And every man is a Knave or an Ass to the contrary side.
Gelineau, David. In my reading, Absalom and Achitophel is symptomatic of the decline of any self-evident relation between concepts of nature and law towards the end of the seventeenth century, and also of the increasing separation between literature and politics discourse in English neoclassicism.
Zwicker explains, the stakes in such a venture of brushing a cultural idiom against the grain, in an attempt to undermine the Biblical rhetoric of Whig anti-royalists at a critical historical moment, were particularly high: to allegorize political crisis as sacred history in was hardly to present an original template; it was rather to insist on an idiom that not only excited the memory of familiar ways but indeed risked, and perhaps willingly courted, platitude rather than novelty.
A second allegory in the poem, beginning on lineis the Parable of the Prodigal Sonwhich can be found in the New Testament in the Gospel of Lukechapter 15verse Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, But, this momentary triumph notwithstanding, the game was all but up; and, within a few months, Monmouth, in his turn, was under arrest, and Shaftesbury a fugitive in Holland.
Dryden takes risks in allowing Achitophel to voice an oppositional political theory—but only because he is certain of the efficacy of his rhetorical strategies, and at least confident that the Tory party will be successful in mastering the Crisis—confident perhaps that Shaftesbury is going to be convicted of treason.
London, New York: Routledge, A genuine debate about questions of political theory is not intended; rather, Absalom and Achitophel is a poem that avoids conceptual theorizing by replacing it with strategies of personalization, figurative language, and irony.