E102B Restoration and Revolution || SQ ||John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel

1. Explain Dryden's use of allegory.  What benefit does he derive from writing about these people and events through allegory?

2.  What makes this poem a satire?  Do you think it has anything in common with Rochester's "Satyr Against Mankind" or "Satire on Charles II"?

3.  Choose several sections of the poem and analyze them carefully, paying special attention to Dryden's use of the heroic couplet.  (Pay attention to rhymes, to the 4 main line divisions in the couplet, to the placement of the line pauses, alliteration that falls on key terms in the major line divisions, and to all devices that create opposition, balance, or resolution.

4.  How does Dryden refer or allude to the civil war?  How is the civil war important in the poem?

5.  Examine the satiric portraits, particularly the portrait of Achitophel.  How does Dryden characterize him?

6. The main problem addressed by the poem is succession.  Locate Achitophel's references to succession and evaluate them.

7.  How does Dryden use sexuality in the poem?  In the contrast between David and Achitophel, for example?  In Achitophel's persuasion of Absalom?  In Achitophel's advice to take the crown?  Do you notice any other points at which the poem uses sexual themes or images?

8. Why is the Popish Plot important to the poem?  What role does Corah play?

9.  Explain the Exclusion Crisis?

10.  Support the following claim:  Dryuden makes Achitophel a Satan figure. (If you have read Milton, explain how Achitiphel is a satiric version of a Miltonic figure.)

11.  What's wrong with Achitophel's rhetoric?

12.  How do the questions in Absalom's answer function?

13.  What constitutional issue does the poem deal with?

14.  What can you say about the catalogue of malcontents?  Are there any "characters" that Dryden does not include in the poem?

15.  Juxtapose the beginning and the ending of the poem?  What do you think?

16.  How can this poem be related to Astraea Redux?

17.  How could you use this poem as a starting point for talking about other works read for this course?

18.  Wrest Dryden's satiric presentation of Achitophel away from Dryden and try to write a description of Shaftesbury that makes him a reasonable political figure. Correspondingly, write a satiric version of Charles II.

19. What questions would you like to ask?

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