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date: 29 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In The Rehearsal Transpros’d, Marvell characterized his approach to satire as being ‘merry and angry’ at once. Though politically opposed, Marvell shared John Dryden’s conviction that ‘the true end of Satyre, is the amendment of Vices by correction’—the satirist resembled a physician who prescribes ‘harsh Remedies to an inveterate Disease’. But where Dryden claims in the Preface to Absalom and Achitophel to be addressing ‘the more Moderate sort’, Marvell in ‘Last Instruction to a Painter’ (at nearly 1,000 lines, his longest poem) is openly partisan and controversially subverts the conventions of the royalist panegyric and portrait paintings, products of a court society excoriated by his friend John Milton as full of ‘flatteries and prostrations’. Marvell insistently links sexual and political corruption, vividly depicting a world in which appetite alone rules. Though deeply critical of Charles II as the fount of corruption in the sick state, its stance, rather than being openly republican, is to offer counsel to the King, in the hope that he is not yet beyond reform.

Keywords: corruption, counsel, Parliament, portraiture, satire, ways of seeing

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