Hating Satire, Only To End Up Using It

Pope visual satire 2.jpg

Following Lecture Notes which heavily cleared up confusions in my head about Alexander Pope’s “The Dunciad”, we know that this specific picture that I chose to focus on, was used for some serious bullying of Pope. There was some literal bullying that went on in this image in terms of Pope’s actual physical condition. In his biography, we find that he was left “humpbacked and deformed” because of Tuberculosis (2600). In this image specifically, this rat/monkey figure of Pope has a particular huge bump on his back and he is leaning on something. Pope’s figure of a monkey mix also is being made fun of because of his reference in lines 18-19 of “The Dunciad, “In broad Effulgence all below reveal’d/(‘Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines).” He is referencing a monkey who when continuing to climb, exposes their bottom more and more. To make him a mix of monkey is to use his own example to describe him as making an ass of himself.  Playing again on his Tuberculosis, we also know that Pope couldn’t actually hold himself up due to his condition. And in his poem, he mentions that the satire style he is most criticized for is what’s actually making this all entertaining. He’s saying had it not been for my satire: “Had not her sister Satire held her head:” (42), then Thalia, the “Muse of Comedy” would be dead (41). But again, this is ironic because in this image, those that are criticizing him also have Pope’s figure holding his head.

However, this bullying was also rooted in the discrimination of Pope, who was: a Roman Catholic who could not, “vote or purchase land, attend public school/university, live within ten miles of London, hold public office, or openly practice his religion” (2599). He was treated significantly less than those around him and was seriously oppressed by those around him. This image was definitely a message to Pope to not just “Know thyself,” but also to remind him to know his place and realize that he is still the lowest of the poets, in the eyes of those who criticize him. 

 

-Ruth Serrano

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