To move, to please, and to teach : the new poetry and the new music, and the works of Edmund Spenser and John Milton, 1579 - 1674
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By examining Renaissance criticism both literary and musical, framed in the context of the contemporaneous obsession with the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Horace, among others, this thesis identifies the parallels in poetic and musical practices of the time that coalesce to form a unified idea about the poet-as-singer, and his role in society. Edmund Spenser and John Milton, who both, in various ways, lived in periods of upheaval, identified themselves as the poet-singer, and comprehending their poetry in the context of this idea is essential to a fuller appreciation thereof. The first chapter addresses the role that the study of rhetoric and the power of oratory played in shaping attitudes about poetry, and how the importance of sound, of an innate musicality to poetry, was pivotal in the turn from quantitative to accentual-syllabic verse. In addition, the philosophical idea of music, inherited from antiquity, is explained in order elucidate the significance of “artifice” and “proportion”. With this as a backdrop, the chapters following examine first the work of Spenser, and then of Milton, demonstrating the central role that music played in the composition of their verse. Also significant, in the case of Milton, is the revolution undertaken by the Florentine Camerata around the turn of the seventeenth century, which culminated in the birth of opera. The sources employed by this group of scholars and artists are identical to those which shaped the idea of the poet-as-singer, and analysing their works in tandem yields new insights into those poems which are considered among the finest achievements in English literature.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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