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Satire is a kind of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own. ~ Jonathan Swift

Satire is a literary technique of writing or art which exposes the follies of its subject (for example, individuals, organizations, or states) to ridicule, often as an intended means of provoking or preventing change.


Satirists, be careful. In the 1931 film by René Clair Vive la Liberte a song says, "Work is freedom." In 1940 the sign on the gates to Auschwitz said: "Arbeit macht frei." (“Work makes you free.”) ~ Stanisław Jerzy Lec
  • SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are "endowed by their Creator" with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a soul-spirited knave, and his ever victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
  • Unless a love of virtue light the flame,
    Satire is, more than those he brands, to blame;
    He hides behind a magisterial air
    His own offences, and strips others' bare.
  • Why should we fear; and what? The laws?
    They all are armed in virtue's cause;
    And aiming at the self-same end,
    Satire is always virtue's friend.
  • Satire well applied, is the medicine of the mind.
    • James Cobb, The Haunted Tower (1789), Act II, scene II
  • Now, as I understand it, the bards were feared. They were respected, but more than that they were feared. If you were just some magician, if you'd pissed off some witch, then what's she gonna do, she's gonna put a curse on you, and what's gonna happen? Your hens are gonna lay funny, your milk's gonna go sour, maybe one of your kids is gonna get a hare-lip or something like that — no big deal. You piss off a bard, and forget about putting a curse on you, he might put a satire on you. And if he was a skilful bard, he puts a satire on you, it destroys you in the eyes of your community, it shows you up as ridiculous, lame, pathetic, worthless, in the eyes of your community, in the eyes of your family, in the eyes of your children, in the eyes of yourself, and if it's a particularly good bard, and he's written a particularly good satire, then three hundred years after you're dead, people are still gonna be laughing, at what a twat you were.
    • Alan Moore, "The Craft" - interview with Daniel Whiston, Engine Comics (January 2005)
  • Satire is a kind of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.
  • Satire, by being levelled at all, is never resented for an offence by any.
  • Satire is what closes on Saturday night.
    • George S. Kaufman, after the first version of his play Strike up the Band, closed on the weekend

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 690
  • Difficile est satiram non scribere.
    • It is difficult not to write satire.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), I. 29
  • Satire should, like a polished razor keen,
    Wound with a touch that's scarcely felt or seen.
    Thine is an oyster knife, that hacks and hews;
    The rage but not the talent to abuse.
  • I wear my Pen as others do their Sword.
    To each affronting sot I meet, the word
    Is Satisfaction: straight to thrusts I go,
    And pointed satire runs him through and through.
  • Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
    And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
    Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
    Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
    Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
    A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend.
  • Satire or sense, alas! Can Sporus feel?
    Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
    • Alexander Pope, Prologue to Satires, line 307. ("Sporus," Lord John Hervey)
  • There are, to whom my satire seems too bold;
    Scarce to wise Peter complaisant enough,
    And something said of Chartres much too rough.
  • Satire's my weapon, but I'm too discreet
    To run amuck and tilt at all I meet.
  • La satire ment sur les gens de lettres pendant leur vie, et l'éloge ment après leur mort.
    • Satire lies about literary men while they live and eulogy lies about them when they die.
    • Voltaire, Lettre à Bordes (10 January 1769)
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