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Apr 23, 2011

Seventeenth Century Verse Satire


17th century, more especially the Restoration Age was essentially the age of satire. The habit of judging and condemning society gave birth to the spirit of satire. The open denunciations of false spiritual authorities become not only a duty but a pleasure with the restoration writers. Political strife also aggravated the spirit of satire. Whigs and Tories engaged themselves in the pen-war. French influence also contributed because satire was in fashion in France and Boileau was its brilliant exponent. The writers translated and imitated the old masters of satire like Persius, Horace, and Juvenal; and lastly, the general classical taste of the age rise to the spirit of satire during the period.

John Dryden the greatest satirist of the are wrote three satires Absalom and Achitophel, The Medal and Macflecknoe which are masterpieces of political vigour, personal animosity and partisan spirit. Absalom and Achitophel defends the king’s policy against the Earl of Shaftesbury in a biblical allegory and presents the best satirical portrait of the Duke of Buckingham under the name of Zimri. The Medal is a further invective against Shaftesbury; and Macflecnoe is a scathing personal attack on his former friend, Thomas Shadwell.

Samuel butler’s Hudibras is a satire on puritans which instantly hit the taste of the time, and by its popularity greatly stimulated general reaction against the ‘saints’ and their cause. The machinery of the poem fashioned on Don Quixote. It was Butler’s intention to kill Puritans, by ridicule. To modern taste Hudibras is far too long and its best passages suffering from prolixity. John Oldham is another satirist of the age. He wrote two powerful satires Satire Against Virtue and Satire Upon The Jesuits. His satire is too generalized and avoids personalities altogether. His work has vigour and forve though it lacks humoir and versification is slipsod and careless. Rocherster’s Satire Against Mankind is a cynical but light hearted denunciation of allhumanity and displays plenty of wit. Charles Cotton burlesqued in Virgile Travestie Vergils’s Heroic poetry.

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