The Way of the World

Satirizing the Upper Class Throughout History: Chaucer, Congreve, and Baitz College

Satirizing the Upper Class Before even knowing what it is, any modern consumer of television, literature and other creative work is influenced by satire. Masked as innocent comedy, satire is the gateway for creatives to give their take on real, topical issues on their own constructed platform through the lens of humor. Since the middle ages, satire has played a functional role in society. One could even argue that satire, in all forms combined, has become a fundamental pillar of contemporary culture, serving as both a reporter and a watchdog over society and keeping a close eye on the world’s powerful and influential institutions, exposing them when necessary of wrongdoing or maltreatment of others.

In the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer kept the upper class in line by proclaiming that the idea of “gentilesse” or aristocratic and ideal characteristics in the wellborn is false, and that polite, gentleman like qualities are not inherent of the rich but of the virtuous. Three hundred years later, the characters in William Congeve’s play The Way of the World lived under the faulty impression that money (and beauty, which came from money) equaled power, and suffered unfulfilled lives with dissatisfying relationships in dramatic...

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