How important is Augustan Satire in the works of any two authors?

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HI there! I will provide you with some ideas on how to approach your 600 word essay. Enotes educators cannot write your essays, but we can help point you in the right direction.

Let's start with a brief outline of Augustan Satire. The Augustan Age represents the first half of the 18th Century during the reigns of Queen Anne, King George I and King George II. The Augustan Age seems to draw comparisons with that of a similar Augustan age in Rome when the Emperor Octavian restores peace and order to Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Likewise, during the Augustan Age, which is also sometimes referred to as the Age of Reason/ Enlightenment, the English people are ready to put the never-ending wars of succession behind them. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 culminates in Parliament's authority and power super-ceding that of the king's for the first time. William and Mary become the new monarchs; the Age of Enlightenment brings in a focus on the power of reason and of science. This new science questions superstitious beliefs like omens in the sky and in nature before a catastrophe. In this age of Enlightenment, people start to ask 'Why?' and 'How?' instead of accepting the superstitious status quo of the past.

Enter a new enthusiasm for theater and a new appreciation for satire in literature. Not only are people questioning their deeply held beliefs, they are also questioning the accepted norms of the ruling classes. Two famous Augustan authors you might highlight are Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. Both authors are famous for their satire. Here we have an era where science is fast gaining a place in the societal consciousness and everything is supposed to be getting better and more advanced- yet, beneath all that polish and sheen, there remain substantial challenges. Both Pope and Swift are aghast at the rot beneath the shining exterior of modernity: the lack of morals, the lack of carefulness in art, morality and in manners. The great Enlightenment of the English mind does not seem to correspond with a necessary studiousness in moral conduct, especially on the part of the upper classes.

Note: Your essay might include how both the Augustan age and Augustan satire came to be (as I have delineated for you above.) This historical background will provide a backdrop as to why satire is so important during England's Augustan age. Since it is only a 600 word essay, you might consider devoting just one paragraph to the history and then go on to discuss the importance of the two works below. The history links are :

Augustan Age

Augustan Literature with Historical Context

Here are the  ENotes links to summaries of both Pope's work 'The Rape of The Lock' and Swift's work 'A Modest Proposal.' What does Pope's work deal with? He is criticizing the moral poverty of the upper classes. His satire is a much more effective instrument in drawing attention to the hypocrisy and moral failings of the ruling classes than a more direct and brutal assessment of their inadequacies. You must remember that capital punishment in the 18th century is brutal; the ruling classes are fearful of the mob influence and are motivated to tamp down on any rebellions. Penal colonies to the Americas are instituted starting in 1718. Are the ruling classes merely exporting their problems away?  Yet, Swift's 'The Modest Proposal' is unapologetically caustic; it highlights the indifference of the British towards Irish economic woes with its shockingly perverse and seemingly 'logical' solutions.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question!

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