4 Annotations

Terry F  •  Link

Siege of Rhodes, The (1656), revised in (1661)

Opera-cum-heroic drama by Sir William D'Avenant, thought to have been written originally as a play, with music added later in order to circumvent the Commonwealth (see Interregnum) law against purely dramatic entertainment, and gain the Government's permission to mount it at Rutland House. The performance helped pave the way for the re-opening of the theatres, and for D'Avenant's own receipt of one of the monopoly patents as theatre manager. The action concerns the siege of Rhodes by Soleyman the Magnificent, and Duke Alphonso's unreasonable jealousy of his wife, the virtuous Ianthe, who eventually saves her husband and the island. D'Avenant said he wrote it partly to illustrate `the Characters of Vertue in the shapes of Valor and Conjugal Love'. The staging as with the earlier court masque was accompanied by lavish spectacle.

Dictionary of English Literature, Marion Wynne-Davies, Bloomsbury,1997 http://www.bloomsbury.com/ARC/detail.asp?EntryI...

Michael Robinson  •  Link

D'Avenant, William, Sir, 1606-1668.
The siege of Rhodes: the first and second part; as they were lately represented at His Highness the Duke of York's Theatre in Lincolns-Inn Fields. The first part being lately enlarg'd. Written by Sir VVilliam D'Avenant.
London : printed for Henry Herringman, and are to be sold at his shop, at the sign of the Anchor, on the lower-walk in the New-Exchange, 1663.
4⁰. First edition of the 'second' part; there were two editions, and a further re-issue, all with the same imprint. Part I appeared in 1656, rpr. 1659.

Read by Pepys on Sept 23rd. 1664, however Pepys does not appear to have retained his separate copy of the Siege. The work was included in, and the separate edition presumably replaced by, his copy of Davenant's 'Works' London: 1673 - PL 2347.

Bradford  •  Link

"The First English Opera," on BBC Radio 3: a 45-minute feature on "The Siege of Rhodes," available online through Sunday 6 June 2010:


The programme information:

First performed under Cromwell in 1656 when the theatres were still officially closed, The Siege of Rhodes bewitched the ears of the great diarist Samuel Pepys and remains one of the most important works in the history of both English literature and music. And yet - like its creator, the noseless poet laureate Sir William Davenant - it is almost totally forgotten today.

Why is this seminal work, the first opera in English to be performed publicly, now so largely ignored? No doubt it's partly because the music - which the enchanted Pepys desperately tried to obtain for himself in the early 1660s - is lost, but the reasons for its neglect are more complicated than that.

As we discover from a variety of contributors, the neglected Davenant was actually one of the most innovative forces in the history of English theatre - not only did he "invent" English opera, he was also very instrumental in the creation of the idea of Shakespeare the National Poet and claimed to be spiritually and perhaps even biologically the "Son of Shakespeare".

Travelling from Cromwell's House in Ely via Pepys' Library in Cambridge and Shakespeare's Globe to the site of the old Cockpit Theatre in London where the Siege was performed, presenter Claire van Kampen traces the complicated genesis and afterlife of this lost operatic treasure. The programme follows the royalist Davenant's extraordinary travails in the Civil War and afterwards, uncovering the shady political machinations that led to Davenant being granted permission to stage the first English opera while all other dramatic activities remained strictly forbidden, and culminates in an attempt - the first in around 350 years - to reimagine what the music that so obsessed Pepys might actually have sounded like.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.






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