Absalom and Achitophel

by

John Dryden

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Themes and Colors
Politics, Allegory, and Satire Theme Icon
God, Religion, and the Divine Right of Kings Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Absalom and Achitophel, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Politics, Allegory, and Satire

On the surface, John Dryden’s poem “Absalom and Achitophel” is a rehashing of the story of David, the third king of Israel, and his illegitimate son Absalom, who rebels against his father and tries to usurp his throne. However, this biblical story is merely an allegory, a form of extended metaphor, for the political events that unfolded in Dryden’s time. In 1678, an alleged Catholic conspiracy to assassinate King Charles II, known…

read analysis of Politics, Allegory, and Satire

God, Religion, and the Divine Right of Kings

At the center of John Dryden’s poem “Absalom and Achitophel” is God and religion. The poem is a satirical critique of contemporary politics, but Dryden couches his argument in a biblical story from the Book of Samuel. Instead of the happenings of 17th century England, “Absalom and Achitophel” focuses on David, the third king of Israel, and his illegitimate son Absalom, who, under the direction and influence of Achitophel, attempts to…

read analysis of God, Religion, and the Divine Right of Kings

Power and Ambition

Power and ambition drive the plot of John Dryden’s poem “Absalom and Achitophel.” King David of Israel has all the power in theory, but in practice, he has little ambition. According to Achitophel, the King’s deceitful counselor, David is lacking “manly force,” and he gives in too easily to the people. The King is “mild” and hesitant to draw blood, and Achitophel, in his own ambition for increasing power, sees David as weak. “But…

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