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Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell$
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Christopher D'Addario and Matthew Augustine

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526113894

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526113894.001.0001

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‘Armed winter, and inverted day’: the politics of cold in Dryden and Purcell’s King Arthur

‘Armed winter, and inverted day’: the politics of cold in Dryden and Purcell’s King Arthur

(p.149) 8 ‘Armed winter, and inverted day’: the politics of cold in Dryden and Purcell’s King Arthur
Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell

Anne Cotterill

Manchester University Press

Led by the perspectives of eco-criticism and climate science, this chapter approaches King Arthur through its famous masque, the Frost Scene, which the evil Saxon wizard Osmond conjures in the war between pagan Saxons and Arthur’s Christian Britons. The masque crystallises a set of moral, cultural, and political associations hitherto unexplored in Dryden’s work around cold, ice, winter, and the far North in opposition to the warmth of temperate zones and of mercy. At the end of a century of severe winters and increasing interest in the nature of cold, and performed while William III led England to war in Europe, King Arthur demonises cold and war, characterising obliquely the national climate of war as an unnatural inversion of what Dryden had earlier celebrated as his former patron Charles II’s warmly civilising rule as ‘Royal Husbandman’. Not Arthur’s swordplay but the spirit Philidel’s discriminating vision and capacity for tender pity at human suffering represent the useful heroism in an ‘armed winter’.

Keywords:   John Dryden, Henry Purcell, Extreme weather, Climate change, Eco-criticism

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