How does the temptation scene in Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel resemble Satan's temptation of Eve in Milton's Paradise Lost?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The temptation scene in John Dryden's poem Absolom and Achitophel (230-302) resembles Satan’s temptation of Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost (9.532-566) in various ways.

Both tempters, of course, obviously employ a great deal of flattery.  Thus Satan begins his temptation of Eve by calling her “sov’reign mistress” (9.532), while Achitophel begins his temptation of Absolom by calling him “Auspicious prince” (230). Likewise, Satan soon calls Eve “sole wonder” (9.533), while Achitophel calls Absolom a “second Moses” (234).

Each tempter also praises the beginnings or birth of the person he flatters. Thus Satan says that Eve is the “Fairest resemblance of [her] Maker fair” (9.539), while Achitophel tells Absolom that at the latter’s birth, “Some royal planet ruled the southern sky” (231).

Each tempter additionally claims that he merely expresses a widely held admiration for the being he tries to tempt. Thus Satan tells Eve that “all things living gaze on” her (9.539), and Achitophel likewise tells Absolom that he is

The people’s prayer, the glad diviners’ theme,

The young men’s vision, and the old men’s dream. (238-39)

Satan tells Eve that she is “universally admired” (9.542), just as Achitophel tells Absolom that “stammering babes are taught to lisp [Absolom’s] name” (243).

Satan tells Eve that she deserves to be more widely seen and more widely appreciated (9.545-48), just as Achitophel tells Absolom that he should not be “Content ingloriously to pass [his] days” (246).

Various other similarities exist, but these should be enough to suggest the strong resemblances between the two pages and even the possibility that Dryden may have had Milton’s Satan partly in mind when he created his own Achitophel.