Athough aristocratic Whigs were the primary supporters of opera during the last years of Queen Anne's reign, Whig publicists launched a series of attacks against Italian opera that revealed social and ideological tensions within the party. The Earl of Shaftesbury, an ardent Whig, gave intellectual weight to the Whig aristocratic taste for opera, but proponents of the popular theater remained unconvinced that this foreign art form could be reconciled with Whig principles. Handel's operas reflected, as well as responded to, these debates.

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