“Satire is a genre of literature and performing arts, usually fiction and less frequently in non-fiction, in which vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.
A feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm —”in satire, irony is militant”, according to literary critic Northrup Frye— but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. This “militant” irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to question.
Satire is found in many artistic forms of expression, including internet memes, literature, plays, commentary, music, film and television shows, and media such as lyrics.
The word satire comes from the Latin word satur and the subsequent phrase lanx satura. Satur meant “full” but the juxtaposition with lanx shifted the meaning to “miscellany or medley”: the expression lanx satura literally means “a full dish of various kinds of fruits”.
Satire and irony in some cases have been regarded as the most effective source to understand a society, the oldest form of social study. They provide the keenest insights into a group’s collective psyche, reveal its deepest values and tastes, and the society’s structures of power. Some authors have regarded satire as superior to non-comic and non-artistic disciplines like history or anthropology. In a prominent example from ancient Greece, philosopher Plato, when asked by a friend for a book to understand Athenian society, referred him to the plays of Aristophanes.
Horatian satire, named for the Roman satirist Horace (65–8 BCE), playfully criticizes some social vice through gentle, mild, and light-hearted humour.
Juvenalian satire, named for the writings of the Roman satirist Juvenal (late first century – early second century AD), is more contemptuous and abrasive than the Horatian.
The genre of Menippean satire is a form of satire, usually in prose, which is characterized by attacking mental attitudes rather than specific individuals or entities. It has been broadly described as a mixture of allegory, picaresque narrative and satirical commentary.
The Age of Enlightenment, an intellectual movement in the 17th and 18th centuries advocating rationality, produced a great revival of satire in Britain. This was fuelled by the rise of partisan politics, with the formalisation of the Tory and Whig parties—and also, in 1714, by the formation of the Scriblerus Club, which included Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Robert Harley, Thomas Parnell, and Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke. This club included several of the notable satirists of early-18th-century Britain.
The type of humour that deals with creating laughter at the expense of the person telling the joke is called reflexive humour. Reflexive humour can take place at dual levels of directing humour at self or at the larger community the self identifies with. The audience’s understanding of the context of reflexive humour is important for its receptivity and success.
It appears also in graphic arts, music, sculpture, dance, cartoon strips, and graffiti. Examples are Dada sculptures, Pop Art works, music of Gilbert and Sullivan and Erik Satie, punk and rock music.
The romantic prejudice against satire is the belief spread by the romantic movement that satire is something unworthy of serious attention; this prejudice has held considerable influence to this day.
Because it is essentially ironic or sarcastic, satire is often misunderstood. A typical misunderstanding is to confuse the satirist with his persona.
Because satire criticises in an ironic, essentially indirect way, it frequently escapes censorship in a way more direct criticism might not…”