Dryden was a famous English poet, best known for his satirical poetry. His Absalom and Achitophel characters is considered as one of his best political satire. His Absalom and Achitophel is the greatest political satire in our literature, and the rest of his satires are very highly esteemed. Dryden has. Having said this, John Dryden wrote Absalom and Achitophel as a satire to instigate political reform. The era was that during which a faction in England was .

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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 satige.

Absalom and Achitophel as a Political Satire

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 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. He is urbance witty devastating and vigorous, but very seldom petty. 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.

At this time, the question of succession to King Charles satore assumed great importance. The Earl of Shaftesbury had been thrown into prison to face a charge of high treason. There were two contenders for the succession.


The Whigs supported Monmouth while the Tories supported the cause of James in order to ensure stability in the country. There was great public unrest on account of the uncertainty of succession. King Charles II saw to it that the Exclusion bill brought before Parliament, to exclude the succession of his brother James, could not be pushed through.

The earl of Shaftesbury, a highly ambitious man, sought to capitalise on this unrest. He also urged Monmouth to rebel against his father. The King, though fond of his illegitimate son, did not support his succession because that would have been against law.

Absalom and Achitophel – Wikipedia

The Earl of Shaftesbury was arrested on a charge of high treason and lost popular support. The aim of Dryden was to support the King and to expose his enemies. Of course, Charles had his own weaknesses; he was extremely fond of women. But Dryden puts a charitable mantel over his sexual sins. He is mild in dealing with his real vices. The king himself did not think unfavourably of his love affairs.

Sexual licence was the order of the age and as such, it did not deserve condemnation. Dryden dreads the fickleness of the mob and he is not sure to what extremes satiee crowd can go.

Absalom and Achitophel as a Political Satire | Desdemona Literarism

Dryden chose the well known Biblical story of Absalom revolting against his father David, at the satkre instigation of Achitophel, in order to satirise the contemporary political situation. But all the while Dryden takes care to see that the political satire in not lost in the confusion of a too intricate Biblical parallelism.

With a masterly touch he sets the poem:. The ironical undertone cannot be missed; Dryden is obviously laughing up his sleeve at Charles himself, who, as a witty patron, could not have missed it, nor failed to enjoy it. Dryden is correctly regarded as the most vigorous and polished of English satirists combining refinement with fervour. Dryden is unequalled at debating in rhyme and Absalom and Achitophel displays his power of arguing in verse.


It may be said that Absalom and Achitophel has no rival in the field of political satire. Apart from the contemporary interest of the poem and its historical value, it appeal to the modern reader lies in its observations on English character and on the weaknesses of man in general.

His generalisations on human nature have a perennial interest.

Dryden triumphed over the peculiar difficulties of his chosen theme. He had to give, not abuse or politics,but the poetry of abuse and politics. He had to praise without sounding servile and he had to criticise artistically. Dryden achieves all this cleverly and skilfully.

The poem is certainly a political satire, but it is a blend of dignity with incisive and effective satire. You are commenting using your WordPress.

You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Basically a Political Satire: Political Satire Cast in Biblical Mould: With a masterly touch he sets the poem: May 12, at 8: August 1, at 6: March 31, at 5: June 16, at 4: June 25, at 3: Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Email required Address never xatire public.

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