Becoming a Playwright

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Becoming a Playwright

by Lauren Conroy

Becoming a Playwright
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1) This Capstone is culmination of all that I have learned about theater in London and at WPI. I did research on how to write a satirical play, to analyze 2 satires, and found out what makes satirical plays such a success. Then I created my own satirical play, a short one act play, with the theme of tourism in London. ts a fun way to tie together theater and my adventures in London with some comic relief. 2) At WPI, I took two theater classes in my A and B term with Professor Susan Vick and Professor Barbara McCarthy. In my Introduction to Drama class, I preformed several lines from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing as well as wrote a 5 minute monologue which was preformed by another student for the class. In my American Drama class, several classmates and I preformed the chaotic dinner scene from August: Osage County for the class. In all, I have very limited experience preforming in and writing play scripts. 3) My objective was to understand what an actual satire meant and what defining factors created a satire. I then wanted to try my own hand at creating a more modern satire based on the negative impacts of tourism on the surrounding tourist areas in London such as the London Eye and local museums. Based on my research, I found that modern satires were different from satires of the past because of two factors which both were based on a factor that cannot have been created in the past, time. The first factor was that the past satire writers did not have as much history behind them and that satires were not a defined writing style back then. The second reason was because television and modern day technologies have helped spread the genre quite farther than any book could have. I loved getting to know more about what a satire really is and how they have helped spread messages of turmoil and unrest to the masses with a slight twinge of comedy.


Section 1: Background


"Satire" is derived from the Latin word satura meaning "full" which then came to mean "a mixture full of different things" [1] The word satura, which Quintillian strictly used and denotes only Roman verse satire, states that the satire must use hexameter form. This form consists of metric line containing six feet, most often consisting of an accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables, which is called dactyl. [2] It is one of the most original, challenging and memorable forms of literature and has been used by writers such as Voltaire, Rabelais and Petronius. Gilbert Highet, the author of Anatomy of Satire wrote that satire "Pictures real men and women, often in lurid colours, but always with unforgettable clarity. It uses the bold and vivid language of its own time, eschewing stale cliches and dead conventions." Unlike other patterns of literature, which can be felt as remote and formal, satire is more free, easy and direct to the point. With the best satirist there is very little convention, but much reality. The best way to discover and learn about satire is to look at what themes are regarded by satirists as important and inflectional. In satire, there are 3 categories that a work may fall into, Horatian, Juvenalian and Menippean. Some however may not fall into these categories at all because there is no defined way to write a satire.

Categories of Satire


Horatio was the son of a freed slave turned auctioneer's assistant and we probably of Sabellian hillman stock of Italy's central highlands. His father was well off enough to take his son to Rome and ensured that his son was getting the best possible education in a school of famous fellow Sabellian named Orbilius he then went and studied and attended lectures at the Academy in Athens, Greece. When Julius Caesar was assassinated and when the empire was in possession of two rulers, Horace joined Brutus' army and was made tribunus militum, which was an exceptional honor for a freedman's son. However, after being put in charge of Brutus' and Cassius' legions and suffering total defeat he had to retreat and find political asylum.
While seeking asylum, he works on his first book of satires which contains 10 poems written in hexameter verse. These satires focus on Horace's adhesion to Octavian's attempts to deal with contemporary challenges of restoring traditional morality. He defends small landowners from large estates, combating debt and usury, and encouraging the "new men" to take their place next to the traditional republican aristocracy. The satires praise people who earn their own money and their own way in life without the help of family lineage. He believes in self-sufficiency for a quite life and it is the basis for a lot of these poems. His next few poems emphasize the mockery of Philippi and throws personal attacks and ridicule on the social abuses not individual people. Epodes 7,9, and 16 shows a more sensitive side to the political verse due to the uncertainty of the future when Octavian and Mark Antony meet and discuss the current hostilities. His second book is published around 31 BC and becomes decreasingly pugnacious towards public figures such as businessmen and courtesans. The last ode of the first three books suggests that Horace did not propose to write anymore such poems. In total Horace published 3 books which contained 88 short poems.
Horatian odes are short in nature and are written in stanzas of two or four lines and aims to mitigate situations with kindness rather than anger. It normally criticizes social immoralities using gentle and lighthearted wit. "It directs wit, exaggeration, and self-deprecating humour toward what it identifies as folly, rather than evil. Horatian satire's sympathetic tone is common in modern society."[3] [4]

Commonly Known Examples of Horatian Satires:
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
The Rape of the Lock Alexander Pope

Excerpts from Rape of the Lock

“Not louder shrieks to pitying Heave are cast, When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;” According to Bonnie Latimer, the author of the journal, Alchemies of Satire: A History of the Sylphs in The Rape of the Lock, Pope shows that the death of a woman's husband is not anymore shocking than the death of a lap dog or the shattering of a china object. [5]
“The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang that jurymen may dine” According to A. E. Dyson and Julian Lovelock, the authors of the journal, In Spite of All Her Art: Pope's The Rape of the Lock, Pope satirizes judges who make court decisions too quickly.[6]


Juvenal was a Roman poet who was considered one of the most influential and powerful satiric poets. He was born into an influential family and became an officer in the army as well as was on the way to becoming an administration on emperor Domitian's service. He was not promoted to his desired position and decided to write a satire declaring that the court favors was the reason he was not promoted. This caused him to be banished to Syene, which today is Aswan, Egypt and he had his property confiscated. After the assassination of Domitian, he moved back to Rome where he rebuilt his life and continued writing satires. In his later years, his satires contained more human emotion which may have marked that he had found solace from his rough beginnings in Rome. His is estimated to have died in 127 and had left 16 satiric poems.[7]
Much of Juvenal's poems attack the conditions one had lived in Rome with the Roman rulers of Domitian, Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian. These poems were compiled into five separate books. The first book contains the first five satirical poems he had written. It encompasses his views in retrospective of the tyrannical reign of Domitian and was published between 100 and 110. The second book was the largest of books published and contained on satire 6. It covered the topics of the year 115. Book third contained satire 7, 8, and 9 and opens with praised for an emperor, probably Hadrian, who created a literary institute to assist authors. Juvenal believes that this emperor is the only reason that literature may survive. Not many conclusions can be drawn on what is written in book four and book five references year 127 and contains satires 13-16.

Juvenal's structure to satires is unchanging and can be see in all 16 satires. There is a clear and forceful approach and tone to them. Gilbert Highet states that:

They are full of skillfully expressive effects in which the sound and rhythm mimic and enhance the sense; and they abound in trenchant phrases and memorable epigrams

Juvenal describes the striking and disgusting scenes with clarity making them unforgettable and this is done by using anger and extreme ridicule. He makes the person who performs the social immoralities appear as horrific or incompetent.

Commonly Known Examples of Juvenal Satires:
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
Animal Farm George Orwell
Candide Voltaire
Catch-22 Joseph Heller

Excerpts from Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies

Suzanne Gulbin, who wrote the journal Parallels and Contrasts in Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm states that Orwell and Golding use the satirist's tool of irony which is particularly evident in the ending of both the novels. In the end of Animal Farm, the party that is held by the pigs are seen through a window by the other farm animals using their two legs symbolically and ironically starting that they have become the evil they had revolted against. Lord of the Flies ends with the children being saved by a pompous naval officer who has no clue what had happened on the island. Their rescuers is ironically bringing the children back to the war-torn situation of WWII where killing will still continue. [8]

"We are going to have fun on this island. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island! So don’t try it on, my poor misguided boy, or else–" According to E. C. Bufkin, the author of Lord of the Flies: An Analysis, in the Lord of the Flies, the pig is an example of satire because the pig head, an inanimate, dead object, is scaring Simon into doing what he wants. [9]

Modern Satires

Today's satires are somewhat similar to the past satirists such as Menippus, Horace and Juvenal, however they still do use the following characteristics of irony and critique. The irony humorously points out the issues that are being critiqued in a way that many can see and understand. Critique aids in pointing out situations of human or organization where they fail in behaviour, vice or folly and leads to the audience desiring some sort of social change. However this critique does not have an implicit and immediate solution to the issue at hand. They almost look to the audience to draw their own conclusions on how the change can be implemented and carried out. Megan LeBoeuf, for her senior thesis stated that "The critiqued behavior deconstructs itself within the satirical work by being obviously absurd, most often because it is exaggerated or taken out of its normal context." [10]
In the past, there was a more certainty to what satire was, but today with the influx of shows like SNL, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and MadTV the lines have been blurred between comedy and and actual satires. Many believe that in this day and age we use the term satire to freely. A Canadian commentator, Rex Murphy points out that "we throw the term ‘satire’ around rather too generously these days,” and “it's a free upgrade when making simple fun of someone passes as satire” [11] Today's satires differ in really only two categories where the first is the medium that the satire is presented. In the past satires were mostly poems and novels, but with the age of technology satires are presented using a more viewable medium such as plays and television shows. The second difference is that the writers today have a lot more background information to go off of so they reference past writers works. The satires of the Greek and Roman times had very little to go off of such as old traditions and their current political turmoils.

Section 2: Deliverable

The Types of Tourists Found in London as told by a "Stupid" American Tourist


By researching satirical plays, I decided to implement my research into a one act satirical play. Initially, I was unsure of what topic my play would be on, but then I looked at myself and then looked at London. My play will explore the effects of tourism on the local peoples and surrounding area of London and how even though tourism effects the economy in a positive way, the tourist themselves can reek havoc on the place they are exploring.
Honestly some stories in the news about tourist who hurt wildlife and break priceless just to get photographs are heartbreaking. By creating a play about the what damage "bad" tourists can do, I hope will shed some light on their harm to the nation they are visiting.

The Play Script

Click to See Play Script

The play focuses on a tour group of 5 people coming from Heathrow Airport and taking the Underground Blackfriars station to see the sights and sounds of the bustling city. It starts off with the group meeting their tour guide to get on the Underground. On the train, the guide explains 4 different situation where tourist were doing harm to certain places in the city and themselves which indirectly affects the people who have to intervene in the situation. The situations get progressively "dumber", for lack of better words, but the group ends up learning about the laws and commonalities of being in London.

Each situation seems obviously wrong to the common person, which is part of the satirist's tool of irony, but the tour group just don't seem to understand what "normal" people should do while traveling. For this play, I used some of the Horatian form of satire, which playfully criticizes a social vice thorough gentle and lighthearted humor as well as a small part in Juvenalian satire, which attempts to make the wrong doers appear monstrous or incompetent. The tourists on the train at the end of each scene act as a comic relief with light humor. In the second scene, the use of Horatian and Juvenalian is evident. The characters of Derick and Nick are clearly written as incompetent and idiotic. It makes fun of their "stupid" decision of climbing the London Eye with sarcastic humor from the police officer's small part. The third scene, uses Horatian satire to poke fun at people not following the signs that say no flash photography and that some people think it is actually a good idea to stand on the priceless artifacts that are in museums. The fourth scene also uses the Horatian form of satire since it mocks a couple who thinks feeding the birds is a fun and romantic idea. The fifth scene is the most relatable to London currently because many of them don't believe that their taking pictures on busy streets is dangerous. This is definitely a problem that happens in any touristy place, but in London I have seen it happen quite a bit.


Satires are the most skewed genre of literature today because many people have a general idea of what it is but do not really know the textbook definition of a satire. My objective was to understand what an actual satire meant and what defining factors created a satire. I then wanted to try my own hand at creating a more modern satire based on the negative impacts of tourism on the surrounding tourist areas in London such as the London Eye and local museums. Based on my research, I found that modern satires were different from satires of the past because of two factors, modern technologies and more background information which both were based on a factor that cannot have been created in the past, time. If anyone is interested in this topic and would like to expand upon it, they may want to look more into modern days satires and do a bit of an analysis of a satire from the Roman time period and a satire from the today such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which deals with the slavery and Mark Twain's disapproval of it.

  1. HIGHET, G. (1962). Anatomy of Satire. Princeton University Press. Retrieved from
  2. Hexameter. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from
  3. Sharma, R. "Comedy" in New Light-Literary Studies.
  4. Grant, M. (n.d.). Horace. Retrieved May 31, 2017, from
  5. Latimer, Bonnie. "Alchemies Of Satire: A History Of The Sylphs In The Rape Of The Lock". The Review of English Studies 57.232 (2005): 684-700. Web.
  6. DYSON, A., & LOVELOCK, J. (1971). In Spite of All Her Art: Pope's 'The Rape of the Lock' Critical Survey, 5(3), 197-210. Retrieved from
  7. Highet, G. (n.d.). Juvenal. Retrieved May 31, 2017, from
  8. Gulbin, Suzanne. "Parallels And Contrasts In "Lord Of The Flies" And "Animal Farm"". The English Journal 55.1 (1966): 86. Web.
  9. Bufkin, E. (1965). Lord of the Flies: An Analysis. The Georgia Review, 19(1), 40-57. Retrieved from
  10. LeBoeuf, Megan. "The Power Of Ridicule: Analysis Of Satire". Undergraduate. University of Rhode Island, 2007. Print.
  11. Murphy, Rex. "Satire Has Forgotten Its Function." The Globe and Mail, 2006. Vol. A.