John Dryden: Political Satire Poem Review by rofcay

John Dryden: Political Satire
This paper discusses the major themes and satirical style in the poem, "Absalom and Achitophel", by John Dryden.
# 108219 | 838 words | 1 source | MLA | 2006 | US
Published on Sep 26, 2008 in Literature (English) , Literature (Poetry)

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This paper analyzes the poem, "Absalom and Achitophel", by John Dryden, in which the Whigs and their leader, the Earl of Shaftsbury, attempt to overthrow King Charles II by means of the scandalous popish plot. By exposing Slingsby's personal vices of deception and greed, Dryden's satire attempts to persuade the people that the Whigs are unfit for rule and of the guilt of their leader, the Earl of Shaftsbury. The author of this paper looks at the satire within the poem and discusses the historical themes of law and metaphorical references to the bible throughout the paper. The paper asserts that Dryden utilizes biblical characters to represent members of the conspiracy. Furthermore, by the use of satire, Dryden exposes the vices of deception and greed for money and power within Bethel's personality. Ultimately, the paper states that Dryden successfully demonstrates the complete failure of the Whigs leadership abilities and the Popish Plot.

From the Paper:

"Another example of Slingsby Bethel's vice of depiction and greed is in his inability to uphold the law. First, we must recall the popular neoclassic belief about Law as defined by Thomas Hobbe. In the biblical story of Adam and Eve, mankind's innocence is tragically disregarded by a moment of self-will, thus sealing mankind's natural instinct of selfishness and greed. Therefore, laws were created to keep mankind's natural instinctual yet destructive vices of deception, selfishness, and greed in check. In short, laws are regarded as good. There are two examples of Dryden's indictment of the sheriff's callousness to Hobbian Law. The first example of reckless abandonment of the law is demonstrated in the following passage; 'His hand a vare of justice did uphold; His neck was loaded with a chain of gold' (595). In these lines, the sheriff seemingly upholds justice. However, he is chained by the wealth of the Whigs which provides him 'gold' far behind his means. The sheriff is bribeable, which leaves the law unstable and for sale. Also, Bethel is not autonomous in his duties; he is collared by a gold chain held firmly by the Whigs. Perhaps a better example is demonstrated when Dryden explores Slingsby's philosophy on the law. 'For laws are only made to punish those who serve the king and to protect his foes' (610). This line clearly shows Slingsby's selective use of the law. The sheriff believes laws only apply to the loyal Torries, not the disloyal Whigs. Therefore, the sheriff and the Whigs are above Hobbian law, leaving them guilty of sin, without morality, and incompetent to rule."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Dryden, John. "Absalom and Achitophel." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th Ed. Vol. 1c. NY: WW Norton & Company, 2000. 2090-2091.

Cite this Poem Review:

APA Format

John Dryden: Political Satire (2008, September 26) Retrieved April 17, 2021, from

MLA Format

"John Dryden: Political Satire" 26 September 2008. Web. 17 April. 2021. <>