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18th century, written by James THOMSON, as part of the masque ALFRED first performed in 1730 – a masque was a theatrical entertainment which mixed together music, songs, acting. The characters were both real people and allegorical figures.
The music was written by Thomas Arne.
Alfred has a historical argument: Alfred is King Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon King who ruled at the end of the 9th century just before the Norman invasion. In year 878 the kingdom was invaded by the Vikings. Alfred escapes and finds refuge in the middle of marshes in the county of Somerset. He doesn’t know what to do. Should he admit the defeat? Or should he gather his supporters together and fight back? He invokes the Genius of Britain to have advice. The Genius inspires Alfred with hope and with his troop he wins the battle. In the conclusion there’s the song of glorification. After the victory over the Vikings, a figure known as the Hermit (a Christian priest) appears and invited Alfred to look back to the past of England.
We see the sea in prospect, the ships and a sailor singing Rule Britannia.
Rule B. became first popular in the Navy and little by little it became a national anthem
NB: the rest of the cast is dancing -> collective harmony is presented on stage.
The song has 2 sections: the first 4 stanzas concentrate on the land and on Britain itself; the last 2 stanzas are about the monarch.
Britons have the command of God who emerged from the ocean + idea of British freedom.
The other nations are not so lucky.
If internal division should upset your island, shall God make your name great again
Adversities won’t make you fall.
Celebration of the King. Even in time of crisis the King is fortunate because he will regenerate and build his own greatness on the state.
Idea of defence.
In this song we find the contrast US vs THEM: idea that the nation creates itself through opposition with the others.
Moreover, there is the celebration of adversities – seen in Renan: a nation is not only based on strength, but also on its crisis.
Finally, the element of UNISONALITY, concept presented by Anderson: when we all sing together, the nation seems to exist because we are all participating in the same act of performance and we do it in unison. It goes back to the idea that a nation is not tangible.

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