Satire defined is "A composition in verse or prose holding up a vice or folly to ridicule or lampooning individuals. The use of ridicule, irony, sarcasm, etc, in speech or writing for the ostensible purpose of exposing and discourage vice or folly” (Johnston, 5). In other words, satire is the use of humor to expose moral behavior of man. In the Aristophanes' play The Birds, satire is used to mock the common Greek's dream of ruling the gods that they worship. It mocks the power that they seek to become the supreme ruler of the world. To understand Aristophanes use of satire, one must first understand the role satire plays in sending out its message.
At the basis of satire is a sense of moral outrage. This outrage is wrong and needs to be exposed. The goal of a satire is to correct this misconduct of man in a humorous way that makes the audience relate to the problem and try to correct it. Satire "seeks to use laughter, not just to remind us of our common often ridiculous humanity, but rather to expose those moral excesses, those correctable sorts of behavior which transgress what the writer sees as the limits of acceptable moral behavior” (Johnston, 5). In exposing these foibles, one could discover not to behave in such a manner by realizing his or her mistakes.
When setting up a satire, one must do so in a few steps. The first step is setting up a target which will symbolize the conduct that the satirist wishes to attack. In The Birds, the target is the average Athenian citizen, seeking power Pisthetaerus or in Greek translation, "companion persuader” (Luce, 300). Pisthetaerus is upset with his current living conditions and sets out to seek a new place, far better than his existing residence.
Adding exaggeration and distortion to the target, the satirist then emphasizes the characteristic he wishes to attack. "The target must be close enough to the real thing for us to recognize what is going on, but sufficiently distorted to be funny, an exaggeration, often a grotesque departure from normality” (Johnston, 17).