By the time he wrote The Spanish Fryar Dryden had begun, as Winn puts it, “to cast off his earlier caution” about making explicit political statements (332). This new outspokenness was coupled, as we saw in the previous chapter, with occult references that express a return of confidence in the ultimate purposes of Providence. What did not return, until about 1681, was his vision of hidden forces working through the events that would eventually realize those ultimate purposes. In 1681, with Absalom and Achitophel, he once again uses occult materials to suggest that a divine design is emerging through the personalities and actions leading toward a happier future. This vision also informs The Medall (1682), The Duke of Guise (1682),1 and Albion and Albanius (1685). These works present a conventional occult picture of heaven and hell, angels and devils, and use the language of magic only in a pejorative sense. Divine sponsorship of the monarch and his loyal executives is assumed to be well established within the natural order, and treasonous behavior is depicted as reflecting diabolical intervention:

In the world of Absalom and Achitophel, the devil finds fertile ground for his evil machinations. Natural urges and materialistic views of life dominate Jerusalem (i.e., London) at this time. God, of course, works through nature and its matter, and it is “after Heaven’s own heart” that King David (i.e., Charles II) scatters his “Maker’s Image through the Land” by imparting his “vigorous warmth” to “Wives and Slaves” alike (5-10). But nature in its human expression is, unlike its maker, imperfect. King David’s natural urges produce problems for the succession. They result in the birth of Absalom (Monmouth), whose extra measure of “Angells Metal” (310) endows him with excessive ambition for power, Edenic beauty, and a “Natural” manner (28-30), all of which make him the perfect tool for a devil intent upon reducing “Government … / To Natures state” (793-94).2 Like

Absalom, the Jews (Protestants) and Jebusites (Roman Catholics) are distracted from heaven’s laws and purposes by their “byast” natures (79). They are like the misguided humans Dryden later describes as

Dryden’s condemnation of the rebels, including their leaders, is often couched in astrological language. Somewhat as in the Heroique Stanzas, he exploits the multivalent significance of cosmic phenomena, except that his rhetorical purpose here is to denounce one side of the conflict while affirming the other, rather than trying to accommodate both sides. He achieves this purpose in two ways. First, in describing most of the rebels, he stresses the purely natural causes and effects of heavenly bodies instead of treating them as divine messengers. Second, when Achitophel claims to read a divine message in the stars, Dryden ensures that the audience understands it to be a message from hell.