There are many different ways of understanding Dryden’s poem Absalom and Achitophel. The most common reading compares “the connections between fatherhood and kingship”. Through biblical allusions Dryden connects ancient fatherhood with current to not only show the precedent that was set but also to show how it connects with a royal’s responsibilities. Dryden uses the fatherly indulgence of David (lines 31-33) to explore the legitimacy of the Achitophel’s succession. Dryden uses an old story, The Prodigal Son, to create a clear picture of how self-indulgent love creates unfair conflict. Throughout the poem the relationship of fatherhood and kingship is united. Another way of reading Dryden’s poem is through a “mother plot”. Susan Greenfield proposes that the mentions of maternity and women are an important part of the poems royalist resolution. In this reading the blame is transferred to the females saying that only the female power of life threatens the political order and should be hindered. It is due to female desires and a female’s ability to create life that the whole mess is created.
Within the renaissance philosophers and writers were interested in the idea of superiority of bastards. It was a common idea at that time that bastards were better than their legitimate counterparts. Lines 19 and twenty explore this idea when they say “whether, inspired by some diviner lust,/his father got him with greater gusts”. It was thought that the greater passion and desire that went into making bastards made them better. An inclusion of this idea in a satirical piece could have many implications. Heidi Kelchner proposes that “we should consider Dryden's reference to the heated manner in which Absalom was conceived-used ironically as part of a mock panegyric of Absalom”.
"Absalom" (James Scott, Duke of Monmouth)
"Achitophel" (Lord Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury)
"David" (Charles II)