1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Parody

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PARODY (Gr. παρῳδία, literally a song sung beside, a comic parallel), an imitation of the form or style of a serious writing in matter of a meaner kind so as to produce a ludicrous effect. Parody is almost as old in European literature as serious writing. The Batrachomyomachia, or “Battle of the Frogs and Mice,” a travesty of the heroic epos, was ascribed at one time to Homer himself; and it is probably at least as old as the 5th century B.C. The great tragic poetry of Greece very soon provoked the parodist. Aristophanes parodied the style of Euripides in the Acharnians with a comic power that has never been surpassed. The debased grand style of medieval romance was parodied in Don Quixote. Shakespeare parodied the extravagant heroics of an earlier stage, and was himself parodied by Marston, incidentally in his plays and elaborately in a roughly humorous burlesque of Venus and Adonis. The most celebrated parody of the Restoration was Buckingham’s Rehearsal (1672), in which the tragedies of Dryden were intimately ridiculed. At the beginning of the 18th century The Splendid Shilling of John Philips (1676–1709), which Addison said was “the finest burlesque poem in the English language,” brilliantly used a fashion for using the solemn movement of Milton’s blank verse to celebrate ridiculous incidents. In 1736, Isaac Hawkins Browne (1705–1760) published a volume, A Pipe of Tobacco, in which the poetical styles of Colley Cibber, Ambrose Philips, James Thomson, Edward Young and Jonathan Swift were delightfully reproduced. In the following century, Shelley and John Hamilton Reynolds almost simultaneously produced cruel imitations of the naiveté and baldness of Wordsworth’s Peter Bell (1819). But in that generation the most celebrated parodists were the brothers Smith, whose Rejected Addresses may be regarded as classic in this kind of artificial production. The Victorian age has produced a plentiful crop of parodists in prose and in verse, in dramatic poetry and in lyric poetry. By common consent, the most subtle and dexterous of these was C. S. Calverley, who succeeded in reproducing not merely tricks of phrase and metre, but even manneristic turns of thought. In a later day, Mr Owen Seaman has repeated, and sometimes surpassed, the agile feats of Calverley.