Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Tim Neufeldt (University of Toronto, Canada)

King William as Messiah?: pastoral metaphors in John Oldmixon and Daniel Purcell's semi-opera The Grove, or, Love's Paradice

There are enough parallels between John Oldmixon’s libretto for The Grove and concurrent English events to suggest that the characters Eudosius and Aurelia are meant to represent King William and Queen Mary. One of the hallmarks of the latter pair’s reign was to defend the English against the possibility of any future catholic monarchy, a theme evident in Eudosius’s prevention of his pastoral realm’s takeover by Aurelia’s father, a foreign emperor. While, as Derek Hughes cautions in English Drama, 1660-1700, one should not take this allegorical representation too literally, this symbolic analogy affords some unique insights.

If we accept that Eudosius is in part a representation of William of Orange, Oldmixon’s description of Eudosius’s rule in an air from the musical insert from act one of The Grove takes on new meaning. The text proclaims that Eudosius’s “watchful care” prevents harm; he is “wise,” “good,” “loving,” and more loved than the secular god Pan. The former descriptions of Eudosius are all characteristics traditionally found in Christian literature describing Christ’s birth, and Oldmixon’s comparison of Eudosius to Pan raises Eudosius’s status to a god-like level. Daniel Purcell’s musical setting reinforces Oldmixon’s point. By drawing upon the musical style of the Italian Christmas pastoral tradition, Purcell invokes the “pastoral Christ” metaphor, suggesting that Eudosius is not just on par with pagan gods, he is the supreme ruler of his domain, similar to Christ’s position in Christian literature.

Last updated on 10 May 2004