On Satire: The Earl of Rochester

Clare Bucknell and Colin Burrow

According to one contemporary, the Earl of Rochester was a man who, in life as well is in poetry, ‘could not speak with any warmth, without repeated Oaths, which, upon any sort of provocation, came almost naturally from him.’ It’s certainly hard to miss Rochester's enthusiastic use of obscenities, though their precise meanings can sometimes be obscure. As a courtier to Charles II, his poetic subject was most often the licentiousness and intricate political manoeuvring of the court’s various factions, and he was far from a passive observer. In this episode Clare and Colin consider why Restoration England was such a satirical hotbed, and describe the ways in which Rochester, with a poetry rich in bravado but shot through with anxiety, transformed the persona of the satirist.

WARNING: This episode contains explicit language

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