Summary: In a time before there were such things as infidelity and illegitimacy, David, King of Israel, had many concubines and, hence, many children, none of which were with his queen, who ignored him. First among his children was Absolom, a natural born leader and politician who seems to have inherited all of his father’s greatness. David’s reign has been plagued by scandal; there was a plot by the Jebusites to overthrow him, and while the plot was unsuccessful in the wake of it many factions appeared, the most dangerous of which was led by Achitophel. Achitophel is ambitious and inconstant and wants to dethrone David, so he chooses to make Absolom his pawn, not because he believes he would be a good leader, but because he thinks Absolom will be easy to control (his illegitimacy will make him way of exerting his power too much lest he lose it).
Achitophel asks Absolom to join his cause and at first he is reluctant; he realizes that he has no legal right to succeed David, and he thinks that David’s brother, the Jebusite, will be a generous to his subjects even though he is not, himself, Jewish. However, the more he thinks about it the more he believes it is unfair that his mother keeps him from greatness; he can feel the will and potential to lead welling up inside him and he soon grows lustful for greatness.
After securing Absolom as his figurehead Achitophel units all of the various factions who have some grip with David and secures the service a Zimri, an impetuous and amoral wild card. In order to gain popular support (as well as in order to figure out who was serious about their support) Achitophel sends Absolom on a good-will tour throughout Israel.
After being informed of the plot by the people who are loyal to him, David makes a speech in which he acknowledges the plot and warns the conspirators to fear his wrath. He also predicts that the precarious alliance formed in his opposition will fall apart when put under scrutiny. The poem ends just after...