Deborah W. Rooke

in Handel's Israelite Oratorio Libretti

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199279289
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738050 | DOI:

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The oratorio Susanna is based on the story of Susanna from the Apocrypha. In the biblical narrative Susanna is reduced to the status of an object, seen and not heard, and she functions simply to highlight the good or bad character of the menfolk around her. By contrast, the oratorio's libretto has a much more rounded portrayal of her, especially in her relationship with her husband Joacim, which is mutually passionate and chaste. This focus on the marriage relationship is unique among English treatments of the Susanna story between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, which usually understand it as a cautionary morality tale. But when the libretto was written, the concept of sentimental marriage was gaining headway, and mercenary marriage had been criticized by the artist William Hogarth and the novelist Samuel Richardson. Susanna can thus be understood as an expression of support for these changing values around marriage.

Keywords: Susanna; sentimental marriage; morality tale; William Hogarth; Samuel Richardson

Chapter.  13305 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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