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Satire as a Medicine for Social Ills in “Mandragola” and “Lysistrata.”

By using humor, irony, exaggeration, and ridicule, satire portrays various societal flaws like vices, fraud, corruption, and illogicality within individuals or societies. With satiric works aimed at condemning major issues such as political corruption, social injustice, oppression, and inequality present in particular cultures, exposing these problems propels them into the public eye. Satire acts as a mediator between individuals with less power versus those wielding higher power (Griffin). Satirical works make prominent and demonstrate flaws committed by powerful ones, thereby allowing us the crucial role they play in offering transparency towards current societal happenings. It is capable of sparking changes that ultimately lead towards this change marking revolutionary conquest against oppressive norms condoned by society. Using humor makes satirical works more appealing, making it another effective tool for raising awareness about societal happenings. Its objective is to ensure maximum engagement across wide audiences so that information spreads seamlessly through society. Satire provokes laughter by ridiculing socially unacceptable behavior and practices, and this laughter, tempered with moral indignation, deeply penetrates the readers’ consciousness. Satire, thus, presents an opportunity to tackle subjects that may be otherwise deemed too serious, sensitive, or taboo. In this manner, the satirist challenges society’s prevailing norms and conventions by exposing them to the public’s scrutiny. Moreover, satire can act as a catalyst for social change. By pointing out the flaws and highlighting the system’s injustices, satire raises awareness among the people. Moreover, the criticism and mockery in satirical works can provoke a conversation about the problematic elements of culture, which can lead to social reform (Griffin). Satire can inspire the masses to act and become the agent of their change. The satirist, therefore, can be the sign of social revolution by encouraging the people to question the system’s workings. This essay explores the notion of satire as a medicine for social ills in “Mandragola” and “Lysistrata.”

Satire in “Mandragola”

“Mandragola” is a play by Niccolò Machiavelli, a master of Renaissance satire. The masterpiece showcases his expertise in crafting exquisite Renaissance satire while primarily in Florence. The storyline follows Callimaco, who finds himself in love with Lucrezia despite her marital status (Barber 450). His plan to seduce her involves using mandrake roots, popularly known for their aphrodisiac effects, and support from an amoral friar. Behind this engaging tale lies criticism about corrupt practices within dominant Italian society governed largely by Catholicism during that period, by portraying Church through the friar’s character as morally conflicted politicians initially casting aside ethical concerns for dubious gains only when exposed. The narrative concludes spectacularly, displaying Machiavelli’s dexterity in satirical expression. The final act tells Lucrezia’s husband, Nicia, prior awareness of Callimaco’s plan and taking advantage of dissent the opportunity to maximize his interests (Eisenbichler 13). Nicia is a satire of Renaissance foolishness, where lack of intelligence did not deter individuals from pursuing wealth or status. The play ends with Nicia being rewarded for his deception, thus highlighting the moral decay of Renaissance society.

One example of satire in “Mandragola” is the portrayal of Friar Timoteo. In the play, Timoteo is depicted as a greedy and corrupt priest. He agrees to help Callimaco seduce Lucrezia in exchange for a bribe. Through Machiavelli’s work during the Renaissance period, one observes an account of corruption issues within the Church presented through its officials’ depravity shown by Timoteo in “The Mandrake.” As seen when asked to assist Callimaco in seducing Lucrezia using bribery tactics while showing little regard for ethical standards or resultant backlash due to such acts carried out only pursuing monetary gain (Singleton 585). Thus, Machiavelli squarely spotlighted moral decay pervasive among Church officials when it held much influence and power across Europe. The use of Timoteo’s characterization by Machiavelli is a clear reflection of the corruption that exists in societies. This characterization also draws attention to the fact that many priests were more concerned with their interests than the well-being of their congregation. Furthermore, Machiavelli’s use of satire also serves to criticize the state of the Church during the Renaissance period. During this time, the Church was in a state of decline, with many people becoming disillusioned with its teachings and practices. Machiavelli uses Timoteo’s character to highlight the flaws in the Church’s teachings and criticize its officials’ actions.

Another example of satire in “Mandragola” is the portrayal of the main character, Callimaco. Callimaco is depicted as a wealthy and arrogant young man who is obsessed with a woman named Lucrezia (Tylus 656). His love for her becomes so strong that he plans to seduce her, knowing she is already married. This plot revolves around using a drug, mandrake, which supposedly increases fertility and is used in a potion to make Lucrezia fall in love with him. Callimaco’s obsession with Lucrezia and his willingness to go to great lengths to obtain her directly represent the social climate in Florence at the time. Machiavelli is mocking society’s obsession with wealth and status. Callimaco is depicted as a man with large chunk of money and associations, which he uses to obtain Lucrezia’s love. Along these lines, the play satirizes that money and power can purchase anything, even love. It is a conspicuous dig at society’s corrupt, shallow, and shameless nature.

Moreover, Callimaco also represents the typical male chauvinist of the time. He sees ladies as articles and has no doubts about utilizing trickiness to get what he needs. The way that he will harm Lucrezia’s standing and potentially ruin her marriage exclusively to fulfill his desire shows how men in the public arena view ladies’ bodies as objects. This is a direct attack on the prevailing man centric arrangement of Florence. Machiavelli, through Callimaco, likewise says something about the absence of ethics and values in the Italian culture of his time. The parody of Callimaco’s personality in “Mandragola”is further emphasized by his accomplicess. His plot includes a friar, Sibling Timothy, who he uses to persuade Lucrezia’s better half to permit her to drink the mandrake elixir. This character is additionally used to make fun of the strict figures in the general public (Behuniak-Long 264). Rather than being a shrewd and blessed figure, Sibling Timothy is depicted as a scheming and underhanded individual ready to help Callimaco in return for a cut of his riches. Moreover, Ligurio is one more assistant of Callimaco, who assumes the part of a sweet talking go-between. This character is used to satirize the role of politicians in society. Machiavelli uses the character of Ligurio to question the morals and values of politics and politicians. Ligurio is depicted as a man who will do anything for money, even if it is morally wrong. Machiavelli criticizes the corrupt nature of politicians and the lack of principles in Italian politics, where individual interest trumps the common good.

The play arrives at its peak when Callimaco finally sleeps with Lucrezia, to discover that she isn’t the virgin he thought she was. He is astonished to observe that Lucrezia was, at that point, his escort, and her significant other was completely mindful of their undertaking. This plot contort features the general public’s super upright rot, where extramarital implementations were standard. In this scene, Machiavelli shows how the general public had become so bad that ideas like honor, devotion, and virginity were just deceptions. By uncovering the imprudences of the Congregation and the general public of Florence, Machiavelli features the requirement for change and change. He involves parody to reprimand the common social request and to bring up its weaknesses. In this way, in “Mandragola,” parody is a medication for the social ills of debasement and unethical behavior.

Satire in “Lysistrata.”

Likewise, “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes is a play that utilizes satire to remark on the social and policy-driven issues of ancient Greece. The space is set during the Peloponnesian Conflict and rotates around a gathering of ladies who rally to end the conflict by denying their spouses sex. One illustration of satire in “Lysistrata” is depicting the male characters. They are portrayed as stupid, war-mongering, fixated on power and brutality (Hewitt 293). The play utilizes satire to uncover the silliness and foolishness of war. The use of satire in a play that will in general conflict is exceptional, yet the usage of satire in war talks has a long history. Aristophanes utilizes state of mind to address the unpredictability of war, portraying it as a waste of time and life. He proposes that men get joy from war and use it to swell their inner selves and demonstrate their manliness. The play’s reason of keeping sex scrutinizes the men’s fixation on war, showing they will place their craving for sex over the awfulness of war. Aristophanes stresses war’s damaging nature and effect on guiltless, customary individuals through parody. This depiction fills in as a discourse on the condition of legislative issues and battle during old Greece. Moreover, Aristophanes utilizes parody to show the unreasonableness of fighting by depicting the male chiefs as absurd and awkward. The men in the play are portrayed as being so consumed by their longing for war that they know nothing about the torment and annihilation it causes. Lysistrata remarks on the purposelessness of war and how political pioneers are in many cases more worried about their cravings and power than with the prosperity of their residents.

Another example of satire in “Lysistrata” is the portrayal of the women’s protest. The decision to end the war by denying sex to their husbands is a radical and subversive act that challenges the norms of society (Clarke 228). This act of rebellion serves as a commentary on the need for change and the power of the people to effect that change. ” Lysistrata” utilizes sate to address Greek society’s assumptions for ladies. The play uncovers the social qualities in old Greece that suppressed ladies’ voices and diminished their economic wellbeing to simple objects of male longing. Aristophanes features the restricted jobs relegated to ladies in old Greek society and their battle for a voice. Lysistrata, the play’s hero, addresses major areas of strength for a, a lady mind and appeal to achieve change. Lysistrata’s arrangement to keep sex exhibits the force of ladies to impact choices that influence society all in all. Through the personality of Lysistrata, Aristophanes challenges the profoundly imbued orientation jobs in antiquated Greece society.

Furthermore, by making women the leaders of the anti-war movement, Aristophanes subverts traditional notions of gender and power, suggesting that women are just as capable as men of leading and making important decisions. Traditionally, women are considered inferior and always subordinate to men. It is viewed as the role of men to engage in serious issues such as wars or activities that may cost their lives. Aristophanes highlights how conflict impacts ordinary people by displaying struggling female characters who cannot tend to personal responsibilities because they have been left alone while their husbands are off fighting battles overseas (Clarke 228). This representation underscores how wars have significant negative consequences for entire communities, not just for soldiers themselves. Despite these serious issues, women’s approach to peace through a sex strike brings a humorous element while underscoring their unwavering commitment to achieving their goals.

Another way that Aristophanes utilizes satire to criticize war is by showing its effect on day to day existence. For instance, in “Lysistrata,” the ladies grumble about being not able to really focus on their homes and families in view of the conflict (Clarke 228). This present circumstance’s ridiculousness features the way in which war upsets and annihilates conventional life. Through this satire , Aristophanes features the indiscretion and vanity of war and the requirement for harmony. He utilizes humor and exaggeration to reprimand old Greece’s political and social request. Thus in “Lysistrata,” satire is a medication for the social ills of war and brutality. Through all these examples, Aristophanes uses satire to shed light on the seriousness of war and its impact on people’s everyday lives. By using satire, parody, and witty dialogue, he can critique the irrationality of war and the human follies that give rise to it. While his comedic approach certainly does not minimize the gravity of the issue, it does offer a different perspective on war that is at once accessible and profound.


In conclusion, satire has been utilized over the entire course of time as a device for social and political editorial. Dustin Griffin contends that parody goes about as a medication for every social sick, and the humorist assumes the part of a most reasonable specialist for such issues. “Mandragola” by Machiavelli and “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes are two instances of writing that utilize parody to uncover the imprudences and weaknesses of people and society. In the “Mandragola,” the play’s hero, Callimaco, plans to bed the wonderful Lucrezia, who is hitched to an old and stupid man named Nicia. The play’s hero, Lysistrata, persuades the ladies of Greece to keep sex from their spouses until they consent to end the Peloponnesian Conflict. The utilization of parody in the two plays fills in as an editorial on the requirement for change and change. Satire is a medication for the social ills of blasphemy, indecency, war, and brutality.

Works Cited

Barber, Joseph A. “The Irony of Lucrezia: Machiavelli’s” Donna di virtú”.” Studies in Philology (1985): 450-459.

Behuniak-Long, Susan. “The Significance of Lucrezia in Machiavelli’s La Mandragola.” The Review of Politics 51.2 (1989): 264-280.

Clarke, Michelle Tolman. “On the woman question in Machiavelli.” The Review of politics 67.2 (2005): 229-255.

Eisenbichler, Konrad. “Sex and Marriage in Machiavelli’s Mandragola: A Close (t) Reading.” Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 40.1 (2017): 13-35.

Griffin, Dustin H. Satire: A critical reintroduction. University Press of Kentucky, 1994.

Hewitt, Joseph William. “Elements of Humor in the Satire of Aristophanes.” The Classical Journal 8.7 (1913): 293-300.

Singleton, Charles S. “Machiavelli and the Spirit of Comedy.” Modern Language Notes 57.7 (1942): 585-592.

Tylus, Jane. “Theater and its Social Uses: Machiavellis Mandragola and the Spectacle of Infamy.” Renaissance Quarterly 53.3 (2000): 656-686.


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