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Milton in the Long Restoration$
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Blair Hoxby and Ann Baynes Coiro

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198769774

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198769774.001.0001

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Milton Modulated for Handel’s Music

Milton Modulated for Handel’s Music

(p.159) 8 Milton Modulated for Handel’s Music
Milton in the Long Restoration

Ruth Smith

Oxford University Press

After the Bible, Milton’s verse was the principal choice of Handel’s collaborators as the source of texts to stimulate his highest art. Handel composed and performed three settings taken from Milton: L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato (1740); Samson (1743); and A New Occasional Oratorio (1746). They are among his major works, and constitute the most substantial and lasting English appropriations of Milton for music. Their genesis illuminates the varying circumstances of Handel’s career that shaped his output; their composition illustrates key aspects of the British response to Milton in the 1730s and 1740s; and their reception exemplifies English mid-eighteenth-century valuation of Milton as a moral lyricist and a consciously British poet. Their librettos form a major aspect of the endeavour to paraphrase and imitate his works, embodying a range of approaches from reverent respect to invasive dismemberment and interpolation.

Keywords:   oratorio, music, libretto, adaptation, George Frideric Handel, L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato, Comus, Samson, Occasional Oratorio

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