Alexander Pope as a Satirist | The greatest satirist of all centuries

Alexander Pope as a satirist stands unrivalled in the field of verse satires of English literature. Here, I have cover qualities that reveals the pre eminence of Alexander Pope as a satirist.

Alexander Pope as a satirist | discuss Alexander Pope as a satirist.

The rise of English verse satire was a marked feature of the Restoration literature. Infact, the 'fever' of it pervaded all over Europe during and after the Restoration. 
The aim of this literary composition is to expose and ridicule vices and follies, with a clinical and corrective effect ; as Dryden opines : " The true end of satire is the amendment of vices by correction".

In the 18th century satires was at its best. Dryden was the imitator of this great age of satire while Swift, Addition, Steele and Pope brought it to perfection.

Among them Alexander Pope can be deemed as the true successor to Dryden, and also the greatest satirist of all centuries.

Qualities of Alexander Pope as a satirist

In the realm of English verse satires Pope is an eminent figure. For his high satirical art, Pope has been crowned as the representative of his age- the age of satires.

 In the book, "The Age of Pope" , John Dennis opines: "It is as a satirist that Pope, with an exception, exceeds all English poets" . Though Pope wrote the didactive poems which are steeped in moral aphorisms, yet his genius was most at home in his satires.

Pope's life was a "long disease" and had a dwarf and deformed constitution. Throughout his life he never enjoyed the radiant glow of health. Further, he was a man of suspicious and irritable temperament. He was of the view "to attack vices in abstruct without touching persons, may be safe fighting indeed, but it is fighting with shadows" .

Pope was conscious of his power and capacity as a satirist,
               "Yes I am proud; I must be proud to see
Men not afraid of God, afraid of men".

Pope's satires were the finest of the English classics. He manifested his real genius in his first work, " Essay on Criticism".

But he established himself through his two major works, "The Rape of the Lock" and "The Dunciad".

 Other satires authored by him are, "Moral Essays", "Satires and Epistles", "Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot" and "The Essay on Man" .

Through his impersonal satires, Pope really sought to amend vice by correction, and thus aimed at the reformation of the high and the evils of the age.

This satiring of the corruption of the age was followed by the female sex. Thus, Pope came out with his most charming work, "The Rape of the Lock", where he mocks not only at the "little ungaurded follies of the fair sex," but also the wholesome artificial social life of London in 18 century .

As this poem exhibit Pope's genius as a satirist, his delicacy of handling mock-heroic theme is also fully revealed.

"The Rape of the Lock" serves as a delicate specimen of mock in English verse- infact at the triumph of mock-heroic poetry.

As in the language of Hazlitt, "It is the triumph of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and folly. It is the perfection of mock-heroic".

Although Pope's workmanship bears the stamp of Dryden, but in the fullness of sound, energy and majesty he excels his masters.

 In the handling of his chosen meter as well as in the force and vividness of his satirical portraiture, he leaves the elder poets far behind.

Pope's most ambitious satire is " The Dunciad" - bearing a fine comedy and good criticism of social and literary degeneration. Pope wrote it to have his revenge on all those who had criticised his translation of Homer and his edition of Shakespeare.

Pope had planned his revenge carefully and came out with a devastating attack on a number of writers of Grub Street.

Theobald, the noted Shakespearan scholar was first crowned the hero of Dunce land, but in Book IV of the second edition, this honour was transferred to Cibber. In the words of Tillotson, "the poem is the cruelest satire of its age only because Pope is the best writer" .

The  "Moral Essays" and particularly the "Satires and Epistles" fully revealed Pope's brilliance and spitefulness in satirical portraiture. As a satirist these pieces contains his finest workmanship. In the Epistle to Mr. Fortestue, Pope boldly satirised corruption in high places.

Pope's forte was satirical portraiture and we get the best of it in the "Satires and Epistles" , more especially in the "Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot" . The portrait of Addition as Atticus and of Lord Halifex as Bufo are classics of satirical portraiture. For there vividness, accuracy and precision they are the 'unmatched' in the whole range of satiric literature.

Thus, in the language of Dr. Johnson, ".......a thousand years may elapse before there shall appear another man with a power of versification equal to that of Pope"  - glorifying Pope's literary genius and signifying his importance in English literature, where he stands unassailable as a satirist.


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