Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement.
Satirical verse was an entirely Roman invention, which began at a time when Roman society was undergoing huge change. Although satire was political in a wider sense, since it provided a social commentary, nonetheless it allowed a wide range of styles and subject matter. The aim of the poets was to hold up to ridicule prevailing vices or follies of the age, in such a way as to entertain and, frequently, to instruct. Problems were usually discussed in a social or moral tone, rather than a political or economic one.
Because of acute contemporary political conflicts, the traditional division widened between Juvenalian (harsh, tragic) and Horatian (mild, comic) satiric poetry, and each of these two styles gathered new political connotations that forced reformist writers into a mode that was more intricately ironic.
The poetic style of the satire must be filled with images most likely to disturb us. The ode goes to the heavens to borrow images and comparisons from thunder, the stars and the gods themselves; but familiarity with such things will have already educated those who love poetry.
In order for writings to be classified as a literary genre, two qualifications must be satisfied:
1. There must be an archetype - one that claims to be the first of its kind.
2. It must follow the lex operis - "rules" of the genere must be followed and applied consistently.
Roman Satire does qualify.
The remains of Old English literature are as void of the satiric spirit as it is possible for literature to be, and it is not till some time after the Norman Conquest that we find whole compositions which may reasonably be called satires. The earliest of these compositions are not written in the English language. They are either Latin pieces of what we may call the classical tradition, or Goliardic Latin verses, or sirventes written in French. Gradually, in satire as in all literature, and for every purpose of life, the native English prevailed over the foreign tongues; but only after the lapse of some generations.
The Horation or Sociocentric: while criticizing human behavior, this type of satire offers an ideal of right conduct (or "satiric norm") against which to measure its criticism. It optimistically suggests human beings can improve their conduct and amend their ways.
The Juvenalian or Egocentric: a harsh form of satire that viciously attacks human degeneracy and reflects little or no confidence that human beings can change their evil ways. In other words, the reader has a hard time seeing any satiric norm.
If satire is not viewed simply as derisive reduction and rejection, if we broaden our conception - as I do in this book - to include inquiry and provocation, play and display, anything from Menippean fantasy to learned anatomizing, then we find satire's mark not just presented in satiric set pieces (for example, the Veneerings' dinner table in Dickens) but woven into the fabric of several different varieties of the novel.
Formal satire involves a direct, first-person-address, either to the audience or to a listener mentioned within the work. An example of formal satire is Alexander Pope's Moral Essays. Indirect satire conventionally employs the form of a fictional narrative--such as Byron's Don Juan or Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Ridicule, irony, exaggeration, and similar tools are almost always used in satire.
Horatian satire tends to focus lightly on laughter and ridicule, but it maintains a playful tone. Generally, the tone is sympathetic and good humored, somewhat tolerant of imperfection and folly even while expressing amusement at it. The name comes from the Roman poet Horace (65 BCE-8 CE), who preferred to ridicule human folly in general rather than condemn specific persons. In contrast, Juvenalian satire also uses withering invective, insults, and a slashing attack. The name comes from the Roman poet Juvenal (60-140 CE), who frequently employed the device, but the label is applied to British writers such as Swift and Pope as well.
Structurally, the satirical narrative will end somewhat like the original narrative, but, in terms of tone, the seriousness or pretensions of the original narrative will be deflated.
As a single-voiced example, an impersonator depends on his audience’s pre-knowledge of a celebrity’s mannerisms and foibles.