Satirical Comedy: Definition & Meaning

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      Satire or Satirical Comedy is a branch of comedy, which makes use of witty language to convey insults or scorn. In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to reprimand by means of ridicule, burlesque, derision, irony, or other methods. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of Satirical Comedy is not primarily humor, but an attack on something or some subject the author strongly disapproves of. This militant irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of the very things the satirist wishes to attack. It is often very close to Farce or the Comedy of Manners. The earliest examples are the works of Aristophanes, especially his Clouds, Birds, Frogs. Satire became very popular during the era of Enlightenment, and American satire dates back to at least the 1700s with publications such as Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack. In English literature, Ben Jonson’s Volpone or Sheridan’s School for Scandal must be mentioned. In European literature, the greatest master of the genre is undoubtedly Moliere.

      There are actually four types of satire: formal satire, indirect satire, Horatian satire and Juvenalian satire. Formal satire, like Alexander Pope’s Moral Essays, is usually in the first person and it uses a direct address, whether to the audience or the subject of the criticism. Indirect satire, by contrast, relies on a fictional narrative, like Lord Byron’s Don Juan. Horatian satire tends to have a gentler, playful and sympathetic tone, but it can still be ripe with ridicule. Juvenalian satire is more judgmental, full of harsh insults and withering invective. Satire is nowadays found in many artistic forms of expression, including literature, plays, commentary, television shows, and media such as lyrics.

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