Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden Summary & Analysis

Absalom and Achitophel
Absalom and Achitophel

Absalom and Achitophel Summary


With a gentle and mild hand, King David rules Israel within the time before polygamy may be a sin and priest-craft begins. He spreads his seed throughout the land and has many offspring, though his true wife is Michal. Of his illegitimate children, none is more glorious and beloved than Absalom. Absalom wins renown in foreign fields and is agreeable in mind and countenance. David loves him and indulges his every whim.


David’s reign doesn’t remain peaceful, however. The Jews are capricious, tempestuous people that often throw off their ruler for a replacement one. They mutter and complain, but nothing comes of it while they’re disunited. However, old plots are revived, stoking the Jews’ fear of the heathen Jebusites, whose land that they had taken way back. Factions fire up and start to threaten the govt.


Achitophel, a wise and witty councilor of David’s, sees this as his moment. he’s restless and desirous of fame, so he decides he must find how to ruin David. he’s conscious of how easily swayed the people are, and he turns to the handsome Absalom into his pawn. Achitophel compliments and charms Absalom, telling him that it’s a shame his low birth seemingly precludes him from taking the throne. His father’s legal successor is Absalom’s uncle, a wretched man. Achitophel fills Absalom’s head with praise; albeit Absalom loves his father, Achitophel’s subtle comments about his father’s weaknesses begin to affect him. He sees himself as destined for greatness.


Achitophel devises his plan and sends Absalom bent the people to curry their favor and switch them against his father. He warns the young man of his uncle and tells him he must go for the crown while his father still lives. Achitophel begins to figure within the populace, fomenting dissent and unrest. Absalom goes before the people and wins their love easily. His popularity and pomp distract from the plot at hand.


Dryden accounts for a few of the foremost dangerous, corrupt men within the city, also because of the small but loyal band that stays with David because the tensions mount.


Finally, King David speaks, asserting his legitimacy and power during a manner that brooks no refutation or dissension. This secures his enemies’ downfall and his own long rule.



Absalom and Achitophel Analysis


The political situation in Israel (England) had much to try to to with David’s (Charles II’s) virility, which, though wasted on a barren queen, produced many illegitimate progenies, of which far and away the fairest and noblest is Absalom (duke of Monmouth). David’s kingly virtues are equally strong but unappreciated by an excellent number of Jews (Whigs), who, due to a perverse native temperament, want to rebel. Although David provides no cause for rebellion, because the wiser Jews (Tories) means, a cause is found within the alleged Jebusite (Catholic) plot to convert the state to the Egyptian (French) religion. The plot miscarries, but it does create factions whose leaders are jealous of David and oppose his reign.


Achitophel (the Earl of Shaftesbury, leader of the Whigs) is that the chief of those leaders, and he makes efforts to influence Absalom to seize the throne. Achitophel may be a brilliant wit touched by the madness of ambition. Unwilling to be remembered just for his distinguished career as a judge, he resolves “to ruin or to rule the State,” using the king’s alleged sympathy for the Jebusites as an excuse for rebellion. Achitophel first uses flattery to convert Absalom, proclaiming that the state is clamoring for him—a “second Moses.” initially Absalom resists, remarking that David may be a wise and just king, which David’s brother (the Duke of York) is that the legal heir.


These halfhearted objections Achitophel meets with sophistry. David’s mildness, he claims, deteriorated into weakness; the general public good demands Absalom’s strength; the rightful heir is getting to murder Absalom; David secretly wants Absalom to be king and can support his claim as heir to the throne. to those specious arguments, Absalom succumbs, whereupon Achitophel proceeds to arrange all the Jewish malcontents into one seditious party.


Among these misguided patriots are opportunists, republicans, and none secular fanatics. Zimri embodies the fickleness and “extremity” of Buckingham, Shaftesbury’s lieutenant within the Whig Party. Shimei represents the Sheriff of London, who betrays the king’s interests, and Corah, the notorious Oates, who fabricates many of the small print of the Catholic plot.


Absalom makes a tour of the state, planned by Achitophel to measure the extent of the people’s support for his or her decision to exclude the legal heir from the throne and to determine Absalom’s right to the succession by law. Traveling up and down the land, Absalom craftily represents himself because of the people’s friend, against Egyptian domination, the Jebusite plot, and a senile king, but powerless to act due to his loyalty to the crown and therefore the lawful succession. The Jews, always easy to delude, proclaim Absalom a replacement messiah.


The speaker of the poem attacks the Jews’ naïve support of Absalom and their willingness to overthrow legally instituted authority. He fears that the govt will quickly deteriorate into anarchy if the people are given the facility to form and break kings at will by changing the order of the succession.


Next are portraits of David’s supporters—the Tory leaders. Barzillai (the duke of Ormond) is lavishly praised because of the noblest adherent to David’s cause and one among Israel’s true heroes. Two members of the clergy, namely Zadoc (the Archbishop of Canterbury) and therefore the Sagan of Jerusalem (the Bishop of London), is commended for his or her services to the crown. Other loyalists, praised for his or her services in Sanhedrin (Parliament), include Adriel (the Earl of Mulgrave), Jotham (the Marquis of Halifax), Hushai (Laurence Hyde), and Amiel (Edward Seymour). These loyal chieftains who defy the powerful rebel faction ultimately convince David that concessions to the people will but feed their leaders’ ambition, which Absalom is getting used as a tool by the treacherous Achitophel.


David finally reasserts the royal prerogative. Realizing that his enemies interpret his moderation and clemency as signs of weakness and fear.

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