Guide to Literary Terms Satire

Satire

Satire - the use of humor and wit with a critical attitude, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule for exposing or denouncing the frailties and faults of mankind’s activities and institutions, such as folly, stupidity, or vice. This usually involves both moral judgment and a desire to help improve a custom, belief, or tradition.

The term is from the Latin satura, meaning “full” or “sated” and was derived from satis, meaning “enough” or “sufficient.”

Satire began with the early Greek poets when they were supposed to tax weaknesses and correct vice. As a distinct literary form, satire was the creation of the Romans and was subsequently present in many forms of medieval literature. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer used this technique for “The Miller’s Tale” and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” During the Renaissance, satire was more often prose rather than poetry. The Golden Age of Satire in England was the early Eighteenth Century when Henry Fielding, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay and others dominated British letters.

In the Twentieth Century, satire includes George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 which satirized political situations and the status quo, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World which satirized utopian dreams.

see: lampoon, parody