MUSC-311 Music Styles & Literature I

Document Type

Student Paper

Publication Date

Fall 12-9-2020


Composition | Ethics in Religion | Ethnomusicology | Jewish Studies | Music | Yiddish Language and Literature

Description, Abstract, or Artist's Statement

Handel’s Messiah is renowned for its lush sound and richly developed message regarding the rejoicing of Christians and the celebration of religion through their faith in a divine savior. Not only is the full oratorio performed by countless ensembles every year, but many scholars have spent months, and even years, poring over its libretto. The conclusions they have come up with regarding the intentions of the librettist, Charles Jennens, have sparked much controversy over the years. Because of Jennens’ personal, religious beliefs, many scholars are concerned that much of his libretto is designed to discredit all other religions and proclaim Christianity as the only viable declaration of faith. The evidence for this is littered throughout the libretto of the Messiah from the language he chose to use, verses he decided to combine, and the resources he may have referenced. Some believe that Jennens simply took the scriptures and weaponized them against any religion opposed to Christianity. Others oppose this school of thought, believing that he did not intend to erase other religious points of view, but merely set out to affirm his own. Unfortunately, no records exist detailing his personal beliefs on other religions. The question of whether or not his personal beliefs and intentions should color the public’s view of the Messiah as a whole is still up to them to decide.