An Overview of the Two Types of Satire in Literature: Horatian and Juvenalian

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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The essay will dissect the two main types of satire in literature – Horatian and Juvenalian. Horatian satire is characterized by a light-hearted, humorous approach, while Juvenalian satire is known for its bitter, and sometimes abrasive, critique of society. This essay aims to help readers distinguish between these styles and appreciate the nuanced ways satire can deliver powerful social and political commentary. More free essay examples are accessible at PapersOwl about Irony.

Category: Irony
Type: Satire
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Pages:  2
Words:  612
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In literature, there are two types of satire: Horatian and Juvenalian. Both can be effective to help change the opinions and actions of society. However, overall, Horatian is a much more effective form of satire in accomplishing this goal.

Horatian is a form of satire that aims to correct through broad laughter. This technique is more effective than the opposing Juvenalian style because Horatian reaches a broader spectrum of people and can, therefore, teach them as intended. Irony is a common device used in satire, especially in Horatian, and it can be easily understood by readers.

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In The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell says, “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes and probably lead to acts of violence…” (Wilde 13). This statement is ironic because, as the play goes on, the reader comes to realize that Lady Bracknell, a woman of the upper class herself, is not as educated as characters of the lower class, such as Miss Prism. This quote is not only satirical in its use of irony but also its mock seriousness as well. When Lady Bracknell says her line, it is over-exaggerated and blown way out of proportion. She states that education does nothing for England, which is a very bold and hard-to-believe claim. In this single quote, Wilde managed to use not only irony but mock seriousness as well. Both are very simple subjects to grasp, ones that would appeal more to the masses and, therefore, be easier to show what the writer is truly mocking and trying to fix.

Although Horatian may be the more effective of the two styles, Juvenalian is still a very useful form of satire. The most commonly known piece of Juvenalian satire is “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Whereas Horatian satire is more playful and gentle, Swift’s essay showcases the common tones of Juvenalian satire, such as being more contemptuous and sardonic. He writes, “I am assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food; whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled…” (Swift). The image of eating a baby is horrifyingly absurd, so much so that the extremity of the idea demonstrates the irony contained within the work. The narrator saves these lines until he is already a bit later in the essay. He gets the reader into a place of trust, thinking it will be a serious, argumentative proposal, but then throws out that jarring line that may throw readers for a loop and definitely have them reread it. This trend continues throughout the essay, the narrator continuing to talk about how right a solution it seems to eat babies. Some readers may not see the satire in this work and may still take Swift’s work seriously instead of the form of ridicule that it is. Because there are plenty of people that may stay confused by the underlying mocking tone in all the absurdities, Juvenalian is not as effective a way as Horatian to get a point across to people.

Both Horatian and Juvenalian are acceptable and great forms of satire. Horatian happens to be more effective because of its cheerful tone that enables people to see the meaning behind, rather than the cutting tone of Juvenalian satire. In some cases, Juvenalian may be the more effective form, but when the author is trying to change the opinions and actions of society, Horatian is the best and most effective form to use.

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An Overview of the Two Types of Satire in Literature: Horatian and Juvenalian. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from