Addison as a social satirist

Question: Evaluate Addison as a social satirist.


Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was a poet, playwright, politician, and satirist. Satire is a literary device in which the author shows the existing vices and faults of a particular society. Addison has written many essays from the critical point of view. He has satirized the social system, political system, and religion.  Let’s examine Addison as a social satirist.

Satire on individual freedom

In the essay “The Spectator’s Account of Himself”, Addison has upheld satire on individual freedom.  He has written in this essay that His mother wanted that Addison would be the judge.  Although her mother had seen the dream, here the personal freedom had been closed down.  It is for this reason that he has used the term satire on individual freed freedom.

“There runs a story in the family, that some time before my birth, my mother dreamt that her child was to be a judge”.

Thus, Addison in a point of fact means to say that individual freedom is sometimes snatched away unconsciously by family and society.

Castigation about career choices

Addison discusses the dilemma of professional choice in his article “The Spectator’s Account of Himself”. He says that the choice of profession is one of the most important issues for every person. In this article, Addison shows that we do not focus on our interests and qualification for professional choice. We just pay heed to money in case of this. That’s why we’re not perfect in our workplace. He insists that one should take a job on the basis of merit which was not available in London at that time. Thus, Addison reprimands the government body and individual for the purpose of rectification because when one gets his career which is his dream and interest, one can give his best.

Satire on The conflict between political parties

Party strife, both political and religious, was tearing the nation to pieces. This has been portrayed in the essays of the “Spectator” as something to be avoided. The Whigs and Tories were opposite political parties that tore the nation into opposing sides and groups.  To observe the real political situation, Addison visited many places like coffee houses but he could not get any satisfaction among the people. That is why the “Spectator” declares that he was going to observe strict neutrality between the two parties and not take the side of either. In the essay, “Party Patches”, we are given an idea about how stupid people possessed with the party spirit, could become.

“My face is likewise much known at the Grecian, The Cocoa- Tree, and in the theatres both of Drury Lane and Hay- Market.”

Satire on the attitude of women

The spectator was very concerned about the dignity of women and the rise of their education. That is why Addison has sharply criticized the frivolities of women. He apparently disapproves of their empty occupations, their tendency to consider toilets and their most useful employment, and their coquetry and their shallow hearts and heads. But in all his compositions he deals with these vices in an ordinary fashion. In a point of fact, in his essays, he attacks the vice, the folly, and the flirtatious woman in general.

Satire on religion

“Sir Roger at Church” is written by Addison. In this essay, he has done satire on religion.  Addison has shown that people would go to church only Sunday but other days of the week would not go there. It is the best hypocrisy because we have to pray every day.

“Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week, not only as it refreshes in their minds the nation of religion”.

Again, he showed that the priest showed a different kind of financial greed among the people in order to come to the path of religion.  For example, Sir Roger used to ask some questions to the young man. Anyone who could answer would be given 500 pounds and pork. Addison has satirist this religion because religion will be pure where will not greedy. 

Other aspects of social satire

  • Hypocrisy of church
  • The behavior of Sir Roger
  • Satire on mourn mourning
  • Satire on the imbalance distribution of wealth


Having proclaimed his intention to hunt vice relentlessly and in whatever quarter it is to be found he qualified this statement with the remark that he would only attack the vice and not the person. He is always smooth and cool and refined, never coarse or disgusting. his satire is based itself on the contention.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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