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Verse Satire in the English Renaissance

Ejner J. Jensen

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405119559.2007.00010.x


Any just account of the verse satire of the English Renaissance is likely to seem diffuse and multi-faceted, wide-ranging and selectively focused, engaged with the theory of satire but persuaded by its practice, and fundamentally uncertain about whether satire ought to be considered “a kind of writing” or “a way of writing” ( Spacks 1968 : 15). Renaissance satire is in almost every important dimension an epitome of the period in which it came to life; nearly every cliché that defines the period is applicable to its satire. Native elements and elements of a classical revival have joint shares in its origins and growth; it offers here and there claims of innovation even as it acknowledges its debts to the past. Over a period of some one hundred and fifty years — from John Skelton to Andrew Marvell — Renaissance satire reflects the defining features of its time. It exhibits nearly everywhere a delight in energy and play, a fondness for discovery, a fecund linguistic imagination, and unchecked pleasure in showing off. In an increasingly urban world, the satirists of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries respond by exploiting the city as the site of dramatic action and the field of poetic competition. George Puttenham, in The Arte of English Poesie (1589), wrote of a “kind of Poet, who intended to taxe the common abuses and vice of the people in rough and bitter speaches, and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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