John Dryden: Absalom and Achitophel

(2321 words)
  • Jerome Donnelly (University of Central Florida)

Absalom and Achitophel is generally regarded as the greatest political poem in the English language. Its heroic poetry fuses 1031 lines of allegory with drama, portraiture, and oratory into a satire on a political struggle taking place during its composition. The poem appeared anonymously in 1681 at the height of one of England’s most explosive political moments, the Exclusion Crisis, but readers quickly identified its brilliant heroic couplets as those of the nation’s Poet Laureate, John Dryden. Enlisting scripture’s account of David and Absalom from II Samuel 15-18, Dryden defends the king and the lawful succession against his opponents who want to alter the succession and install a monarch who will be more pliable to …

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Donnelly, Jerome. "Absalom and Achitophel". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 14 June 2005
[, accessed 27 September 2016.]