Biblical References of the Popish Plot John Dryden is an interesting person to create the epic poem ³Absalom and

Achitophel.´ What makes this poem stand out and what made it cause an outrage in the audience of readers is that fact that Dryden not only used the parable of Absalom, but changed it as he saw fit so that it worked better with the events surrounding Charles II, the Duke of Monmouth (Monmouth), the Earl of Shaftesbury, and the Popish Plot (Guilhamet, 395). Many of Dryden¶s works are continuations, or at least connected to other works. ³Absalom and Achitophel´ was definitively different in that it could stand alone, and was not the continuation or conclusion to any of his prior works (de Beers, 304). The fact of the matter was that the story of ³Absalom and Achitophel´ had been used repeatedly by other authors, almost to the point of being overused. So why did Dryden use this same parable? The answer lies with King Charles II, who asked for Dryden to use the parable. Dryden was seen as an author that moved with the chaotic times, and used his satire to evoke passions about the turmoil within England and religion (Combe). Between his own writing characteristics and the use of alternative characters, he would be able to speak more freely about these characters faults and actions without fear of court (Chambers, 592; Combe; de Beer, 304; Jones 211). In essence, the story of ³Absalom and Achitophel´ is about the son of a king rebelling against his father due to the unscrupulous actions of one of his father¶s trusted advisors, (Berry, 152; Jones, 216-217; Literature Online). It was with these events and their possible correlation to the biblical story that Dryden issued forth the poem not only to praise the King, but to validate his actions and to destroy his opponents. And it is

with these corresponding events between the two stories that will be used to analyze the imagery Dryden used to enhance the poem. First, it is important to understand the circumstances leading up to and containing the Popish Plot. Charles I was beheaded, and Oliver Cromwell, followed by his son Richard, was the Lord Protector of England. Charles II ascended the throne during the protectorate of Richard Cromwell and continued on for many years (Dryden, 2090). At this time, England was a Protestant nation, and while Charles was a closet Catholic, his brother James was a devout and very public catholic (Greenblatt, 2087; Literature Online). This is the first problem is that Charles II did not have an heir which created the second problem. Many in the country did not want the king to be Catholic, but without an heir, the line of succession led to James. The Whigs with the influence of the Earl of Shaftesbury (Shaftesbury) thereby tried to create the Exclusion Crisis that would exclude James from succession to the throne (Berry, 149). This caused those who opposed James to try and find someone who could replace him. There search led them to the favored illegitimate child of Charles II (Chambers, 596; Greenfield, 275. His name is James Scott, Duke of Monmouth (Monmouth). Now during this time Titus Oates made a claim that Catholics were plotting the assassination of King Charles II. The background of Oates was sketchy at best. Yet through a series of statements, Oates claimed that he knew of a Jesuit coup to take over England and in the process murder the king (Literature Online). This accusation also gave more power to those who opposed James, especially through Shaftesbury who used it for propaganda to gain supporters. Monmouth took the throne for a short time before his father, Charles II, took it back and prosecuted those who fed the lies and

the opposition of James. Oates was prosecuted also and was publicly whipped through the streets of London after James II ascended the throne (Berry, 151 & 157; Literature Online). With this laid out, the analysis of the biblical parable and the events during this time can be analyzed and the symbolism interpreted for better understanding of the characters and events during this time. The main characters need to be defined and analyzed in relation to the biblical story. David was promiscuous in that he had many wives and many concubines, including the ill-gotten Bathsheba (II Samuel 11). He had many children, in that ³scattered his Maker¶s image through the land.´ (Dryden, 2089, 10; II Samuel 3:2-5 & 5:13-16). He also had a rebellious son in Absalom (II Samuel 15). While the multiple wives and concubines was acceptable for David¶s time period, Dryden uses the similarities in relations to wife and concubines to validate Charles II excessive conquests and illegitimate children, including his own rebellious son in Monmouth (de Beers, 305; Greenfield, 274, 277). Monmouth is comparative to the son of David, Absalom (de Beers, 305). These two characters both have the same father, but different mothers from their other siblings. One main difference is that Absalom was not illegitimate, while Monmouth¶s maternal side was shady, and possibly she was a prostitute (Greenfield, 277). However, before a discussion of Absalom begins, it is important to understand the last main character of Achitophel, whose fate lies with Absalom. Achitophel is none other than the Shaftesbury (Berry 146; de Beers, 205; Dryden, 2092, 150). In II Samuel 15, Achitophel is David¶s counselor who David reviles as a person who speaks the word of God. Achitophel switches sides when he believes

that Absalom will be victorious against his father. Knowing the respect that David had for this man, Absalom respected Achitophel and consider his advise to be from God too (II Samuel 16:23). David trusted Achitophel as he trusted God, but Charles II never trusted the Shaftesbury. There are several reasons for this distrust. First is that Charles II was Tory, and the Shaftesbury was a Whig. Second, Charles II was Catholic, even though he hid this from the people, and Shaftesbury was Protestant. This may seem like a minor difference, but in the 17th Century these were major issues. During the 16th and 17th centuries politics and religion were almost inseparable. These differences became more of an issue when the Whigs, led by Shaftesbury, tried to pass the Exclusion Crisis just before Charles II abolished the parliament, which would have excluded James from the throne. Shaftesbury was the mind behind the rebellion of Monmouth. He promised the young man that he would be better than his father and it cost him dearly in his later years (Berry, 151-2, 160; Greenfield, 276). In this context many readers and critics have considered the character of Achitophel to be a devious politician, an instigator, a Judas or even the devil. However it is truly a stretch to consider the Shaftesbury to be anything other than a devious person and corrupt politician (Chambers, 592-3). There are many facets within both of these stories, but the most obvious is that of Monmouth/Absalom. Following the biblical imagery in comparison to Monmouth give the best way to associate and see just how Dryden changed events to make the story fit the parable in II Samuel 13 ± 19:8. Absalom comes into the picture when is half brother Amnon rapes his sister, Tamar. Amnon was killed in revenge for the action by Absalom (II Samuel 13). No

brothers or half-brothers raped Monmouth¶s sister, and Monmouth was not involved or implicated in any murder. However, Monmouth did not like the second husband, William Fanshawe, of his sister and withdrew support (Kingsley, 292). After the murder of Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshur for three years. He missed his family and his father, David, missed Absalom. Through parable Joab helped David understand that it was time to bring Absalom home from Geshur. He lived in Jerusalem for two years before seeing his father, and thus began the rebellion (II Samuel 14). Monmouth was not exiled, but he was taken from his mother many believe because of her background, and since Monmouth was favored by Charles II, he was given the best of everything (de Beers, 305; Greenfield, 277). The next part of the story is Absalom¶s conspiracy (II Samuel 15). It is apparent from the beginning of the chapter that Absalom is in charge of this conspiracy and that he recruits from his father¶s forces including Achitophel, his father¶s most trusted counselor. When knowledge of these actions reached David, he packed up his household and left the Jerusalem. He also left ten of his concubines at the palace to care for things, while he was gone. David and his family went to the Mount of Olives where he sent Hushai back to Absalom to cause problems between Achitophel and Absalom. This is one of those points that Dryden changes to fit within the actual events. Shaftesbury went to Monmouth and bribed and promised the young man the throne if he sided with the Whig party against his father. Monmouth became greedy and agreed. It was with false beliefs in the ³treasonous Achitophel´ that Monmouth took his place beside Shaftesbury (Chambers, 596). Shaftesbury was not working toward Monmouth gaining the throne alone, but with his ear to Shaftesbury and the Whig party and agenda

(Chambers, 596; Dryden, 2099, 478-484). In person that was to stir up problems between Shaftesbury and Monmouth was Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester (Dryden, 2108, 888). As David fled, Shimei cursed David and his family as they passed his home and land. In the end, Shimei bags for forgiveness from David. David gave his forgiveness and oath that Shimei would live. (II Samuel 19: 16-23). Unfortunately, Absalom was killed within a war and while David mourned his death, he returned to Jerusalem (II Samuel 18:33 ± 19). The biblical character, Shimei, actually represents Slingsby Bethel one of the sheriffs of London. He would ensure the juries were full of Whigs to keep those who were being tried for treason and conspiracy, of the Popish Plot and the exclusion of James, were acquitted. The acquittals included Shaftesbury¶s but not Monmouth¶s who was beheaded ³on Tower Hill´ (Berry, 160; Dryden, 2101, 585). This shows that in several places Dryden did stretch the story to make it fit within the events that were occurring at that time. He also ignored the ending of both of these stories that ended with the death of the rebellious son, but not the influencer. Achitophel and Shaftesbury were both allowed to live. In the place of Achitophel, it seems plausible, because he was fed the plot by Absalom. However, in the case of Shaftesbury, his acquittal seems unfair to the death of Monmouth, who was just a figure head. The use of the parable within the poem of ³Absalom and Achitophel´ was not a precise example, but was one of the best for the story that Dryden was trying to put to the public. Charles II had often likened himself to David, and what better way to tell the public what happened during the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Crisis. While the

parable does not fit exactly to the story, the symbolism is more than faithful to the plots and plans of the events portrayed by Dryden in regards to Charles II and his son Monmouth.

Works Cited Berry, Bryan. "The Cost of John Dryden's Catholicism." Logos: The Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 12.2 (2009): 144-77. ProjectMUSE. 8 July 2009 <>. Chambers, A B. "Absalom and Achitophel: Christ and Satan." Modern Language Notes 74.7 (1959): 592-6. JSTOR. 8 July 2009 <>. Combe, Kirk. "Enchanted Ground: Reimaging John Dryden." Notes and Queries 53.2 (2006): 241-2. PROQuest. 8 July 2009 <>. De Beer, E S. "Absalom and Achitophel: Literary and Historical Notes." The Review of English Studies 17.67 (1941): 298-309. JSTOR. 8 July 2009 <>. Dryden, John. "Absalom and Achitophel." Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. "Absalom and Achitophel." The Norton Anthology of English Literature . Vol C. 8th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006.

Greenfield, Susan C. "Aborting the 'Mother Plot¶: Politics and Generation in Absalom and Achitophel." EHL 62.6 (1995): 267-93. ProjectMUSE. 8 July 2009 <>. Jones, Richard F. "The Originality of Absalom and Achitophel." Modern Language Notes 46.4 (1931): 211-8. JSTOR. 8 July 2009 <http:// stable/2913388>. Kinsley, James. "Historical Allusions in Absalom and Achitophel." The Review of English Studies 6.23 (1955): 291-7. JSTOR. 8 July 2009 <>. Literature Online. 14 July 2000. PROQuest. 8 July 2009 <>. The New International Version Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002. .

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