Absalom and Achitophel

by

John Dryden

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The inhabitants of Israel in “Absalom and Achitophel.” In Dryden’s poem, the Jews are a willful and temperamental bunch who are easily corrupted. They desire liberty beyond that which is already given to them by their generous king, David, and they easy fall for the deception of Achitophel’s plot to discredit David’s brother and make David’s illegitimate son Absalom, the new king. The Jews are a metaphor for the English during Dryden’s contemporary time, who also sought additional liberties and attempted to exclude Charles II’s brother, James, from royal succession in favor of Charles’s son, the 1st Duke of Monmouth.

The Jews Quotes in Absalom and Achitophel

The Absalom and Achitophel quotes below are all either spoken by The Jews or refer to The Jews. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murmuring race
As ever tried th’ extent and stretch of grace,
God’s pampered people, whom, debauched with ease,
No king could govern nor no god could please
(Gods they had tried of every shape and size
That god-smiths could produce, or priests devise),
These Adam-wits, too fortunately free,
Began to dream they wanted liberty;
And when no rule, no precedent was found
Of men by laws less circumscribed and bound,
They led their wild desires to woods and caves,
And thought that all but savages were slaves.
They who, when Saul was dead, without a blow
Made foolish Ishbosheth the crown forgo,
Who banished David did from Hebron bring
And, with a general shout, proclaimed him king.

Related Characters: David, Saul, Ishbosheth
Related Symbols: The Crown
Page Number: 115-116
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Jews Term Timeline in Absalom and Achitophel

The timeline below shows where the term The Jews appears in Absalom and Achitophel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Absalom and Achitophel
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David rules quietly, but the Jews are a willful and temperamental bunch and are easily corrupted. Despite already being free, the... (full context)
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...with odds of “ten to one” in Israel, the Jebusites get little support from the Jews. (full context)
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So the Jebusites begin to use deception. They mix and socialize with the Jews, looking for converts, in the government and even in brothels. The plot fails, because it... (full context)
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Plus, the Jews seem to elect themselves a new king every 20 years or so, and Achitophel decides... (full context)
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...calling him the “second Moses.” Absalom is the answer to their prayers, Achitophel tells the Jews, and he will be their “savior.” Absalom’s popularity begins to soar, and even babies are... (full context)
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...his old age. David isn’t the same man he once was, Achitophel maintains, and the Jews deserve better. David has few friends, except for Egypt’s Pharaoh, and the assistance of a... (full context)
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Achitophel has sown so much dissention amongst the Jews that they begin to cry “Religion, Commonwealth, and Liberty.” If Absalom joins their cries with... (full context)
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If the Jews are unhappy with David, Absalom asks Achitophel, why should Absalom encourage them? David is not... (full context)
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It is better for the Jews if David’s brother does not ascend the throne, Achitophel tells Absalom, and the Jews know... (full context)
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...brother is removed from the line of succession, Achitophel begins to join all the disgruntled Jews to that very end. Some Jews believe that David has too much power, and while... (full context)
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...is Shimei, and he deeply hates David and all of the government. Shimei cheats the Jews out of money every chance he gets, so the people make him their magistrate. While... (full context)
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...foreign university.” His perfect memory fits well with “the temper of the times,” and the Jews fail to “judge his writ apocryphal.” (full context)
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...and he is urged on by his popularity. Hiding his happiness, Absalom moves among the Jews. He knows each of their names and makes a point to stop and visit with... (full context)
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Absalom tells the Jews that he, too, grieves the loss of their land and wishes that he could suffer... (full context)
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Absalom’s charm wins over the Jews, and they are united by their “common interests.” The people raise their hands to worship... (full context)
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.../ Is work for rebels who base ends pursue,” the poet claims, and warns the Jews that if they don’t begin to respect David, they are sure “to physic their disease... (full context)
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Up until now, David says to the Jews, he has allowed his role as a father to cloud his judgement and inform his... (full context)
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...sword of justice draw?” asks David. “O curst effects of necessary law!” He warns the Jews to “beware the fury of a patient man,” and he implies it will be better... (full context)