Literary Terms Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden: Detailed Summary King David of Israel who is compared to Charles II of England had no legitimate issue from his legally married wife, though he had a number of illegitimate children from his several mistresses. Of these illegitimate issues, Absalom who is compared to the Duke of Monmouth was the bravest, handsomest and most polished of mien and manners. He charmed everybody and won their esteem and regard. He had distinguished himself in a number of battles abroad. He was the favorite child of his father, the King, and popular with the people. John Dryden The Jews English were moody and self-willed.
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Literary Terms Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden: Detailed Summary King David of Israel who is compared to Charles II of England had no legitimate issue from his legally married wife, though he had a number of illegitimate children from his several mistresses. Of these illegitimate issues, Absalom who is compared to the Duke of Monmouth was the bravest, handsomest and most polished of mien and manners.
He charmed everybody and won their esteem and regard. He had distinguished himself in a number of battles abroad. He was the favorite child of his father, the King, and popular with the people. John Dryden The Jews English were moody and self-willed. They were not satisfied even under the mild and gentle rule of King David. They clamored for greater liberty. They cherished the belief that since they had restored the king to the throne they had also the right to dethrone him.
But the sober-minded section of the people was peace-loving. It had not forgotten the horrors that the civil war brought in its train. So, it wanted peace. Further, David ruled so well that even the malcontents among the people could not get a chance to raise the banner of revolt.
Only the Devil alone provided them with an excuse to rebel. It was the so-called Popish Plot. The Jebusites Catholics were treated oppressively by the chosen people Protestants in a variety of ways. They were deprived of their lands and were made to pay enhanced taxes.
They could not be appointed to any high post under the government and were made to suffer many disabilities. They continued to suffer silently, but the situation became highly insufferable for them when their gods and holy relics were burnt. Such a turn in the situation they made a bid to convert the Protestants to their faith. This alarmed the Jewish Rabbles the clergy of the Church of England and also inflamed their mind.
Hence originated the Popish Plot. This plot was verified with solemn oath by Titus Oates and others and was similarly denied and disowned by the Catholics. It was even alleged that the Jebusites Catholics had designed to assassinate the King. The plot failed to win its immediate objective, but its repercussions were wide ranging. A number of people who were dissatisfied with the King for this or that reason emerged into activity and set about organizing a revolt against the government.
The chief among the disgruntled band was Achitophel Shaftesbury who was surprisingly cunning and treacherous. In the matter of principles and morality, he was completely barren and bankrupt. He was perpetually discontented and restless. He made a bold and capable leader in times of danger, but was no good in times of peace. As a judge he was upright and above board, but as a politician he was abominable.
He was determined either to rule the state or ruin it. He exploited the Popish Plot to inflame the popular mind. He set the rumor on foot that the King himself was a Catholic at heart who had signed a secret treaty with the Catholic France, their enemy. In this way he raised the anger of the heedless Jews. Achitophel required a person who could act as a leader of the people and yet remain a puppet dancing to the pull of his wire. To him, Absalom appeared to be the most suitable person for his purpose.
Achitophel knew that as Absalom was the illegitimate son of the king and had thus no legal title to the throne, he would depend entirely on his support and backing. So he tried to win him to his side by means of a number of cunning and plausible arguments. He began by flattering him and asserting that he was cut out for being a king, and as the people wanted him he must come forward to champion their cause.
He tickled his vanity by calling him the savior of the nation and assured him that he was immensely popular.
He then pointed to him that there was a current in the affairs of man which, taken on the tide, led on to fortune. Such a golden chance had now come for him and he must hurry to seize it. He must follow the example of his father who returned from exile swiftly at the call of the people and became the king. Again, he should not be afraid of the King because he had forfeited the love and regard of his people and was old, infirm and friendless.
He was surrounded by enemies on all sides. If he went in for foreign help, people will detest him all the more. Achitophel further confined to him that by his cunning methods he had turned the people dead against David.
People wanted their rights and liberty and they needed a suitable and capable leader to guide them in their movement. And none was as suitable as Absalom because he had royal blood in his veins. But he hesitated to act upon it at once. In the first flush of thought it appeared to him that the course he was called upon to follow was inappropriate and inadvisable.
So he replied to Achitophel thus - "There is no excuse for me to rebel against my father whose rule is kind, gentle and benevolent. He is so merciful that he pardons even his enemies, and is ever eager to do good to his people. Even if he were a callous and cruel ruler oppressing his subjects it would not have been possible for me to rebel against him because he is after all my father.
My sense of duty would deter me. Besides, he loves me and gives me every-thing except the right to inherit the crown because being his illegitimate issue I am not entitled to it.
His brother James has every right in law to the throne and he is just, noble and capable. I regret that fate has made me illegitimate. I feel that I am fit for being a king, and the desire to be great troubles my heart. He realized shrewdly that Absalom loved to be great, but was hesitant. So he decided to make him firm in his resolve. With that end in view he began further and spoke to Absalom thus, "You should not let your extraordinary talents rot in idleness.
God has made you to rule and so you must give the people the bliss and blessings of your reign, David is undoubtedly gentle and generous, but manly vein and vigor suits a king better. The people take his gentleness as a sign of weakness and so hate him.
And thinking him a weak ruler they are trying to free themselves from his bondage. Sanhedrin Parliament kept him poor, and every time he approached it for funds he was obliged by it to give up some of his rights.
I myself would continue to embarrass him with new plots of entangle him in the mesh of costly wars. His faithful friends are all suspects and he is hated by the people, for he is a Catholic.
Moreover, the kings are the trustees of the people who have every right to withdraw the executive authority which the king holds and weilds as their trustee. The laws of succession are made for the good of the people.
As for his love, let him show it in actual practice. If he loves you, why does he not declare you his successor? His brother hates you, and is waiting for a suitable opportunity to annihilate you. You should, therefore, take time by the forelock and strike while the iron is hot. And who can say that, perhaps, David himself wants to make you the king but is afraid of his brother and wants to be taken by force.
He was an inconstant man of rigidly held extremist views. He squandered away his wealth and was banished from court on account of his own fault and foolishness.
He then tried to form parties against the King, but could not become the leader of any one of them. He was inherently wicked, but lacked the means to put his wickedness into practice. He was so badly corrupt and debased that he did not shrink from even cursing the King. He was a miser of the worst type, so much so that he gave not a single entertainment during the tenure of his office. He starved his servants, drank no wine and kept no kitchen. He made his pile by cheating others in different ways.
During his term as magistrate the wicked had a field day and the enemies of the king received every protection. In short, he was a very mean person. But the worst of them all was Corah Titus Oates. He posed as the protector of society and the King and verified the plot on oath. His sunken eyes and harsh, loud voice was indicative of his ill-temper and proud nature. Whoever expressed doubt about his witness was dubbed a Catholic and implicated in his plot. He brought about the assassination of Agog for his being on friendly terms with Jebusites.
Misled by Achitophel, Absalom left the court. As a preliminary step he undertook a tour of the country with stately pomp and glamour. He spoke to the people with becoming humility and expressed sorrow at their hard lot and at his inability to help them, because he could not rise against his father who was the cause of their misery.
He could offer them only his tears, his only weapon. His humbleness, his winning manners and charming looker impressed everybody, and wherever he went he was hailed as the "savior": This tour was maneuvered by the cunning Achitophel. He wanted to test the strength of their backing before coming out openly in revolt against the King.
So the real purpose of Absalom and Achitophel was cleverly concealed behind a show of love and duty for the King. It was war in the guise of peace.
Absalom and Achitophel
Satire[ edit ] Absalom and Achitophel is "generally acknowledged as the finest political satire in the English language". He also suggests that in Absalom and Achitophel he did not let the satire be too sharp to those who were least corrupt: "I confess I have laid in for those, by rebating the satire, where justice would allow it, from carrying too sharp an edge. But how hard to make a man appear a fool, a blockhead, or a knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms? And he for whom it was intended, was too witty to resent it as an injury … And thus, my lord, you see I have preferred the manner of Horace, and of your Lordship, in this kind of satire, to that of Juvenal.
Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden: Detailed Summary
Buy Study Guide With a steady and mild hand, King David rules Israel in the time before polygamy is 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 pleasing in mind and countenance. David loves him and indulges his every whim. The Jews are capricious, tempestuous people who often throw off their ruler for a new one. They mutter and complain, but nothing comes of it while they are disunited.
Absalom and Achitophel Summary
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