English with Saddam logo

Absalom and Achitophel Summary | John Dryden

Absalom and Achitophel Summary | John Dryden

John Dryden has written Absalom and Achitophel, where he satires a hero. He also says the political crisis of the then time. In the following content, we are going to discuss Absalom and Achitophel Summary.

Writer’s Intro:

“Absalom and Achitophel” is a heroic satire written by John Dryden in 1631-1700. John Dryden is an English poet, playwright, translator, essayist and literature theorist. He is regarded as one of the most important and outstanding exponents of English literature of the 17th century, together with Shakespeare and Milton.

Theme of Absalom and Achitophel

The political crisis of the then time.


Absalom and Achitophel Character List

David: Charles II of England was represented by the king of Israel.

Absalom: David’s favorite son who rebelled against him, stands for James, Duke of Monmouth, who sided with the Exclusionists against his father Charles II. He was murdered because he was a traitor.

Achitophel: He was David’s advisor, but he betrayed him and told Absalom to rebel against his father. When he saw that the rebellion would fail, he hung himself. He speaks for the first Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper.

Corah: Corah tried to get rid of Moses. He supports Titus Oates, who came up with the Popish Plot and led the campaign against Catholics.

Barzillai: Barzillai lived beyond the Jordan River and helped David when Absalom tried to take over the kingdom. He speaks for the Duke of Ormonde, who supported Dryden and was one of Charles’s most loyal servants. He went with Charles II when he was sent into exile and was loyal to him when things went wrong.

The Sagan of Jerusalem: The Bishop of London is shown by the Sagan of Jerusalem.

Saul: Saul was the first king of Israel. He won the first battle between Israel and the Philistines. He is Oliver Cromwell, who took over as Lord Protector after Charles was killed.

Amnon: He was half-brother to Absalom. He had him killed because he had raped Absalom’s sister.

Zimri: Zimri is shown by two people in the Bible: a murderer in the book of Numbers and a murderer who took over a kingdom in the book of 1 Kings. He is a metaphor for the second Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers.

Shimei: A person who badmouths David. He works for a sheriff of London and Middlesex named Slingsby Bethel.


Absalom and Achitophel Summary

The first part of ”Absalom and Achitophel” summary

John Dryden wrote “Absalom and Achitophel” in 1681 and 1682. It is a satire about a hero. John Dryden is an English poet, playwright, essayist, translator, and theorist of literature. Along with Shakespeare and Milton, he is thought to have been one of the most important and best writers in England in the 1600s.


[This was during the era of the Popish Plot (Popish Plot, (1678), in English history, a totally untrue but widely believed plot in which it was suspected that Jesuits (member of the Society of Jesus (S.J.), a Roman Catholic ) were planning the assassination of King Charles II in order to bring his Roman Catholic brother, the Duke of York (afterward King James II), to the throne), which took place during the years 1679 to 1681.]

At the start of the allegory, England is shown to be the Bible’s land of Israel, and the English people are shown to be the Jews. In the poem, the group of bad guys are working against King David, who is like Charles II today.

The First Earl of Shaftesbury plays Achitophel, David’s famous advisor and the group’s leader. Achitophel decides that Absalom, who was born out of wedlock to King Charles, is the best person to take the throne instead.

The second part of the summary Absalom and Achitophel

Followers of Achitophel, like Zimri, Shimei, and Corah, are presented in detail as Achitophel and Absalom talk. Achitophel starts to talk for a long time, trying to persuade Absalom to join his rebellion. He tells Absalom that the whole country wants him to secretly take the throne.

He says King Charles is not popular anymore because of the Popish Plot, and he has no other followers. Achitophel says that Egypt, or France in modern English, will help Absalom take the throne for himself.

Not only does he have the royal blood that the people want, but he would also be a better King than anyone who would take the throne through succession. Here the reader is meant to understand the reference to James.

Absalom speaks up for his father, David, by saying that David is a good king and has always been kind to him. But Absalom is also ambitious, and he is fighting against Achitophel’s constant praise.

Absalom refuses to turn against (stop supporting) his father. He asserts that David’s brother, who possesses all the qualities of a true king, should receive the crown as he justly deserves it. He says that he isn’t the right person for the job because he was born out of wedlock and wishes he had been born higher.

The third part of  the summary Absalom and Achitophel

Achitophel renews his persuasion tactics. He beseechs Absalom to save the “religion, commonwealth and liberty” of their country. The throne needs someone powerful, like Absalom. On the other hand, David is weak and gives too much to the people. The country has been weakened on purpose, and the people should be able to choose their own king. James is also jealous of Absalom, who should take the throne in order to protect himself.

Achitophel tells Absalom to act like he is defending King David and then accuses James of trying to kill the King. This will make it possible for Absalom to force David to give him the throne. Achitophel also says that David wants to do this on his own, but won’t unless he is forced to.

The final part of the summary Absalom and Achitophel

Achitophel says, David is like a woman who pretends to avoid a man’s advances but secretly wants them. This rather troublesome argument finally convinces Absalom to “commit a pleasing rape upon the crown.” The youth has now been gulled into becoming a tool for Achitophel’s ambitions.

The rest of the poem then deals with the beginnings of the rebellion, led by Achitophel (Shaftsebury), all within the very powerful and booming allegory of the Bible. Absalom delivers a powerful speech in which he promises the populace peace.

However, the poem ends with King David’s speech, during which he upholds his traditional rights, offers reconciliation to all the rebels, but also demonstrates firmness in his decisions.

That’s the end of our content absalom and achitophel summary. We hope that you’ve enjoyed it. Anyway, if you want to read other summaries of Restoration & 18th Century Poetry & Drama, you can follow the contents:

– The Rape of the Lock Summary

– The Way of the World Summary

– She Stoops to Conquer Summary

Share This :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Saddam Hossain

Founder & Language Instructor

Apart from English language and literature skill, I’m a Digital Marketer & Content Writer at My Writing Pen, BD Business Finder, NY Bizlisting.

subscribe & follow

Join the newsletter

you will receive latest study material and updates on your favorite

You have been successfully Subscribed! Ops! Something went wrong, please try again.

Learning English or improving language skill in an easy way is our main goal that will certainly enable you to remove your English phobia.

error: Sorry, prohibition is set on copying content !!