Mad Magazine, The Simpson's, Saturday Night Live. In our society, satire is among the most common of comedic forms. This was not always true, for before the 18th century, satire was not a fully developed. Satire rose out of necessity. Writers and artists needed a way to criticize their governments and their churches. By the 18th century, satire was hugely popular. .
Satire as it was originally proposed was a form of literature using sarcasm, irony, and wit, to bring about a change in society, but in the eighteenth century Voltaire, Jonathan Swift and William Hogarth expanded satire to include politics, as well as art. The political environment of the time was one of stress. Any criticism of government would bring punishments. In order to voice opinions writers turned to Satire. Voltaire's Candide and Swift's Modest Proposal are two examples of this new genre. Voltaire was able to attack scientists, and theologians. .
Another technique used by Voltaire to convey satire is sarcastic humor. In one description of a common eighteenth century medical cure, the patient is very fortunate to only lose an eye and an ear (Lamm 178). In this case, as well as in many others, sarcasm is used to show Voltaire's disdain for what he sees as false professors of knowledge. Voltaire occasionally uses slapstick humor as well, not to convey any criticism, but to lighten the mood. An amusing example of this comes in the early pages of Candide, "The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration (Lamm 175)" .
Jonathan Swift uses satire to attack governmental injustices. In his essay, A Modest Proposal, Swift projects a quick way of addressing Irish poverty by eating Irish babies. In a less severe style, Swift attacks English politics and the idiosyncrasies of the people in Gulliver's Travels .
Although it is looked on as his most controversial work, A Modest Proposal was also Swift's most clever essay.