John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel and historical allegory
in Historical literatures
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Historians writing in the Restoration and early eighteenth century inherited a number of conflicting theories about the patterns and purposes of history, two of which specifically identified historical change as proceeding according to a consistent overall pattern. The late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries produced many accounts of the past in allegorical form, but John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel is often cited as the original and best, example of the genre. His dissolution of the poem's defining metaphor truncates the work's narrative arc, rendering it, like Andrew Marvell's satires, 'partial' in formal as well as ideological terms. While few writers could have failed to see the political diplomacy in the poem's suspended plotline, Samuel Johnson was by no means the only reader to criticize Dryden's unabashed abandonment of his poem's symbolic narrative.

Historical literatures

Writing about the past in England, 1660–1740


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