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In satire, the author uses humor to point out, and often criticize, faults and shortcomings. These issues usually pertain to the society in which that author lives and are sometimes recognizable features of prominent political figures. There may be a moral or ethical basis to these evaluations, and the author may intend their criticisms to help correct these flaws.

William Shakespeare presents Hamlet as a character who is painfully aware of the shortcomings of his own society. This perspective is presented by Marcellus’s succinct assessment that something is “rotten” in Denmark. Hamlet expresses this attitude in his first conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (act 2, scene 2). When Rosencrantz offers the “news” that “the world’s grown honest,” Hamlet replies, “your news is not true.” His critical take on his country extends to his labeling it a “prison…in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons.”

Another place where Shakespeare uses satire is in...

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