John Dryden- Absalom and Achitophel

Topics: Charles II of England, James II of England, Absalom Pages: 4 (1404 words) Published: March 5, 2010
john dryden absalom and achitophel summary

Absalom and Achitophel is a landmark poetic political satire by John Dryden. The poem exists in two parts. The first part, of 1681, is undoubtedly by Dryden. The second part, of 1682, was written by another hand, most likely Nahum Tate, except for a few passages---including attacks on Thomas Shadwell and Elkanah Settle as Og and Doeg---that Dryden wrote himself.

The poem is an allegory that uses the story of the rebellion of Absalom against King David as the basis for discussion of the background to the Monmouth Rebellion (1685), the Popish Plot (1678) and the Exclusion Crisis.

The story of Absalom's revolt is told in the Second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible (chapters 14 to 18). Absalom rebels against his father King David. The beautiful Absalom is distinguished by extraordinarily abundant hair, which is probably meant to symbolize his pride (2 Sam. 14.26). When David's renowned advisor, Ahitophel (Achitophel in the Vulgate) joins Absalom's rebellion, another advisor, Hushai, plots with David to pretend to defect and give Absalom advice that plays into David's hands. The result was that Absalom takes the advice of the double agent Hushai over the good advice of Ahitophel, who realizing that the rebellion is doomed to failure, goes home and hangs himself. Absalom is killed (against David's explicit commands) after getting caught by his hair in the thick branches of a great oak: "His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on" (NRSV 2 Sam. 18:9). The death of his son, Absalom, causes David enormous personal grief. The title of Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom! is taken from David's mourning in 2 Sam. 18:33 or 19:4.

In 1681 in England, Charles II was in advanced years. He had had a number of mistresses and produced a number of illegitimate children. One of these was James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, who was very...
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