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'A Present for the Ladies': Ovid, Montaigne, and the Redemption of Purcell's Dido

Wendy Heller
Music & Letters
Vol. 84, No. 2 (May, 2003), pp. 189-208
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3526191
Page Count: 20
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'A Present for the Ladies': Ovid, Montaigne, and the Redemption of Purcell's Dido
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Abstract

The influence of Ovid and Montaigne on the creation of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas is reconsidered in the context of A Present for the Ladies, a 'historical vindication of the female sex' by the librettist Nahum Tate (1692), and its literary sources. I propose that Tate's Dido can be understood as an elaborate defence of his heroine, one that is indebted far more to Ovid than to Virgil, endowing the heroine with the neo-Stoic virtue and resolve associated with the pre-Virgilian version of the Dido legend. Purcell's setting of the lament emphasizes still further the purification and redemption of Dido, and may help to explain why Dido's lament (much like Virgil's Aeneid) has been taught to generations of music students.

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