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Masters of Satire: John Dryden and Jonathan Swift Essay

“Both Swift and Dryden are masters of satire. Usually the satire is directed against an opponent/enemy or a political process. Using references from one poem from each writer, discuss how and why each uses satire and wit as a cutting sword.”

John Dryden and Jonathan Swift became remarkable satirists through their ability to cleverly entwine political innuendos into their writings. There were mountains of governmental and religious issues occurring in the era of Dryden and Swift and these two witty men penned their standings into poetry and tales of adventure. Dryden’s “Absalom and Achitophel” is laced with his outlooks on England’s situations. He uses numerous moments of humor to make fun of the religious situation between the Catholics and the Protestants and also the political drama after the death of King Charles. His descriptions of the similarities between England’s issues and the many parallels to biblical problems are uncanny. Lines 433 through 438 are just on example of the satire Dryden weaved into his poem. “Would David have you thought his darling son?

What means he then, to alienate the crown?

The name of godly he may blush to bear:

‘Tis after God’s own heart to cheat his heir.

He to his brother gives supreme command

To you a legacy of barren land…” (890)

Dryden was exposing the hypocrisy of King Charles who claimed to be a pious man, yet he shunned his own son.

In “A Description of a City Shower”, Swift incorporated hints of political and class struggles in England. As I read this poem, I got the feeling that Swift was implying that, when national tragedy strikes (when it rains), no matter what class of citizen you are or political party you belong to, you have the same reaction as everyone else. The King on down to the poorest peasant shares the need to survive.

“Here various kinds, by various fortunes led,

Commence acquaintance underneath a shed.” (968)

I may have been off on what the author really wanted to express, but that is how I felt and I could not help but think of 9/11 and how the United States came together. Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, and every other political party came together under tragedy. This poem made me see the bond of nationality all over again.

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