Absalom and Achitophel


John Dryden

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The most important of Achitophel’s men. Corah is a priest, although he lies about his rabbinical degree, and he hatches the plot that helps Achitophel discredit David’s brother and ingratiate Absalom to the people of Israel. Corah’s memory is impeccable, and his account of the plot never once changes, which is why the Jews believe his fictitious plot. In the Bible, Corah leads a rebellion against Moses, and in Dryden’s poem he represents Titus Oates, the Englishman who engineered the Popish Plot. Like Corah, Oates was a Puritan priest with a dubious rabbinical degree, and members of Parliament put stock into his unbelievable conspiracy because of his perfect memory and ability to tell and retell the plot without discrepancies.

Corah Quotes in Absalom and Achitophel

The Absalom and Achitophel quotes below are all either spoken by Corah or refer to Corah. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Politics, Allegory, and Satire Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Absalom and Achitophel published in 2001.
Absalom and Achitophel Quotes

From hence began that plot, the nation’s curse,
Bad in itself but represented worse,
Raised in extremes and in extremes decried;
With oaths affirmed, with dying vows denied.
Not weighed or winnowed by the multitude
But swallowed in the mass, unchewed and crude.
Some truth there was, but dashed and brewed with lies
To please the fools and puzzle all the wise.

Related Characters: David, Corah
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

This plot, which failed for want of common sense,
Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence,
For as, when raging fevers boil the blood,
The standing lake soon floats into a flood,
And every hostile humour, which before
Slept quiet in its channels, bubbles o’er,
So several factions from this first ferment
Work up to foam, and threat the government.

Related Characters: David, David’s Brother, Corah
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

Ours was a Levite, and, as times went then,
His tribe were God Almighty’s gentlemen.
Sunk were his eyes; his voice was harsh and loud:
Sure signs he neither choleric was, nor proud;
His long chin proved his wit; his saintlike grace
A church vermilion, and a Moses’ face;
His memory, miraculously great,
Could plots exceeding man’s belief repeat,
Which therefore cannot be accounted lies,
For human wit could never such devise.
Some future truths are mingled in his book
But, where the witness failed, the prophet spoke:
Some things like visionary flights appear;
The spirit caught him up, the Lord knows where,
And gave him his rabbinical degree Unknown to foreign university.

Related Characters: Achitophel, Corah
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
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Corah Character Timeline in Absalom and Achitophel

The timeline below shows where the character Corah appears in Absalom and Achitophel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Absalom and Achitophel
Politics, Allegory, and Satire Theme Icon
God, Religion, and the Divine Right of Kings Theme Icon
The rest of Achitophel’s men are easy to forget, except for Corah. Corah is of common birth but has risen through society’s ranks, as “prodigious actions may... (full context)
Politics, Allegory, and Satire Theme Icon
God, Religion, and the Divine Right of Kings Theme Icon
Corah’s memory is impeccable, and he can easily recall his complex plot. Thus, many fail to... (full context)