Laments were frequent in both cantatas and operas in the seventeenth century. The two emotions expressed in the lament were those that Aristotle connected with the essence of tragedy, namely, pity (on the fate of the one who laments) and fear (lest the observer share the same fate). Fear turns to fright in two mid-seventeenth century cantatas, in which a Jewish mother cooks her son, eats his flesh, and licks his blood in order to relieve her hunger, then bemoans her act in a lament. The present study describes examples of laments and female cannibals in Scriptures, identifies the particular female cannibal of the cantatas as Mary of Eleazar in Flavius Josephus’s The Jewish War, discusses the authors of the text and the composers of the cantatas, concluding with the relationship of the texts to the music. Following Aristotle’s notions of pity and fear, authors and composers maneuver between the contrary feelings of pathos and disgust in the cantatas. The full text of both cantatas appears in the appendix.
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