Dunciad tops all. The Rape of the Lock is written in a mock heroic style and presents the superficialities and frivolities of the age. In Dunciad he falls upon the minor poets of the age with a brutal malice. Dryden and Pope are verse satirists and in their satires, they rivalled Horace and Juvenal. In the sphere of prose Dean Swift, Addison, Steele are writers of great satires. Dr. Johnson's London and The Vanity of Human Wishes are imitation of the satires of Juvenal. Dr. Johnson belonged to the later part ot the eighteenth century.

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