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1 Dryden, Absalom & Achitophel 1680-81 The Exclusion Crisis (& the Popish Plot)

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Presentation on theme: "1 Dryden, Absalom & Achitophel 1680-81 The Exclusion Crisis (& the Popish Plot)"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Dryden, Absalom & Achitophel 1680-81 The Exclusion Crisis (& the Popish Plot)

2 2 ALLEGORY: a solution to various expressive problems BUNYAN - Political disengagement & a dissenter’s commentary Bunyan faces the conceptual impossibility of conveying directly a spiritual transformation--a transformation by definition “beyond words” Allegory embodies what is not body. DRYDEN - Political engagement & an insider’s commentary Dryden deals with the political inadvisability and the psychological ineffectiveness of direct statement. Allegory is a weapon in a political battle.

3 Players: David = Charles II Absalom = James Scott, Duke of Monmouth Michal =Katherine of Braganza Bathsheba = Duchess of Portsmouth Monmouth’s Mother = Lucy Walter(s); (163085).html (163085).html

4 More players Achitophel = Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1 st Earl of Shaftesbury Corah = Titus Oates Pharaoh = Louis XIV Agag = Sir Edmund Godfrey

5 5 Review the players Absalom: James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleugh (1649-1685), son of Charles II & Lucy Walters Achitophel: Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683) David & Israel’s Monarch: Charles II (1630-1685) Michal: Catherine of Braganza (1638- 1705), Queen Bathsheba: Duchess of Portsmouth (1649- 1734), Charles II's mistress. Pharaoh: Louis XIV of France

6 6 More players Israel: England Egypt: France Jerusalem & Sion: London The Jews: the English “the chosen people”: Protestants Hebrew Priests: Church of England (Anglican) clergy Jewish Rabbins: Church of England priests Levites: The Presbyterian ministers displaced by the Act of Uniformity. Aaron's Race, the Clergy Solymaean Rout: London mob. Jebusites: Roman Catholics. Egyptians: French. Sanhedrin: Parliament.

7 7 And more players Saul: Oliver Cromwell Ishbosheth, Richard Cromwell (1626- 1712) Gath: Brussels, where Charles was in exile after period in France Hebron: Scotland (where Charles was crowned on Jan. 1, 1651) Ethnic Plot: Popish Plot “his Progress”: Monmouth’s journey, beginning July 26, 1680

8 8 Background: The Exclusion Crisis The problem of succession Exclusion Bill: a bill to exclude James, Charles II’s brother, from succession. See notes in our course booklet.

9 9 The political problem Charles has no legitimate children. How do Dryden’s opening lines start to address the problem? Charles’s sexual promiscuity: many heirs but not one heir Look closely at lines 1-18.

10 From the end rhymes of the first 18 lines, what can you guess about the problem the poem presents? begin, sin; kind, confin'd: deni'd bride; heart, impart command land. wear; care: bore before. ascend, attend. none Absalom: 10

11 11 The poem’s strategy To link Charles II to David To link Monmouth to Absalom, David’s much loved but rebellious son To recall the Civil War and associate the supporters of exclusion with it To persuade readers that Charles II’s political opponents threaten the stability of the restoration. Those who aim to alter the succession aim to erode monarchy. See lines 69-74.

12 12 Solution Dryden relies on his allegory to build up the association between Charles and David and create a sense of sexual blessing. The art of the subordinate clause: The first ten lines are one sentence, its temporal clauses focusing attention on the history of David. In pious times Before When Ere When Then

13 13 Getting a little help from alliteration man on manymultiplied one to onecursedly confined The poem makes Charles’s extensive sexual activity a virtue rather than a state problem. The queen is “a soil ungrateful to the tiller’s care” (12).

14 14 Sexual energy underlies politics. What does “Scatter'd his Maker's image through the land” mean? Absalom’s conception seems to have been inspired by a “diviner lust/greater gust.” Contrast: Achitophel’s cramped conceptions define him. 169 And all to leave, what with his toil he won 170 To that unfeather'd, two-legg'd thing, a son: 171 Got, while his soul did huddled notions try; 172 And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy.

15 15 Further scrutiny of Dryden’s link between sexual and political activity Dryden fuses sexual and political corruption. 169 And all to leave, what with his toil he won 170 To that unfeather'd, two-legg'd thing, a son: 171 Got, while his soul did huddled notions try; 172 And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy. Note also the poem’s use of the term debauched: “debauch'd with ease”(47); “debauch'd with praise” (312). The OED for definition of debauch:OED for definition “To turn or lead away, entice, seduce, from one to whom service or allegiance is due”

16 16 But the problem of succession is not solved by prolific sexual activity: “No true succession ”(l. 16) The problem of succession Highlighted in the opening lines Obscured by the poem’s effort to make Charles’s extensive sexual activity a sign of blessing and generous energy.

17 17 Achitophel: satiric portrait ( l. 150 ff.) A portrait of excess and deformity Achitophel is a Satan figure and a master rhetorician. Achitophel is greatness deformed, an epic figure fallen to satiric status.

18 18 What is worth noticing here? Rhymes. Alliteration, Metaphors 150 Of these the false Achitophel was first: 151 A name to all succeeding ages curst. 152 For close designs, and crooked counsels fit; 153 Sagacious, bold and turbulent of wit: 154 Restless, unfixt in principles and place; 155 In pow'r unpleas'd, impatient of disgrace. 156 A fiery soul, which working out its way, 157 Fretted the pigmy-body to decay: 158 And o'er inform'd the tenement of clay. 159 A daring pilot in extremity; 160 Pleas'd with the danger, when the waves went high 161 He sought the storms; but for a calm unfit, 162 Would steer too nigh the sands, to boast his wit. 163 Great wits are sure to madness near alli'd; 164 And thin partitions do their bounds divide:

19 19 Achitophel as Satan: the temptations of Absalom Auspicious Prince! (230) Their [thy longing country’s] second Moses (234) Thee, Saviour, thee, the nation's vows confess (240) How long wilt thou the general joy detain; Starve, and defraud the people of thy reign? (244-5) Believe me, royal youth, thy fruit must be, Or gather'd ripe, or rot upon the tree (250-1). Had thus Old David, from whose loins you spring, Not dar'd, when fortune call'd him, to be king (262-3). What strength can he to your designs oppose, Naked of friends and round beset with foes? (279-80).

20 20 Temptation (cont.) Unwarily was led from virtue’s ways; Made drunk with honour, and debauch'd with praise. Half loath, and half consenting to the ill, (For loyal blood within him struggled still) He thus repli'd.--And what pretence have I To take up arms for public liberty? My Father governs with unquestion'd right; The Faith's defender, and mankind's delight: Good, gracious, just, observant of the laws; And Heav'n by wonders has espous'd his cause. Whom has he wrong'd in all his peaceful reign? Who sues for justice to his throne in vain? (312 ff.)

21 21 The Popish Plot exacerbated the problem of succession. Dryden’s view of the plot: 108 From hence began that plot, the nation's curse, 109 Bad in itself, but represented worse. 110 Rais'd in extremes, and in extremes decri'd; 111 With oaths affirm'd, with dying vows deni'd. 112 Not weigh'd, or winnow'd by the multitude; 113 But swallow'd in the mass, unchew'd and crude. Dryden’s treatment of the plot: fever in the body politic 136 For, as when raging fevers boil the blood, 137 The standing lake soon floats into a flood; 138 And ev'ry hostile humour, which before 139 Slept quiet in its channels, bubbles o'er: 140 So, several factions from this first ferment, 141 Work up to foam, and threat the government.

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