Cartoons provide a platform for critique and, by employing humor, may frequently address topics that are challenging to bring up in formal discussions. The 18th century became known as the Golden Age of Cartoons, with cartoonists engaging in social and political polemics. The Plumb-pudding in danger, or, State Epicures taking un Petit Souper (Figure 1) is one of the most famous political cartoons illustrating Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century.
James Gillray, the creator of the best political cartoons ever, created this illustration. Eighteenth-century Britain’s political and social climate was significantly impacted by his prints and drawings, which stood out among the others (Dominiczak, 2017). The cartoon, created in 1805, shows Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor, and William Pitt, the British prime minister, greedily cutting a plum pudding shaped like the world as a humorous allegory for their struggle for geopolitical dominance.
Napoleon Bonaparte and William Pitt, both tearing hungrily at the globe to take a more significant slice, are seated to the left of the image. Pitt skewers a sizable part of seawater with his trident-shaped fork to represent Britain’s desire to rule the world’s seas. In the meantime, Napoleon makes an effort to sate his appetite by carving off portions of France, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and the Mediterranean. Gillray portrays both leaders as being somewhat out of the ordinary. Exaggeration is a technique the author utilized that is typical of political cartoonists (Analyzing Political Cartoons, n.d.). This method can be seen in the cartoon depicting Pitt’s thin build and Napoleon’s beak-like snout. These two amusing elements would have helped his audience quickly recognize the subjects by appealing to stereotypes of the two men.
The fundamental goal of this work is to demonstrate that two nations can coexist peacefully. However, Gillray contends that the two ambitious empires could not coexist and would ultimately engage in combat. This once again demonstrates the significance and usefulness of political cartoons.
Analyzing Political Cartoons. NCpedia. (n.d.). Web.
Dominiczak, M. H. (2017). Cartoons: Another long-standing bridge between science and the Arts. Clinical Chemistry, 63(4), 934–935.
Gillray, J. (1805) The Plumb-pudding in danger, or, State epicures taking un petit souper… / Js. Gillray, inv. & fecit. , 1805. London: H. Humphrey, Feby 26. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, Web.