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Walsh, M.N. (1961). Some Character Aspects of the Satirist (Pietro Aretino). Am. Imago, 18(3):235-262.

(1961). American Imago, 18(3):235-262

Some Character Aspects of the Satirist (Pietro Aretino)

Maurice N. Walsh, M.D.

According to Garnett, (1) satire was first exercised in gibing at personal defects and with later advance in literary art it became dignified as an instrument of morality, and often the associate of poetry. The first master of satire, Archilochus of the Seventh Century, B.C., seems to have been the first to elevate this “instrument of private animosity” as Garnett (1) calls it, to an element of public life. Literary commentators on satire and satirists usually seem to believe that the satirist's strictures on the important personages and mores of his time really refer to private grudges of the writer. Of Archilochus himself it is recorded that he was embittered because of grinding poverty, and because he was refused the daughter of Lycambes in marriage; and that he threw away his shield in battle and fled and was as a result exiled for cowardice - all most unfortunate life experiences and unlikely to be compatible with pleasant feelings.

That satirists have produced works of great literary and artistic merit, some of which have had important results in promoting social betterment there can be no doubt. Again, however, literary commentators seem to repeatedly express doubts that the satirist was really very much interested in abolishing political and social abuses, but rather in attracting attention to himself or even in securing some sort of impregnable political, social or financial position, and at times by rather disreputable means.

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