Dryden's wit is essentially good-humored. This is both its weakness and strength. How far is this right? Give references from "Absalom and Achitophel."

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Whereas the wit of satire before Dryden and the Restoration would tax the common abuses and vices of the people in rough and bitter attacks, the wit that Dryden uses to expose his characters in Absalom and Achitophel, for instance, is rather good-humored than splenetic and genial than bitter. Dryden indeed defined the true art of satire as consisting of “fine raillery,” a natural gift of genius, in which one understood

how easy it is to call rogue and villain, and that wittily! But how hard to make a man appear a fool, a blockhead, or a knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms! To spare the grossness of the names, and to do the thing yet more severely, is to draw a full face, and to make the nose and cheeks stand out, and yet not to employ any depth of shadowing.

Dryden’s wit in Absalom and Achitophelforgoes direct condemnation and vituperative attack against the flawed Charles the II's analog with ingenuity and adroitness. Such is apparent in the following passage:

In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin,

Before polygamy was made a sin,

When man on many multiplied his kind,

Ere one to one was cursedly confined;

When nature prompted, and no law denied

Then Israel's monarch, after heaven's own heart,

His vigorous warmth did variously impart

To wives and slaves: and wide as his command

Scattered his Maker's image through the land.

It may be observed of the above character depiction that Dryden wittily exposes faults yet is in no part odious, that is to say too tart, or bitter, nor lapses into base mockery or slander. Rather, Charles erred by an excess of "vigorous warmth". This good-humored quality gives the authoritative voice of the satire credibility as it seems too discerning and careful of veracity to let ire at some fault or another override any positive qualities as really existed in the historical characters. A disadvantage of this approach is that it limits the degree of sharpness that could otherwise be used in exposing faults and foibles.

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John Dryden, whose dramatic tragedies are more famous than his poetry, encapsulated the age (1681) with his gentle wit, which, while criticizing society’s imperfections, lays most of the blame on inborn human nature rather the “times.”  As his poem Absolom and Achitophel claims, “When nature prompted and no law denied” Mankind was prone to promiscuity.  It was the Israelites, “a moody, headstrong, murmuring race,” who invented sin and made the story of Absolom and Achitophel  a reflection of the changes that Jesus brought – forgiveness, etc.   This is the way Dryden’s poem is “essentially good-humored”—by reflecting on the Christian values of forgiveness and non-judgment.  Also, the rhymed couplet, one of the French contributions to English literature that Charles II brought back to the Restoration of the English throne, is by its nature and its artificial construction (compared to the natural English iambic pentameter), forces a non-sober tone to the most serious admonishment:

But far more numerous was the herd of such,
Who think too little, and who talk too much.

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