John Dryden – “Absalom and Achitophel” (ctd.)

Achitophel continues his temptation. Your father is not what he used to be, he says, when he crossed the Jordan (when Charles II landed at Dover), greeted by the multitudes of his enthusiastic subjects. Now he’s like a fallen angel, more and more decrepit. If he asks for the help of the Pharaoh (Louis XIV), he is bound to alienate them even more. In short, all people are sick of him and they are waiting just for the right leader, which should be you. In fact, winning the crown in this way is more noble than just getting it automatically through the regular succession. Absalom is at first hesitant. He speaks highly about his father as the mildest and most just of kings, and his only fault being perhaps that he is too good (Dryden doing a fair bit of brown-nosing through Absalom’s mouth here).  He is also the kindest father to me, says Absalom, gave me everything except the crown, which should go to his legitimate descendant or his brother, who is also the best. So it would be really abhorrent of me to rebel against him. But oh, I do feel it is a bit unjust that an accident of birth bars me from the job for which I feel so supremely qualified! I wish I were better born or less ambitious. This seems like a good opening for Achitophel.

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