The State of Innocence

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The State of Innocence was intended to be performed as an opera, with the libretto written in 1674, (first published in 1677) by John Dryden. It is basically a musical stage adaptation of John Milton's epic poem Paradise lost, a tribute to Milton rather than a satire of the poem. That Dryden was an admirer of Milton's is surprising as the two men were politically opposed. Milton was against the restoration of the British monarchy, while the royalist Dryden was created England’s first Poet Laureate by the restored Charles II.

So great an admirer of Milton was Dryden that he said of the blind writer: "This man cuts us all out." Milton actually gave permission for Paradise Lost to be transformed by Dryden, saying "Ay, you may tag my verses if you will." The presumptuousness of Dryden's proposal never occurred to him.

Written in heroic couplets, The State of Innocence begins thus (in the voice of Lucifer):

Is this the seat our conqueror has given?
And this the climate we must change for heaven?
These regions and this realm my wars have got;
This mournful empire is the loser's lot;
In liquid burnings, or on dry, to dwell,
Is all the sad variety of hell.

It seems the musical score was never written to accompany the libretto. The State of Innocence has never been performed. At the time of its writing, the scenery required, and special effects like "rebellious angels wheeling in the air, and seeming transfixed with thunderbolts" over "a lake of brimstone or rolling fire", were too expensive for the King's Company, for which Dryden was working, and too technically demanding for their Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Though the special effects required fall outside the reach of most independent projects, a silent film adaptation can be seen at