Theatrical Milton

Milton Revealed is a collaborative project to collect audio-visual materials related to John Milton and his work, to re-examine his relation to theatricality, and to develop teaching approaches to Milton that use performance across a variety of media. We are closely aligned with Staging Shakespeare, which aids and promotes the teaching of Shakespeare through performance and performance-related materials.

Any uncertainty about Milton's modern critical status and audience appeal may be offset by greater stress on his biography as a prototype for modern temperament, instead of focus on arcane puritan theological and political debates, often at the expense of demonstrations of the poet's still compelling literary vision of the human condition, as seen in Philip Pullman's prefaces to the Oxford University Press Paradise Lost. Such broader recognition of his fascination might be reinforced by an audio-visual approach such as is used in a comparable site at Staging Shakespeare which exploits students' newly heightened visual expectations. Modern technology permits extensive use of images and video clips of Miltonic materials, such as are already available to the UCB English Department, and seen in Christ's College's Anniversary Website. The increasing interest in performance of Milton's works provides further examples of such heightening resources, including the staging of "L'Allegro and Il Penseroso" by the Mark Morris Dance Company. Such materials will be reinforced here by recording of current research, presentations, and other activities concerning Milton, which may be relevant to contemporary experience and helpful to enhancement of the impact of scholars and teachers.

The initial goal of this group will be to establish a listing of resources to reinforce the contemporary impact of Milton's work. The list will provide access to audio-visual material such as the video documentary Milton by Himself distributed by Films for the Humanities, which covers his life and works, while providing new dynamic approaches to their presentation, such as public performances of Comus, Paradise Lost and Samson. The site will identify professionals actively involved in such activities. For example, there is a libretto based on Paradise Lost by Benjamin Stillingfleet with music by John Christopher Smith the Younger was first performed in 1760, with a printed version that year. This was re-edited by Kay Stevenson and Margaret Sears in 1998. Many other musical versions of Milton exist: the music from Handel's setting of Samson is a regular source for modern concert programming, and Handel has unique empathy for Milton's verse, as seen in his settings for "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" used by Mark Morris for his dance group. In 2006 there were also favorably-reviewed stage performances of a three-hour version of Paradise Lost at the Oxford Playhouse (U.K.). For several years concert recitations of Paradise Lost have also been successfully presented in England and elsewhere by David Burns, based on recitation of complete books chosen from the full text. As awareness of such achievements is established, our group might aspire to its own programming and initiatives to confirm Milton's modern significance and accessibility. Suggestions are welcomed.