How have poets over the centuries used satire to comment on their times?

        John Skelton, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope wrote three of the most satirical poems of the period before 1914, they have become renowned for their poetry and for deriding people and societies of their time. Satire is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices or a literary miscellany, especially a poem ridiculing prevalent vices or follies. A mock epic is a form of  that adapts the elevated heroic style of the classical epic poem to a trivial subject. The methods utilised to satirise people, places and communities have changed over the centuries and the texts have become more satirically obvious.

Numerous literary devices are applied to create the satirical poem called Speke Parott by John Skelton in 1521. Personification is literary technique utilised to ridicule Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, the character whom Skelton has directed all derision. Personification is shown in line 43, ‘My lady masters, Dame Phylology,’ which is incarnating the study of language as a grand woman. This gave the illusion that intelligence made people higher is social hierarchy; thereby being adept at a number of different languages people may be of an elevated rank. However, as Skelton portrays recurrently throughout the poem, this ostensibly intellectual person may in truth be rather foolish, as has been written about Wolsey during Speke Parott. Another literary device that was employed was the use of macaronic verse. Macaronic verse is language consisting of a mixture of words containing of two or more languages. Macaronic doggerel is used frequently throughout the poem, this is shown in line 58, ‘”que pensez-voz, Parrot? What meneth this besynes?”’ This is effective use of satire to comment on John Skelton’s period because he wrote Speke Parott to mock Thomas Cardinal Wolsey and Wolsey spoke a number of languages, therefore the parrot is declaring that despite understanding the myriad languages, Wolsey was unwise and ridiculous. There were additionally several hidden meanings and double connotations to certain words and phrases. One particular area which included various concealed realities was the reference to the Royal Family, especially Queen Catherine of Aragon. This is revealed in line 36, ‘With Kateryne incomporabyll, owur royall queen also,’ when Skelton indicates praise about the Royal queen, however five lines later he mocks Catherine of Aragon, ‘Mole rui sua, whose dictes ar pregnaunte –‘ which insinuates Catherine of Aragon purpose is to become pregnant and birth Henry the eighth a male heir. However, she had failed him and at the age of thirty six she was considered elderly, she had only produced Princess Mary in 1916 and John Skelton taunted Catherine of Aragon by intimating that she was not able to create any more children.

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Speke Parott consists of satirical language devices for instance; alliteration is a commonly practiced technique. Alliteration is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words, line 30, ‘Pronownsying my purpose after my properte,’ is an example of alliteration. This extract describes Wolsey as a person who was more concerned with what he received, rather than his own sense of purpose. Alliteration also makes language seem more nonsensical, which would be easier for John Skelton to disguise his insults. Another example is line 60, ‘Melchisedeck mercyfull made Moloc mercyles.’ In this extract, ‘Milchisedeck’ represents ...

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