SCRUTINIZING

THE PORTRAIT OF ZIMRI – JOHN DRYDEN
ANDREW EUGENE ANALYSIS
“The Banquet of Absalom attributed
to Niccolòde Simone around 1650 “
(From Absalom & Achitophel)
ANDREW EUGENE 1

THE POET

ohn Dryden was born in 19 August 1631 and died in 12 May
1700. He was a poet, a literary critic, translator and a
playwright who was appointed as Poet Laureate in 1668 and
Royal Historiographer in 1670. He studied in the Cambridge
University, United Kingdom.

 HIS WORK

 Astraea Redux, 1660 from
 The Wild Gallant (comedy), 1663
 The Indian Emperour (tragedy), 1665
 Annus Mirabilis (poem), 1667
 The Enchanted Island (comedy), 1667, an adaptation with William D'Avenant of Shakespeare's The
Tempest
 Secret Love, or The Maiden Queen, 1667
 An Essay of Dramatick Poesie, 1668
 An Evening's Love (comedy), 1668
 Tyrannick Love (tragedy), 1669
 The Conquest of Granada, 1670
 The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, 1672
 Marriage à la mode, 1672
 Amboyna, or the Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants, 1673
 The Mistaken Husband (comedy), 1674
 Aureng-zebe, 1675
 All for Love, 1678
 Oedipus (heroic drama), 1679, an adaptation with Nathaniel Lee of Sophocles' Oedipus
 Absalom and Achitophel, 1681
 The Spanish Fryar, 1681
 MacFlecknoe, 1682
 The Medal, 1682
 Religio Laici, 1682
 Threnodia Augustalis, 1685
 The Hind and the Panther, 1687
 A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687
 Britannia Rediviva, 1688, written to mark the birth of a Prince of Wales.
 Amphitryon, 1690
 Don Sebastian, 1690
 Creator Spirit, by whose aid, 1690. Translation of Rabanus Maurus' Veni Creator Spiritus[25]
 King Arthur, 1691
 Cleomenes, 1692
 Love Triumphant, 1694
 The Works of Virgil, 1697
 Alexander's Feast, 1697
 Fables, Ancient and Modern, 1700
 The Art of Satire
 To the Memory of Mr. Oldham, 1684
J
ANDREW EUGENE 2



THE POEM
+ GLOSSARY

Some of their chiefs were princes of the land:
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand:
A man so various, that he seem'd to be
Not one, but all Mankind's Epitome.
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long:
But in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon:
Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking;
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.
Blest madman, who could every hour employ,
With something new to wish, or to enjoy!
Railing and praising were his usual themes;
And both (to show his judgment) in extremes:
So over violent, or over civil,
That every man, with him, was god or devil.
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art:
Nothing went unrewarded, but desert.
Beggar'd by fools, whom still he found too late:
He had his jest, and they had his estate.

a standard or typical
example

not easily bent; rigid;
inflexible

moving around a
central axis
a person engaged in
chemistry

someone who plays
the violin
a politician

a foolish person

a person who
acts in a
markedly
unconventional
or strange way
complain

spend wastefully or
extravagantly
something done or said
for amusement
ANDREW EUGENE 3


SCRUTINIZE IT
 TITLE
he title ‘The Portrait of Zimri’ is cited from the mock-epic satire ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ narrated
by John Dryden to fulfil the request of King Charles II. The part refers to the overweening character
‘Zimri’. ‘Zimri’ is the nick name given to mention the Duke of Buckingham in the satire by Dryden. The
name means ‘my praise or my music’ in Hebrew. The name is alluded from the Old Testament of the
Bible where it mentions an Israel King who ruled for 7 days by killing the King Ella.

 DEEPER

“SOME OF THEIR CHIEFS WERE PRINCES OF THE LAND:
IN THE FIRST RANK OF THESE DID ZIMRI STAND:
A MAN SO VARIOUS, THAT HE SEEM'D TO BE
NOT ONE, BUT ALL MANKIND'S EPITOME.”

ohn Dryden uses third person narrative method to fabricate his poem. ‘Some of their chiefs were
Princes of land’ means that some of the plotters brainchildren where belonging to the rich and
probably the ‘Princes of land’. ‘In the first rank of these did Zimri stand’ proves that Zimri was one of
the brainchildren. Dryden comments that Zimri seems to be a heterogeneous character and is entitled
to be the quintessence of mankind. We can feel that Dryden is mockingly or not, is applauding Zimri
or the Duke of Buckingham.

“STIFF IN OPINIONS, ALWAYS IN THE WRONG;
WAS EVERYTHING BY STARTS, AND NOTHING LONG:
BUT IN THE COURSE OF ONE REVOLVING MOON,
WAS CHEMIST, FIDDLER, STATESMAN, AND BUFFOON:”

imri is said to be a person with fixed opinions but alas, all of the so said opinions were dead wrong.
‘Was everything by starts and nothing long’ depicts his unstable nature, his frail mind and inability
to hold on to one thing for a long time. Within one lunar month he was a chemist, a violinist, a
politician, and a fool's fool. Dryden mentions some fine arts like being a chemist and playing the violin.
But still he is tagged a buffoon who wasted his time on futile fools.



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J
Z
ANDREW EUGENE 4



“THEN ALL FOR WOMEN, PAINTING, RHYMING, DRINKING;
BESIDES TEN THOUSAND FREAKS THAT DIED IN THINKING.
BLEST MADMAN, WHO COULD EVERY HOUR EMPLOY,
WITH SOMETHING NEW TO WISH, OR TO ENJOY!”

hen displaying his foolishness he dedicated his whole time to flirting with women, painting,
rhyming poems and heavy drinking. He was always employed among the fools who died by trying
to think. ‘Blest madman, who could every hour employ, with something new to wish, or to enjoy’
Zimri’s life was nothing but merriment among the fools. Each hour he found something new to mock
at and make fun. This shows that The Duke of Buckingham is heavily attacked by Dryden’s gunshots
of epic mocking.


“RAILING AND PRAISING WERE HIS USUAL THEMES;
AND BOTH (TO SHOW HIS JUDGMENT) IN EXTREMES:
SO OVER VIOLENT, OR OVER CIVIL,
THAT EVERY MAN, WITH HIM, WAS GOD OR DEVIL.”

riticizing and praising where his usual ways: says Dryden trying to highlight the characteristics of
Zimri. Dryden paints Zimri’s character into a person who goes into the extremes. Either violent or
civil Zimri has intentions of showing extreme judgement. He acted like every man whom he associated
was either devil or god. He associated no moderate man. All were akin to extremists. Humorous,
violent or courteous. So far we can fix the analysed parts of Zimri into one whole. He is pathetic. He is
a man with taste, talent and extra rewarded foolishness. This makes him the perfect being for a mock-
epic satire.

“IN SQUANDERING WEALTH WAS HIS PECULIAR ART:
NOTHING WENT UNREWARDED, BUT DESERT.
BEGGAR'D BY FOOLS, WHOM STILL HE FOUND TOO LATE:
HE HAD HIS JEST, AND THEY HAD HIS ESTATE”

quander in other words would mean waste or flitter away. Zimri had his own art made for himself
to flitter away money. Wasting money was his forte. Nothing or no-one went empty handed.
Everyone took their chances to rob Zimri. He was made a beggar by the fools he associated. “He had
his jest, and they had his estate”: he played the joker role and the fools took his belongings.





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ANDREW EUGENE 5



 SUMMARY

his satire is displaying the loopholes of the famous Duke of Buckingham. A satire is made to attack
the weaknesses of the people. It does not only destroy a person’s personality but criticize praise in
a balance to overcome the weaknesses. The Duke of Buckingham nicknamed as Zimri in this satire had
talent taste and wealth. But the fools he associated took their chances and time to slowly decay this
pathetic person named Zimri. A satire is mainly not offensive but defensive. This extract is from the
main satire ‘Absalom and Achitophel. This mainly points out politically and mentally corrupted people.
Dryden is trying to criticize some political figures who practise abusing the power against the King.
Since it is unlawful to attack these corruptions directly, Dryden uses three names from the Bible to
attack them literally.
 Monmouth (Absalom)
 Shaftesbury the false tempter (Achitophel)
 The Duke of Buckingham (Zimri)
 Charles II (David); Titus Oates (Corah)
 Slingsby Bethel
 Sheriff of London (Shimei)

 ORNAMENTATION

Lines 543 – 548 rhyming AA, BB, CC
Lines 549 – 550 rhyming AA
Lines 551 – 554 rhyming AA, BB
Lines 555 – 558 rhyming AA, BB
Lines 559 – 562 rhyming AA, BB
Lines 563 – 564 rhyming AA
Lines 565 – 568 rhyming AA, BB
 TECHNIQUES

EXAGGERATION - "BESIDE TEN THOUSAND FREAKS THAT DIED IN THINKING."
IRONY - "BEGGAD'D BY FOOLS ...HE HAD HIS JEST, AND THEY HAD HIS ESTATE."
COMIC JUXTAPOSITION - "IN THE FIRST RANK OF [PRINCES] DID ZIMRI STAND,
IN SQUANDERING WEALTH WAS HIS PECULIAR ART:"
T
ANDREW EUGENE 6



 POSSIBLE THEMES

 IRRATIONALITY OF PEOPLE
 EXCESSIVENESS LEADS TO RIDICULE, EXPLOITATION AND DISASTER
 APPEARANCE AND REALITY















SCRUTINIZING by Andrew Eugene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
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