Absalom and Achitophel as a Political Satire Satire is a form of literature, the proclaimed purpose of which is the reform of human weaknesses or vices through laughter or disgust. Satire is different from scolding and sheer abuse, though it is prompted by indignation. Its aim is generally constructive, and need not arise from cynicism or misanthropy. The satirist applies the test of certain ethical, intellectual and social standards to men and women, and determines their degree of criminality or culpability. Satire naturally has a wide range; it can involve an attack on the vices of an age, or the defects of an individual or the follies common to the very species of mankind. Absalom and Achitophel is a landmark political satire by John Dryden. Dryden marks his satire with a concentrated and convincing poetic style. His satiric verse is majestic, what Pope calls: “The long majestic march and energy divine”. Critics have unanimously remarked on Dryden’s capacity to transform the trivial into the poetical; personal envy into the fury of imaginative creation. The obscure and the complicated is made clear and simple. All this transforming power is to be seen at the very beginning of Absalom and Achitophel. The state of ‘Israel’ is easy to understand and yet Dryden shows himself a master both of the Horatian and the Juvenalian styles of Satire. He is urbance witty devastating and vigorous, but very seldom petty. Ab & AC : Basically a Political Satire:
Dryden called Absalom and Achitophel ‘a poem’ and not a satire, implying thereby that it had elements other than purely satirical. One cannot, for instance, ignore the obvious epic or heroic touches in it. All the same, the poem originated in the political situation of England at the time and one cannot fail to note that several political personalities are satirised in it. Published in November 1681, the theme was suggested by the king to Dryden. At this time, the question of succession to King Charles...
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