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A Question of Culpability: The Literary Rebel in Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel

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Title: A Question of Culpability: The Literary Rebel in Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel
Authors: Mays, Kimberly
Issue Date: 15 Jan 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: John Dryden wrote Absalom and Achitophel as a piece of political propaganda in 1681 during the occasion of a national crisis; and in the poem, Dryden states that his objective is to "please the more moderate sort" (177). To Dryden, the "moderate sort" constitute those individuals who are inclined to support a royal monarch on the grounds that a monarchical government reflects the original law which was instituted when God first created Adam, and that to threaten the monarch involves undermining the very foundation of civilization. The Popish Plot and the Exclusion Crisis were being manipulated by Whig opposition to the Monarchy in an attempt to turn public support against Charles II and to prevent the succession of his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. In Absalom and Achitophel, Dryden condemns many of the prominent leaders of this opposition, as well as Whigs in general, as people who are tampering with a divinely ordained institution, by rebelling against God's annointed king. When we examine the rebel characters in Absalom and Achitophel, we find that some are treated more leniently than others, and in the preface, Dryden anticipates that The violent, on both sides, will condemn the character of Absalom, as either too favourably or too hardly drawn. But they are not the violent whom I desire to please. The fault on the right hand is to extenuate, palliate, and indulge, and, to confess freely, I have endeavoured to commit it. Dryden appears to be guilty of a double standard which causes Achitophel to be portrayed as being beyond redemption, while the portrait he draws of Absalom is that of a son who is yet deserving of his father's forgiveness. Why does Dryden wish to "extenuate, palliate, and indulge," and how, exactly does he achieve this objective?
Pages/Duration: 33 pages
Rights: All UHM Honors Projects are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for English

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