D'Urfey and Don Quixote: Plot Fragmentation and the Idea of ‘Opera’

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Cervantes's Don Quixote provided English readers and writers with a plot that made visible the madness inherent in artistic endeavour. In late seventeenth-century England, oversensitive to the pursuit of Quixotic political goals, this suspicion of artificiality was morally inflected. Thomas D'Urfey's operatic adaptation of this work in the mid-1690s, with music by Henry Purcell and other leading English stage composers, reconstituted Don Quixote as an operatic trilogy, using operatic conventions to fragment the narrative in a manner that drew attention not only to the artificiality, but also to the potential immorality, of through-written musical performance. The essay argues that the morally dubious operatic artificiality of D'Urfey's Don Quixote adaptations contributed to the subsequent reworking of this material as a satiric ballad opera by Henry Fielding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-148
Number of pages15
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2012


  • Henry Purcell
  • Don Quixote
  • Cervantes
  • Thomas D'Urfey
  • opera
  • narratological theory
  • Henry Fielding


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