Alexander Pope

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What does political satire mean?

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Political satire is a form of entertainment meant to poke fun at politics. It is often subversive in nature but does necessarily carry a specific agenda. It can take the form of parody, caricature, and hyperbole. While the topics that are satirized are usually serious in nature, political satire is designed to be a thought-provoking yet humorous reflection of reality.

Political satire is probably as old as politics itself. In Athens in the fifth century BCE, Aristophanes was fond of imbuing his plays with a heavy dose of political satire. He often included themes meant to highlight the absurdity of the political discourse of the day. This tradition of using humor as political commentary continued throughout the Roman period and well into the modern era. Contemporary examples of political satire can be found in programs like Saturday Night Live and most late-night talk shows. These programs attempt to hold a mirror up to society to point out the absurdities of politics using parody and humor.

Alexander Pope is one of the most well known political satirists of his day. His style of political satire borrowed a lot from the Roman poets Horace and Juvenal. Pope used his wit with the pen to humorously expose what he saw as the moral hypocrisy and corruption of the British leaders of his day. Pope sought to do this in a subtle yet mocking way. In The Rape of the Lock, Pope deftly presents a clearly petty conflict to be of grand heroic importance. Any reader can see the absurdity in the characters' attitudes and actions and draw clear comparisons to British aristocracy.

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