Tag Archives: satire

Oscar Wilde Introduction

Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright who became the darling of British high society, is probably the best-known and most-quoted satirist of the late 19th century. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1864, Wilde became a well-known lecturer, essayist, and playwright who enjoyed near-universal popularity until the shocking trial that ended his literary career and, not long after, his life.

Wilde’s parents encouraged his intellectual pursuits. His success at Dublin’s Trinity College ended in his receiving a scholarship to Oxford University in England, where he won prizes for his academic achievements and his writings. He graduated with a degree in classics. Wilde was a strong proponent of the intellectual movement known as aestheticism, which emphasized the pursuit of beauty more than social-political themes for the arts. His lecture tour of the United States introduced him to many American artists and intellectuals, including the poet Walt Whitman. He continued lecturing upon his return to England in 1882.

Wilde began his professional writing career as the editor of the magazine Lady’s World. In 1888, he published The Happy Prince and Other Stories, a collection for children. Three years later, his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, about a man whose enchanted portrait ages so that he can continue living a life of sin, was published in 1891. Dorian Gray was viewed as scandalous and immoral, a hint of troubles to come.

The next year, Wilde’s first play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, made its debut to great acclaim. Playwriting became Wilde’s preferred literary style. Lady Windermere’s Fan was followed in short order by A Woman of No Importance in 1893 and both An Ideal Husband and his most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895. Each of these works skewered the pretensions of British high society through clever wordplay and Wilde’s satirical wit. 

Irene Vanbrugh as Gwendolen Fairfax and George Alexander as Jack Worthing in the 1895 production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, from The Sketch magazine, London, March 1895. NAL 131655

Wilde’s gift for the cutting remark and his razor-sharp acuity about human folly would have made him a natural at Twitter, had social media existed at the time. As it was, he could be counted on to provide a smart remark about just about any topic:

“There is always more books than brains in an aristocracy.” —Vera, or The Nihilists

“The English mind is always in a rage. The intellect of the race is wasted in the sordid and stupid quarrels of second-rate politicians or third-rate theologians.” —The Critic As Artist

“One is impressed in America, but not favourably impressed, by the inordinate size of everything. The country seems to try to bully one into a belief in its power by its impressive bigness.” —Impressions of America 

“If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilised.” —An Ideal Husband

“The Rhine is of course tedious, the vineyards are formal and dull, and as far as I can judge, the inhabitants of Germany are American.” —Letter to Robert Ross

“It is the Philistine who seeks to estimate a personality by the vulgar test of production.” —Pen, Pencil, and Poison

“There is no sin except stupidity.” —The Critic as Artist

The year 1895 proved both the pinnacle of Wilde’s success as an artist and the nadir of his personal life. Wilde was married to a woman named Constance Lloyd, and although he and Constance had two children together, it was no secret that Wilde’s true affections lay elsewhere. He had for years enjoyed a close relationship with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, the son of the powerful Marquess of Queensbury. When the Marquess found out about the relationship, he publicly accused Wilde of homosexuality, which was a crime in Great Britain at the time. Wilde sued the Marquess for libel, which proved his undoing. At the trial, excerpts from his writings and his personal letters to Bosie were presented as evidence. His libel case was dismissed. Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years at hard labor.

Wilde emerged from prison a broken man, his popularity shattered and his family and fortunes gone. He spent the next couple of years in exile. His only writing from that period was the long poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” which chronicled his prison experience.

In 1900, Wilde contracted a serious case of meningitis at the age of 46 while living in a shabby Paris hotel. Witty to the end, his reputed last words were, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”



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Brontë Sisters Power Dolls

This bit of inspired lunacy from Phil Lord and Chris Miller was created in 1998. It’s a never-aired fake commercial for a line of educational action figures based on historical figures. Enjoy!

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A Modern Greek Chorus

The opening credits of Disney’s animated film Hercules (yes, that’s the Roman name, but retraining Americans to say the proper Greek “Herakles” is a high bar even for Disney to clear) plays with the concept of the Greek chorus. Included in this short clip are references to the rise of the pantheon of gods after the defeat of the Titans, the role of the muses in Greek mythology, the characteristic art of Greek vases, a gorgeous presentation of Mount Olympus (check out Apollo and his flaming chariot of the sun!), and, of course, the musical pun of the gospel style of the song and its title, “The Gospel Truth.”

As a side note, the stentorian introduction is voiced by the late actor Charlton Heston, whose fame was solidified based on his roles in the films The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, so there’s another performing arts pun for you: who better to narrate the tale of an epic hero than, well, the quintessential Hollywood epic hero? Enjoy!

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Johnson’s Updated Dictionary 2014

johnsonAfter our study of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, we decided to apply our knowledge of satire and create some definitions of our own. Here are some especially good examples of modern additions to the Dictionary:

booty -the largest inanimate object that has the power to control a man’s mind.

cheerleading– throwing people and ourselves in the air, but still not considered a sport.

credit card – a magical plastic card that makes teenagers feel all-powerful and omniscient, all while secretly depriving said teens of money not yet attained.

Florida – a state enslaved by and dependent on a mouse and oranges.

gangster – a teenage male who still lives with his mother.

hair – something to be removed unless it’s on a head or part of an eyebrow.

headphones -the amazing wire that brings music to your ears but breaks at the drop of a dime.

hello – to approach a female with sexual intentions.

Instagram – the place where everyone who owns a camera is either a model or a photographer.

marriage – a reason to have a party a few years (or weeks) before you break up. Ex: Kim Kardashian.

moded – things are not going your way; to get burned.

Oscar – an award given to great actors, but not Leonardo DiCaprio.

rabbit – an animal so adorable it makes even the strongest, manliest men to act like squealing little girls.

spray tan – a spray that tricks girls into thinking they look tan but actually turns them into Oompa Loompas.

swag-males using the power of style and fashion in order to impress females.

textbook – a heavy and expensive object you receive on the first day of class and open only twice throughout the year: midterm and final exam.

unbeweaveable – describes a girl’s crazy hairstyle involving fake hair and wild colors.

vegan – a person who protests the murder of animals but eats their only food supply.

women – can’t live with ’em, can’t eat without ’em.

YOLO – excuse used to do something incredibly stupid.

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Our combination of Macbeth and social media resulted in a number of humorous hashtags. What other ones can you think of for the play and its characters?









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Jane Eyre, SNL Style

British actor Jude Law stars as Mr. Rochester in a parody sketch from
Saturday Night Live in 2004. “You must NEVER go up there, Jane!”


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Johnson’s Updated Dictionary

johnsonAfter our study of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, we decided to apply our knowledge of satire and create some definitions of our own. Here are some especially good examples of modern additions to the Dictionary:

alligator – an aggressive mascot that protects Florida from Seminoles.

Apple – company that brainwashes people to buy anything they sell; a fruit.

boyfriend/girlfriend – intimate partner for arguing and special moments.

cell phone – something everyone under the age of 50 can’t be without; brain tumor; a device that enslaves humans to a small screen.

college – main cause of gaining 15 lbs.

dance – event students use to do inappropriate things in front of administrators.

eyebrows – hair above your eyes so your face doesn’t look weird.

Facebook – website used to get to know someone without ever talking to them; acceptable stalking.

female – sex that produces ova or bears young, makes all smart decisions, should be president, wears the pants, and according to Beyonce, “runs the world.”

Hollister – the cave where kids work for pennies.

Instagram – social media website where everyone is a photographer; device used by females to get the attention of males.

male – sex that produces sperm.

money – something the government takes away from you.

senioritis – the lack of caring about how scientific this definition should be.

soccer (football) – a sport the whole world except the U.S. plays.

sour gummies – God’s gift to the world.

teacher – a human who ruins children’s hopes and dreams.

television – a brain microwave; the device which major corporations use to brainwash the populace.

trench coat – attire that should be illegal in all states except Rhode Island; used by pocketwatch vendors and your mom’s felon uncle.

UF – college where people who think they are smart and good sports go to get beaten by FSU; acronym for the University of Florida.

word – this.

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