Definition: Satire is the literary art of diminishing a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking towards it attitudes of amusement, contempt or scorn.


Satire uses laughter as a weapon to convince the listener or reader of the author’s position.

Satire “derides” a problem or situation.

Satire may be individual, this is called “Personal Satire” and the author is making fun of himself or  a type of person, class, a nation, or mankind as in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels a story that ridicules the whole race of man.

Satire has usually been justified by those who practice it as a corrective to human vice and folly.

Satire’s claim here has been to ridicule the failing (in the person, or class) rather than an attack on the individual personally.

Satire attempts to get the author’s point across by the ridicule of “incorrigible faults”.

Satire may also be found as an “incidental element” or style in a work of literature (i.e. a certain character, situation, or reference.)

Classifying Satire

Satire is usually classified according to its aim and tone.

The works of the Romans Horace and Juvenal are the sources of the first use of satire and the classification takes its name from them.

Horatian Satire undertakes to evoke a smile at the foibles of men. The author speaks as a tolerant man, who is moved to amusement rather than indignation at spectacle of human folly (sometimes his own.)

Juvenalian Satire evokes contempt and moral indignation at the vices and corruptions of men. The writer here speaks in the character of a serious moralist. He or she is denouncing issues (which are also dangerous because they are ridiculous.)

Another System of Satire

Satire may be formal or direct: it is a commentary on people and affairs the satiric voice speaks in first person. Satire was often used in the articles published in the first newspapers by Addison and Steele. (18th century Swift’s period).

Satire may be indirect: Is cast in the form of a plot, narrative style and commentary such as:

Burlesque / Parody / Mock Epic / Irony / Wit & Humour an example is Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The Restoration Period and the 18th Century are huge periods of English satiric achievement.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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