‘Blessed are they that fear the Lord,’ for the rejoicings at the queen's pregnancy, and another anthem, ‘The Lord is King,’ bears date 1688. He contributed songs to D'Urfey's ‘Fool's Preferment’ in the same year, and resumed the office of copyist in the abbey.
At the coronation of William and Mary in 1689, Purcell retained, as an official perquisite, the price paid for seats in the organ-loft; but he was apparently compelled to give it back to the chapter on pain of losing his post (Hawkins, edit. 1853, p. 743). One of the best of the ‘occasional’ compositions of Purcell was called forth by the accession of the new sovereigns, though it was not commanded for any state celebration. It is known as ‘The Yorkshire Feast Song,’ and was performed at the meeting of natives of Yorkshire in the Merchant Taylors' Hall on 27 March 1690. There followed some of the composer's best theatrical work, including ‘Dioclesian, or the Prophetess’ (adapted from Beaumont and Fletcher by Betterton), and the ‘Tempest’ (Dryden's adaptation). The former was published in 1691 in score by subscription, with a dedication to the Duke of Somerset; but, although the piece was a great success (Downes), the cost of publication was hardly defrayed by the subscriptions, and the book was a financial failure (pref. to Daniell Purcell's Judgment of Paris); every copy contained manuscript corrections by Purcell himself. The music to Dryden's ‘Amphitryon’ was issued in 1690, the year of its production. In the epistle dedicatory Dryden wrote, ‘We have at length found an Englishman equal with the best abroad,’ and he referred to ‘his happy and judicious performances in the late opera’ (‘Dioclesian’). Five years earlier, in the preface to ‘Albion and Albanius,’ Dryden had shortsightedly spoken of Grabu, the composer of that work, as ‘raised to a degree above any man who shall pretend to be his rival on our stage.’ This change in the poet's opinion was strengthened by Purcell's admirable contributions to his opera of ‘King Arthur,’ which was produced in 1691. The complete score of that work was never published, and it disappeared, probably within a very few years of its production, since the few songs printed after the composer's death, in ‘Orpheus Britannicus,’ were in a more or less fragmentary condition. After all the imperfect manuscript scores of the work were collated for Professor Taylor's edition (Musical Antiquarian Society), there remain five songs to which no music can be found. Still, the great bulk of the music is extant, and from this and the printed play it is clear that it can only be called an opera in a limited sense, since the singing characters are quite subordinate to the others. The abandonment of the old practice of continuous music in opera, which ‘King Arthur’ illustrated, was justified, according to the ‘Gentleman's Journal’ for January 1691–2, by the fact that ‘experience hath taught us that our English genius will not rellish that perpetuall singing.’ ‘Mr. Purcel,’ the same critic pointed out, ‘joyns to the delicacy and beauty of the Italian way the graces and gayety of the French composers, as he hath done for the “Prophetess” and the last opera called “King Arthur,” which hath been plaid several times the last month.’
Among the plays to which Purcell contributed incidental music in 1692 and the following year were the ‘Indian Queen’ (adapted from Howard and Dryden) and the ‘Fairy Queen,’ an anonymous arrangement of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream.’ Some of the songs from the latter were published in 1692 by Purcell himself, but, as in the case of ‘King Arthur,’ the complete music was lost (London Gazette, 13 Oct. 1700). Three years after the production of the ‘Indian Queen’ a pirated edition was issued by the booksellers May & Hudgbutt, who addressed the composer in a complacent and impudent preface. The queen's birthday ode for 1692 contains, as the bass of one of the airs, the Scottish tune ‘Cold and Raw.’ According to Hawkins, Purcell introduced it out of pique because the Queen had expressed a preference for the ballad, as sung by Arabella Hunt, to some of his music. The ode for St. Cecilia's day in the same year contains evidence of the composer's powers as a singer of florid music. The air ‘'Tis Nature's voice,’ for counter-tenor, which abounds in elaborate passages, was printed shortly after the festival. The ‘Gentleman's Journal or Monthly Miscellany’ for November 1692 says ‘the second stanza’ was ‘sung with incredible graces by Mr. Purcell himself.’ An ode, said to have been written for the centenary commemoration of Trinity College, Dublin, and performed at Christ Church, Dublin, on 9 Jan. 1693–4, is included by Goodison in his incomplete edition of Purcell's works; but no direct evidence of its performance has been found.
To 1694 belongs Purcell's only work as a theorist. He rewrote almost entirely the third part of Playford's ‘Introduction to the Skill of Musick’ for the twelfth edition of that book, published in 1694. The section ‘On the Art of Descant’ in its original shape was no longer of practical use to composers, since the whole aspect of music had changed. Certain of the songs in the first and second parts of D'Urfey's ‘Don Quixote’ (1694) were