Consider “Absalom and Achitophel” As a Biblical Satire

Poem has been given by Dryden an allegorical form. Before we try to understand “Absalom and Achitophel” as an allegory, let us clearly understand the meaning of the term ‘allegory. An allegory is that literary form which has two ore more than two meanings at the same time. It is an extended metaphor. It is a device used in narrative by which objects, incidents, or people are represented indirectly to the reader by means of personification, metaphor or symbolism. There is always a hidden meaning which is figuratively implied but never expressly stated. The reader would, therefore, understand not only expressed events in the narrative, but also the hidden truths or meanings. In the English middle ages, all the morality plays and animal epics were allegorical. Spenser’s “Fairy Queen” is the best example of allegory. Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ is a famous Christian allegory. Allegory is mostly moral and religious. But “Absalom and Achitophel” is a political allegory. His poem is an attack on the enemies of Charles II.

The story of David has been taken from II, of Samuel of the Old Testament. Chapters 15-18 are regarded as the most historical books of the Bible. It is in these chapters that we read the historical quarrel. We come across a graphic of David’s quarrel in B.K. Rally’s book, A Short History of Hebrews:

“David who lived about 10th century before Christ, was one of the great heroes of the Jewish nation, a brave and godly leader; he was believed to have been the author of the Psalms, and was looked upon as an ancestor of Christ himself. We read now he was consecrated king of Israel as a very young man, but had to wage a long war before subduing his predecessor. Saul, and establishing himself as a ruler, first of Hebron and later at Jerusalem, which became the capital of a united country. But the later half of David’s reign was disturbed by Civil War and by domestic troubles which were the outcome of his own fault of character. One of his sons, Absalom, murdered his half-brother, Ammon and had to run away from the Court. David was too lazy to punish is handsome son, who basely raised a rebellion against his father. Absalom encouraged criticism of David’s administration of justice; and by empty promises gained the favour of many of the Jewish people. With the help of his father’s shrewdest councillor, Achitophel, he hoped to turn their disaffection to his own disadvantage. David was forced to leave Jerusalem with only a small band of loyal supporters but he directed his trusted friend, Hushai, to return and feign sympathy with Absalom and to counteract the advice of the frightened Achitophel. Hushai successfully urged Absalom to delay his pursuit of the fugitive king; and David was able to gather armies before taking the offensive. Achitophel, finding, that his counsel was disregarded, went home and put his household in order, hanged himself and died. Absalom’s forces were defeated and he himself was killed in spite of his father’s instructions that his life should be spared. David lamented his son’s death in bitter sorrow.”



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