The USE of SONGS in SHAKESPEARE’s COMEDIES
<Written and prepared by Sr. Maria Cecilia Polka, the ‘Master’ student at the Salve Regina College (Now University) in Newport, R.I., and her Psychology Professor and supervisor Prof.Dr. Ismail Ersevim as her graduation thesis in 1967 -USA>
M u s i c has been frequently called “the universal language” and rightly so. There is no other means of communication which has so adequately spoken to peoples of all nations and cultures. Through its flowing measures, sometimes vibrant, light and fanciful, and at other times, solemn, majestic, and awe-inspiring, music has satisfied the need of expression and fulfillment in the human personality.
Whether he is aware of it or not, man is engulfed in and attuned to a world of music. Music is very much part of him, as well as all around him. Tne music of nature, continually speaks to him and the music of life man can never escape. It is no wonder that Shakespeare has mainingfully said through the character of Lorenzo, speaking to Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice”: “The man that hath no music in himself… Is fit for treasons strategems and spoils…” Being the man of such universal appeal in the literary field, Shakespeare has not overlooked this universal power of music. In addition, living in a century which considered music a required culture and an integral part of man’s life, Shakespeare found it almost necessary to include it within his many masterpieces. In his plays he can very readily spot diverse musical allusions with regard to instruments, terms, nd techniques as well as numerous songs.
In the first chapter of the following thesis, I have tried to establish the musical background of the Elizabethan period by making detailed references to the prominent role music played in the education, the homne life, and lastly the social life of the people of the age. I have also tried to show how Shakespeare, being a product of his time, incorporated this musical spirit into his work. This he accomplished with the technique of a true artist. Since every musical reference made in his plays could not possibly be treated of in one thesis, I have considered the use of song in six of Shakespeare’s comedies in my second and third chapters. Chapter two specifically deals with the songs in the comedies: “Love’s Labor’s Lost“, “The Merchant of Venice“, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“; while chapter three considers the songs in “As You Like It“, “Twelfth Night“, and “The Tempest“. The order of which the plays are taken is significant since they follow a gradual, progressive development of the author’s use of song in his comedies. For example, in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” song is merely used as an added entertainment in the play while “The Tempest” song moves to a peak, being used as the life and plot of the play. We, therefore, witness Shakespeare’s progress as a dramatist as well as being a true product of tyhe musical spirit of the Elizabethan Age.
If Music and Sweet Poetry agree
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
Then must the love be great, twixt thee and me,
Because thou lovest the one and I the other.
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense;
Spencer to me, whose deep conceit is such,
As passing all conceit, needs no defense.
THE PASSIONATE PILGRIM
With these words, Shakespeare signs of the estimate relation between music and poetry. No other dramatic post has exhibited in his works such great admiration of music and such technical knowledge as did Shakespeare. “Of all his dramatic works, but five are without allusion to music.” (1) As we can see there is a very intimate association between Shakespeare and music, for he lived at a time in which much vitality was exhibited in musical circles. The voice of music was abroad. Every aspect of life was accompanied by appropriate strains. “Across the wooded hills, on the village common, in mansion and cottage, a real love of the art revealed itself in diverse manners.” (2)
Yes, England in the reign of Elizabeth was young again with the sound of music. The reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII had given time for the middle class to develop, and for minds to turn to culture. With ERASMUS came a new interest in the humanities; and increasing intercourse with Italy brought in Italian literature, architecture, art and music. The last quarter of the sxteenth century, in particular, witnesses a tremendous growth of wealth and consequent luxury. In certain directions this led to much vulgarity, a feature that has always accompanied a sudden access of wealth. Fortunately the taste of the day was by no means generally on the side of vulgarity. “The fine taste that was inherent in the Elizabethan resulted not only in the composition of so much splendid music, but also in the widespread custom of singing and playing it.” (3) Music shared in the great movement towards expansion and development which was so conspicuous a feature of the sinteenth century throughout the whole Europe. It is a well known fact that Elizabeth herself had a great love for music. The following lines prefixed to a musical publication in 1573, show how the queen’s encouragement of music appreciated:
The queen, the glory of our age and isle,
With royal favour bis this science smile;
Nor hears she others’ labor’d lays,
But artist-like, herself both signs and plays.” (4)
Yes, the Age of Elizabeth was an age of music – not the music of great composers, but the native song, the familiar playing of instruments, the continual breaking out into country rounds or court measures. “In Elizabethan England there was much much less professionalsim, but town and country rang with the melody and song of the amateurs, and there is very little to suggest that this was done by incompotent handlers.” (5) If England had no opportunity of hearing and of creating church music, her people found widespread joy in madrigals, glees and catches. Every house had its lutes and viols, every barbar’s shop had an instrument ready for the hands of the waiting customers. In the theatres, particularly song was an integral part of plays, and music before and during the performance formed part of the attraction of the private houses. Ballads were sung in the streets and at innummerable fairs.
To indicate more specifically the significant role played by musiz in the sixteenth century in England, we will attempt to give an expose of musical life in the areas of education, the home and the society. The value of music in school was urged by most writers. Their reasons were gravely heard because of the feeling that “original sin had closed the ear to heavenly harmonies and education might possibly correct the deficiency.” (6)
In 1561, Sir Nicholas Bacon drew up a curriculum for the education of the Queen’s wards according to which the hours from twelve to two and before retiring at nine, were to be spent with the music master. In the scheme for Queen Elizabeth’s Academy, about 1572, there was to be one teacher of music “to play the lute, the bandora and cittern, 26 1., per annum.” (7) In 1857, William Byrd of the Chapel Royal published a treatise on why all people should learn to sing, though from the time of Henry VIII and even before, England had been noted for her ‘sweet singers’. The following states the reasons set down by the author to persuade everyone to learn how to sing:
1. First it is a knowledge easily taught and quickly learned where
there is a good master and an apt scholar.
2. The exercise of singing is delightful to Nature and good to pre-
serve the health of man.
3. It doth strenghten all parts of the breast and doth open the
4. It is a singular good remedy for a stuttering and stammering
5. It is the best means to procure a perfect pronuncation, and
to make a good orator.
6. It is the only way to know where Nature hath bestowed the
gift of a good voice; which gift is so rare, as there is not one
among a thousand that hath it, and in many, that excellent
7. There is not any music of instruments whatsoever compara-
ble to that which is made of the voices of men; where the
voices are good, and the same well-sorted and ordered.
8. The better voice is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God
therewith; and the voice of man is chiefly to be employed to
that end. (8)
Henry Peacham in his work “Complete Gentleman” devotes a
chapter to music. In it he speaks of those who dislike music, and quoting an Italian proverb (which he admits he dare not adopt -):
“Whom God loves not, that man loves not music – But I am
verily persuaded that they are by nature very ill-disposed,
and of such a brutish stupidity that scarce anything else that
is good and savoureth of virtue is found in them.” (9)
He adds: “I desire no more of you than to sing your part sure, and at first sight.” (10)
We have thus evidenced that during Elizabeth’s reign, music became a necessary part of every gentelman’s education, without the exclusion of women.
Besides being interwoven with education, music for the Eliza-bethan was an intimate portion of home life. It can be adequately expressed that the Elizabethan tenaciously held to two faiths: “faith in home and faith in music.” (11) These two faiths were the essential means by which thoughtful Elizabethans sought to order their private lives. Where the home was, there was also music. “If music round the universe to make of it one harmonic whole, then men mast let music creep into his ears till he, like the stillness of night or the very smallest activities of day, was touched by immortal sounds.” (12) Although these two faiths in home and music did not fully arm Elizabethans against the usual frailties of human beings, they did produce manner of living sufficient to inspire any age.
From 1560 on, pious homes of Puritans depended much upon singing of psalms for their enjoyment of music, and this custome continued until long past the sixteenth century. In the home gardens, however, the singing was bound to be more informal. For more formal entertainment of guests in the gardens of the cultivated Elizabethans, there might be instrumental music in the banquet house, either for its own sake or for those who wished to dance, and if the household had its own band of musicians, they were an important part of the establishment. (13)
Because musicians were obtainable singly or in groups, it was customary, even in taverns, to demand music at meals or to while away the time. Fine inns, of course, had lutes, bandores, and sometimes virginals to entertain their guests. Since few households were so poor that among the servants no singers or musicians could be found to entertain the master or mistress, music was a popular and favorite means of relaxation for husband or wife. It was common to see a
“mistress, while sitting busily sewing with her maids, often
calling one of them to entertain their group by singing or
playing on some instrument, particularly the lute, which ser-
ved as both instrument and decvoration in the house.” (14)
The elizabethans may not have been above reproach in his choice of certain pastimes, but he undoubtedly had music in his soul.
More important tan musical instruments was the musical voice, of which there were many. “Each village, for example, had its own
choir as well as a team of bell ringers that was likely to be the chief pride of the community.” (15) In the home when guests dined, they were expected to contribute to the madrigal singing between courses or at the end of the meal. All through the Tudor Age singing voices of fine quality were always in demand that England became famous for its ‘choir of sweet singers’. “It was music, then, that made life go around for these people, and it was music in one form or another that took most room on the shelves of their libraries.”
In spite of the fact Elizabethans lived at such a quick tempo they did not direct their music toward a frenzied or distracting mode of entertainment. At home, especially they sought for expansion of the soul by means of a cultivated living, in spite of what, to us, may seem like flagrant vulgarities in their way of life.
“The tinkling notes of an instrument, accompanied perhaps,
by the voice of the child or servant, was their relief from the
tension caused by some exciting or dangerous or merely
monotonous enterprise. Even among the poor, the love of the
music was not stifled.” (17)
Thus far we have seen that music was very much a part of the
domestic life of the Elizabetan home. It would necessarily follow that musical life would overflow into the social life of the Elizabethans.
“They had music at dinner, music at suppper, music at wed-
dings, music at funeral, music at dawn, music at night… He
who felt not, in some degree, its soothing influences, was
viewed as a morose unsocial being whose converse ought
to be shunned and regarded with suspicion and distrust.” (18)
An Elizabethan expected a social caller to pick up a music book and read an elaborate part song for four or five voices and sing his part at sight; when the dinner was over he called his music books and he and his guests, his children and servants sang them as probably no haphazard gath-
ering or ordinary folk has been able to sing since.
In Morley’s “Plain and Easy Instruction to Practical Music” – 1597, we read of a dinner party, a ‘banket’ at which the conversation was entirely concerned with music. After supper, Morley relates, “according to custom” parts were handed round by the hostess. One guest, a Philomathes, has to make many excuses as to his vocal inability, and finally is obliged to confess that he cannot sing at all. At this the rest of the company ‘wonder’ and some whisper to their neighbors: “Haw was he brought up?” Certainly a gentleman with any social ambitions would see that his children were brought up to sing and play.” (19) In Elizabeth’s reign it was “… the custom for a lady’s guests to sing unaccompanied music from parts, after supper;”
(20) and that inability cast a doubt on the person having any title to
education at all.
There are numerous examples of personages of the sixteenth century who considered music a vital part of social life. It appears from the diary of King Edward VI that he was a musician, as he mentions playing on the lute before French Ambassadors as one of several accomplishments which he displayed before that gentleman. There is also a letter from Queen Catherine of Arragon, the mother of Queen Mary, in which sher exh0rts her “to use her virginals and lute.” As for Elizabeth there is abundant evidence that she was a good virginal player. George Herbert, who was by birth a courtier, found in music “his chiefest recreation, and did himself compose many divine hymns and anthems in Royal Chapel and would play his part exactly well in the bass-violl.” (22) His love for music was such that he went usually twice every week to the cathedral church in Salisbury; at his return he would say that his time spent in prayer and cathedral music elevated his soul, and was was heaven on earth. We evidence, then, that in this period of England’s history a practical acquaintance with music was a regular part of the education of both sovereign, gentlemen of rank and the higher middle class.
However, musical lifa was not restricted to just the upper and middle classes of society. There is plenty of evidence, though more indirect in kind, that the lower classes were enthousiastic about music as the higher. A large number of passages of several authors shows clearly that singing in part (especially of ‘catches’) was a common amusement with blacksmiths, colliers, clothsworkers, caloblers, tinkers, watchmen, country persons and soldiers. In “Old Wives’ Tales” Feele says: “This ‘smith’ leads a life as merry as a king; Sirrah Frolic, I am sure you are not without some ’round’, or ‘other, no doubt but Clunch <the smith> can bear his part.” (23) Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Coxcomb” has the following: “Where were the watch the while? good sober gentlemen.” ” They were like careful members of the city,
/Drawing in diligent ale, and singing catches.” (24) In Sir William Davenant’s
“The Wits“, Snore, one of the characters, says: “It must be late, for gossip Nock, the mailman, / Had catechized his maids, and sung three catches/ And a song ere <Eski dil’de: Önce, evvel -poetic language- İ.E.> set forth.”
All the aforesaid leads to the just conclusion that if ever a country deserved to be called musical, that country was England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. King and courtier, peasant and ploughman could eacah ‘take his part'; with each, music was part of his daily life. But more than all else concerned with the musical field, as we have evidenced, England was a country of SONG.
Shakespeare has truly proven himself a product of his time. His frequent tribute to the power of music, his apt use of musical terms and his many allusions to musical instruments, are well-known. His excursions in the musical providence are a direct outcome of a great joy in its charms. “He is always happy when speaking on music and its place in life. To him it is something real. It is the human side of its that attracts him.” (26) It is evident that to Shakespeare, the art of sound was full of fascination. Whether his reference is humorous or full of enhusiasm, he speaks with the voice of one who knows and understands. The numbers and diversities to music in its many forms proves an active interest in it. A clever man can write eloquent-ly about it, without being particularly sensitive to its influence, but that by Shakespeare it was regarded seriously, must be obvious to the careful student of his works.
Certainly even that trained musician who idly turns the poet’s leaves to all the musical allusions he makes, is astounded at his intimate knowledge of music, that art which so many of the poets rave about he was talking about, and could move at ease among musical techniques. Music with Shakespeare was a natural and powerful means of expression; he used it to carry his purpose a little further than the spoken word would take. Yes, Shakespeare’s knowledge and appreciation of music is obvious. “Harmony to him, and to the Elizabethan’s mind was one of the principles of a good life in politics as well as in the arts. He loathed a discord in affairs of state as much as he loathed a jarring note upon his ear.” (27)
The prevalent study of a prominent position of music in Elizabethan times would make it advisable for any clever dramatist to introduce lyrics and instrumental music onto his plays. And this is what Shakespeare did to a remarkable extent.
“Music in the Tudor Theatre was plentiful. The trumpets
proclaimed the opening of the play; the historical dramas
resounded with the drums. The strings heightened the emo-
tion of the tragic scene. The song and dance of the jig sent the
spectators away with a laugh and a melody. In between, there
had been incidental music and the songs written into the
plays by the dramatist.” (28)
As we have previously mentioned a careful study of Shakes-peare’s plays will reveal innumerable allusions to the musical world. Out of thirty-seven plays there are no less than thirty-two which contain interes-ting references to music and musical matters in the text itself. There are over three hundred stage directions which are musical in their nature and these occur in thirty-six out of thirty-seven plays.
“The musical references in the text are most commonly
found in the comedies, and are generally the occasion or
instrument of word quibbling and witticisisms while the
musical stage directions beling chiefly to the tragedies, and
are mostly of a military nature.” (29)
Song, particularly in Shakespearean drama played a useful, and at times, significant role. The songs were composed for both dramatic and practical purposes. “They were neither interludes nor mere decorative flourishes, garlands, nor amorini.” (30) Many of them on the open, uncurtained stage of the period were a graceful and ingenious cover for entry or exit.
“…The Elizabethan theatre lacked modern front, drop
curtains, pictorial painrted scenery, and means to change
the amount of light. Shakespeare therefore, in several
situations introduced songs to get characters on and off the
stage gracefully… and also to create atmosphere and to con-
jure up imaginary stage settings to the audience.” (31)
The songs, again are incantation; they were intended to be sung. Shakespeare’s natural language indeed was that of poetry, and so always related to music. “Song writing, then must have been a curious joy to Shakespeare, a sort of busman’s holiday.” (32)
An admirer of Robert Frost‘s poems lately declared and justly, that “the very sound of his poem is true. In some the sound is not only as important as the meaning, but most of the meaning.” (32) So, too, the same can be said of Shakespeare’s songs with a slightly different bearing. They also are true, though not in a personal sense. They are true in their context, aesthetically right. They have a natural singing quality and many of them were written with a specific air of melody in Shakespeare’s mind. He lived, as we have stated, in the supreme hayday of English music, a music so much beloved by him and so frequently in his remembrance. Truly, the more closely we examine the Songs of Shakespeare’s plays, the more we marvel at his consummate mastery over words.
The ease, brevity of expression and rapidity of development, all markedly characteristics of Shakespeare’s Songs serve to distinguish them from those of any other dramastist of his period. Although other dramatists, notably Ben Johnson, Thomas Dekker, and John Fletcher, wrote many songs occupying deservedly a high place in our literature; yet theirs appear to some disadvantage when contrasted with those by Shakespeare. They do not exhibit a like spontaneity of effort, and their art is not concealed in the same degree. So skilfully has Shakespeare hidden his craftsmanship, that Milton’s “Wood notes wild” has been specifically applied to the songs. Such a description is not altogether fortunate, for it has begotten the impression that the lyrical excellence of Shakespeare is some wild, uncultivated product, whereas a close examination of the songs reveals evidence of the most painstaking labor. Otherwise the words of Milton are singularly felicitous, “…for in all the songs there is a seemingly careless invitation to sing… A presence of a distinct, natural singing quality may be taken as an essential constituent in any song it may be sought to ascribe to him.” (34)
While it is true that Shakespeare did not invent the use of songs in play, he it was who made the play with song occurring in it, a consistent are form. It was he who “grasped all possibilities afforded by song for forwarding the action and who made it vital part in his dramatic sceheme.” (35)
FOOTNOTES – CHAPTER I
(1 ) F.J. Kelly, “Shakespeare and the Art of Music”, The Catholic World,
(3) Edmund H. Fellowes, “The English Madrigal”, p.10.
(4) “English Music”, p.16.
(5) Ivor Brown, “Shakespeare and His Time”, p.26.
(6) Morrison Comegys Boyd, “Elizabethan Music and Musical Criticism”,
(8) Henry Thew Stepehenson, “The Elizabethan People”, pp:200-1.
(9) The same as (4), p.168.
(11) Lu Emily Pearson. “Elizabethans at Home”, p.517.
(13) Idem., p.520.
(16) Ibid, p.608
(18) The same as (8), p.220.
(19) Edward W. Taylor, M.A., “Shakespeare and Music”, p.5.
(20) Ibid., p.7.
(21) Ibid., p.10.
(22) Ibid., p.11.
(23) Ibid., p.16.
(25) Ibid., p.17.
(26) The same as in (1), p.498.
(27) The same as in (5), p.152.
(29) The same as in (19), p.8.
(30) Tucker Brooke, Ed., “The Shakespeare Songs”, p.xvı
(31) The same as in (6), p.192.
(32) The same as in (30), p.xıx.
(33) Ibid., p.xxııı.
(34) Richmond Noble, M.A., “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, s.9.
(35) Ibid., p.12.
The USE of SONG in SHAKESPEARE’s EARLY COMEDIES
A variety of song used for a variety of purpose is found particularly in Shakespeare’s comedies. This particular chapter will be devoted, as was mentioned in the preface, the three fairly early comedies of Shakespeare: “Love’s Labour’s Lost“, “The Merchant of Venice“, and, “Midsummer Night’s Dream“. In this consideration the reader will evidence a certain progression in the drama and dramatist through his use of song in the following plays.
“Love’s Labour’s Lost“, is generally agreed, in its main part to be Shakespeare’s first venture in comic drama. It was a conversa-tional, satirical comedy, and appears to be devoif of any moral or serious intension. It represents his nearest approach to the true comic attitude to life. “Its very little contains an alliterative joke not unlike the pun in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ “. (1) Such a comedy, dependent as it is on conversational brillance for effect, is very difficult to act, and even when well-presented, requires a special kind of audience to appreciate it.
“It is, therefore plausible to assume that, in its original
form without the Epilogue Songs, it was intended for an
audience more exclusive than that to be found in a public
theatre; its pointed shafts would be more likely to be
appreciated by an educated audience, keenly alive to the
foibles of the age.” (2)
Shakespeare’s satire was directed against and extravagant form of utterance. He derided not only pedantic ornamentation of language but also the pseudopastoral romanticism which pervaded the dainty sonnets to whose composition courtiers and their imitators were addicted. Hence, on the revival of the comedy in 1597, Shakespeare appropriately added “two songs as Epilogues, wherein pretty pastorales and sententious verses are mercilessly ridiculed.” (3)
The two songs help to clear the stage and as Epilogues, they are used to sustain, even at the end, the laughing character of the comedy. Evidently the play in its original form had ended with Browne’s “That’s too long for a play.” Not only was such an ending too abrupt and ineffective for clearing the stage, but also something had to be done to restore the spirit of the comedy, banished by the news of the death of the Princess’s father. The songs relate to three characters – ARMADO, with his “mint of phrases, who presents the songs; HOLOFERNES the Pedant with his Latin and Latinized words and Sir NATHANIEL the Curate, their two authors.” (4) Armado announces the songs in Latin as well as in English:” This side is Hiems, Winter/ This Ver, the Spring:/ The one maintained by the owl, the other by the Cuckoo. Wer begin.” (5) The spectators are thus prepared for a learned and tedious argument according to academic precedent. Instead there follows the inimitable Cuckoo Song:
Spring: When daisies pied of violette blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-birds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus he sings,
Cuckoo, cuckoo, O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And marry larks are ploughman’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear
Unpleasing to a married ear! (6)
Here, everything is bright and gay, all except married men, whom the Cuckoo’s call makes fearful of their freehold. The comic intent, in keeping with the play, is manifest.
“All the learned men’s idealism of the meadow flowers,
the shepherd’s piping on oaten straws and the merry
larks waking the ploughmen is dissipated by the fear
of the woeful tragedy with which, as the Cuckoo’s habits
remind them, married men are threatened in the Spring,
when inclinations are suppose to be amorous and lovers
The song feigns seriousness in its conceits just like any of the pretty verse of the time. However, there is a fall from the sublime to the ridiculous, a transition from serious conceit to the ludicrous and comic in the lines:
The cuckoo, then on every tree
Mocks married men, for thus sings he.
Then there is a long drawn out cuckoo as is indicated by the full stop, followed by a couple of sly echoing calls where the singer shivers fear and shakes his head at the impropriety of such a call being sounded in the presence of married men. “A joke of such a kind was dear to Elizabethan hearts and Shakespeare was never tired of resorting to the theme.” (8)
When learned men came to compile “The Owl Song“, obviously the same joke could not carry:
When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Thom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot. (9)
In the first stanza romance is contrasted with reality, the picture-
esque with the disagreeable, and in the second comic objects are cunningly interspersed among ordinary objects of natural history. In the first, on the one hand we have icicles hanging by the wall, and on the other, the frozen milk, the nipped blood and the muddy roads; and in the second, we have the coughing, drowning the parson’s saw. “But the most disagreeable by the sight and smell of the sluttish Joan ‘keeling the pot’ ” (10) She makes the farm kitchen uncomfortable which is the only refuge from the inclement weather of the winter season. The unmusical laughing hoot of the owl acts as a diversion where all else is depressing. “Pastoral romance gives way to pasto-
ral realism.” (11)
Both the Cuckoo and the Owl songs are Elizabethan comic songs without any aerious intention whatever.
“That the affected learning of the lean and cadaverous
looking Holofernes could evolve nothing more serious,
enriches the comedy and there can be no doubt that,
then the songs are well and significantly rendered, the
fooling is admirable.” (12)
It is frequently said that songs in Shakespeare’s festive comedies are usually composed with explicit or implicit reference to a holiday occasion. The cuckoo and owl songs are cognate to such compositions. These two songs of summer and winter are the Shakespeare used instead of a wedding dance or masque; and “they are exactly right, not an afterthought, but a last and full expression of the controlling feeling for community and season. The songs evoke pleasures of the most traditional sort, at the opposite pole from facile improvisations.” (13)
Who were the singers of the songs? The stage direction for entrance is “Enter All” which presumably implies all the actors in attendance and not merely those who have been taking part in the ‘show’. Whatever may have been the standard of singing demanded by the songs “The Cuckoo Song” requires the better actor. It is usually that Moth is one of the singers, but for this assumption there is little support. (14)
Composers have frequently set these two Epilogue Songs as genuine pastorals, simply because they have culled them from antologies and their obvious prettiness has appealed to them.
“Both songs require very simple treatment and they
ought to be regarded as music-hall songs; but, of
course, of a type considerably better than we are
accustomed to hear hearing from artists on such a
In considering the next play “The Merchant of Venice“, we find only one song. The song, however, which occurs in Act III, scene 2, is significant, for it serves as a “device to confer distinction on Bassanio’s approach to the three caskets and as a means to allow him time consider his choice.” (15) The lyrics, in its felicitous choice of the subject suitable for the occasion, is one of the most charming in the whole range of the comedies:
“Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
It is engender’d in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
Let us all ring fancy’s kneel
I’ll begin it, -Ding, dong, bell.” (17)
As we see, the song opens with the query as to where is fancy bred? Is it of the heart? or is it of reason, of the head? That is to say is it of affection, of true love, or is it born of calculation? Then the query proceeds:
Whence does it come? Hos is it sustained? “The answer is that it is of the eyes, by gazing fed, a mere whim, a delusion of the senses which never attains maturity, but vanishes before even it can be weaned.” (18) The tenor of the song and the very plain hint is to beware of that which is pleasing to the sight, for it has no substance and at best its superficial glory is transient, for, when it ceases to be present to the view, it is forgotten and its power to attract no longer exists. Such evidently was the line of thought it suggested to Bassanio, “whose sensitiveness of ear was enhanced by his anxiety and by the hazard of fortune he was essaying.” (19) Almost without waiting for the last strains of song to fade away, he observes very abruptly:
“So may the outward shows be least themselves
The world is still deceived with ornament.” (20)
This comment is clearly enough inspired by the song. The injunction to distrust fancies bred of the view was sufficient, and it was natural for Bassanio to include:
“. . . But thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threatenest than dost promise
Thy paleness moves me more than elooquence:
And here choose I.” (21)
To perceive progress in the part songs play in Shakespeare’s dramatic scheme we could compare “Tell me where is fancy bred?” with its immediate predecessor “Who is Sylvia?” from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona“, a song not specifically treated of in this thesis. The serenade, “Who is Sylvia”, is made to serve as a covering device for linking the action up and it only faintly, in its contents, reflects it context. Here, in this comedy, the song practically performs “the function of dialogue and its relation to its situsation is vital, for it is largely on the understanding of its message that the fırtunes of those, who have good wishes of the audience, depend.” (22)
In another respect the two songs are of the same kind. Neither of them is properly a dramatic song, neither requires action from its singer, and either it is suitable to the concert room as to the theatre. Otherwise the songs differ slightly.
“For the serenade the action is suspended, but for the
other it continues – Bassanio examines the exterior of
the caskets, then his attention having been caught by
the words of the song, he listens eagerly, and excitedly
opens his soliloquy.” (23)
Again for “Who is Sylvia”, the musicians who participitated in the ‘consort’ came specially on stage, and on the completion of their appointed task they retired. Here, for this later song, “the musicians were presumably of Portia’s household and were included in all their trains, which the stage direction indicates.” (24) The musicians remained on stage till the conclu-sion of the episode. “In ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ solo singers come on for the occasion only.” (25). However, in
“The Merchant of Venice” some of the minor actors & attendents were ‘All’ is indicated in the scene, “bear the burden”, i.e., they sing the refrain: “Ding, dong, bell.” “Very few Elizabethans, on stage or off, would not have been able to so that respectably.” (26)
In general no vital, dramatik significance has been attached to this song in “The Merchant of Venice”. However, its presence as a specific device related to Bassanio’s approach to the three caskets indicates a gradual progression in Shakespeare’s use of song in contrast to the Owl and Cuckoo Songs which are simply added to the end of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” to prevent an abrupt termination of the comedy. The song in “The Merchant of Venice” definiyely gives a suggestion to aid in Bassanio’s choice of caskets. Even the lines, if we were to examine minutely, end in words rhyming with lead: ‘bred’, ‘head’, ‘nourished’. (27) The lead casket, as the reader knows, of course, contains what Bassanio is looking for. There is, therefore a definite place and purpose for this song.
However, “A Midsummer’ Night’s Dream” marks a very important stage in Shakespeare’s song career. Shakespeare up until 1595, had had to resort to professional musicians. Here, in this play “he would appear to have
at his disposal, plenty of children able both to sing and to act.” (28) The play was written for a special occasion – there is no evidence that it was ever seen upon the public stage at all – for such occasions “children could easily be recruited”. (29) Chorister schools in England at this time contributed their strength to the adult company.
Apart altogether from the question of singers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Shakespeare exhibits a great advance on his previous efforts in his management of song, although, here it must be noted, that except for Bottom’s breaking into song, to show that he was not afraid, “we have only one indisputably genuine song in the whole piece.” (30) There are, however, several passages which may have been songs but are not definitely so marked. This one song is sufficient to demonstrate what it meant. In the two plays previously considered, the songs were all in the nature of vocal entertainments. The action was restrained in order to enable them to be performed; and although none of them could be said to occur abruptly, “yet the preparation was obvious and there was not an entire absence of awk-
wardness.” (31) It is far otherwise with the lullaby in Act II, scene 2, where at Titania’s command, the fairies gather around her and sing and dance her to sleep. The song is as follows:
“You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy queen.
‘Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby;
Nor spell, nor charm,
Come our lovely lady night;
So good night, with lullaby.’
Weaving spiders, come not here,
Hence, you long-egg’d spinners hence!
Beetles black, approach no near;
Worm, nor snail, do no offense. (32)
If the reader examines the scene, he will observe how easily and naturally the song somes into being, how it relieves from awkwardness and makes Titania’s retirement interesting: “how it imparts to the whole play a fairy-like atmosphere, how perfectly it is ended and the continuation provided for, and how it leads us to and facilitates Oberon‘s little plot.” (33)
These are all very important points: never before had Shakespeare exhibited such easy mastery in the setting of the songs. With the exception possibly of “As You Like It“, a comedy to be considered in the following chapter, Shakespeare was “to show the same command in the perfectly natural way the songs were to occur.” (34) Always in regard to the songs in his plays Shakespeare had striven to avoid artificiality, but henceforward, beginning with this play, he was to be more successful.
A greater part of this comedy has been set to music than is the case with any of the others. This is because all the “fairies’ parts are in singing lyrical verse, and recitative with occasional aria might not be altogether inappropriate.” (35) Care would, however, have to be taken to avoid violence; and musical treatment of passages not definitely marked for music, must be in accord, as regards management, with the standard set by “You spotted snakes”, and the action must be continuous. This standard is, however, is difficult to achieve. (36)
In the forgoing pages there has been evidenced a gradual deve-lopment in Shakespeare’s use of song in three early comedies: “A Midsum-
mer Night’s Dream” being the most significant since its song is naturally woven into the action of the play. As Shakespeare continued to write his comedies he naturally progressed as an artist, therefore, the songs Shakespeare utilized in his later comedies reflect his artistic perfection. The use of song in the three comedies considered in the next chapter becomes most significant, since song unfolds as the very life of these plays.
FOOTNOTES – CHAPTER II
(1) Richmond Noble, “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, p.34.
(5) William Shakespeare, “Love Labor’s Lost”, Act V, ıı.
(7) Noble, p.35.
(9) Shakespeare, Act V, ıı.
(10) Noble, p.36.
(13) C.L. Barber, “Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy”, p.113.
(14) Noble, p.37.
(15) Ibid., pp.36-7.
(16) Ibid., p.45.
(17) Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, Act III, ıı.
(18) Noble, p.45.
(19) Ibid., p.46.
(20) Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, Act III, ıı.
(22) Noble, p.47.
(25) Harley Granville-Barker & G.B. Harrison, Eds., “A Companion to
Shakespeare Studies”, p.154.
(26) Ibid., p.155.
(27) Leonard F. Dean, Ed., “Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Critism”, p.69.
(28) Noble, p.52.
(29) Granville-Parker, p.155.
(30) Noble, p.53.
(32) Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Act. III, ıı.
(33) Noble, p.53.
The USE of SONG in SHAKESPEARE’s LATER COMEDIES
In three of Shakespeare’s later comedies: “As You Like It“, “Twelfth Night“, and “The Tempest“, we observe a more concentrated use of song and music in general. While it can hardly be maintained that “As You Like It” attains the high perfection of gay comedy of “Twelfth Night”, there can be no doubt that none of Shakespeare’s comedies surpasses its appeal to the hearts of men. “It is the comedy of romantic unreality, the Arcadian existence.” (1)
To such a comedy the service of song is indispensable, for without the aid of music, we should be unable to realize its ideality or its entire removal from any kind of life with which we are acquainted. “The interest of the play lies in what its characters think and say and as to how they dispose of their leisure, of which despite the hardness of the plot, they seem to have an ample supply.” (2) The plot is a minor consequence. It appears to be an excuse for conveying to us as a picture of the simple life in the forest, far away from the frequented hunts of men. All men delight to dream of an existence in picturesque surroundings, far removed from the drab conditions of their everyday life, as it is possible for the imagination to make it. It is there that the secret of the charm of the comedy lies.
Since the plot of “As You Like It” is lazy and moves by violent fits and starts, it is not surprising that none of the songs helps to develop the action.
“Neither is there any song, if we execpt those by Hymen,
which is part and parcel of the action… In fact, in the case
of all the songs except ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind’, the
scenes would appear to have been created in order that
the songs might be sung.” (3)
Nevertheless each song fulfills a very important dramatic function – “that of conveying color of scene and sense of atmosphere to make good the lack of the assistance of a scene painter in appealing to the imagination of the audience.” (4) In this play, therefore, song is employed definitely as scenery and for this reason “As You Like It” constitutes a considerable advance in the dramatist’s use of song.
Amiens, the principle singer, is a poet and a gifted amateur. His two songs are favors besought not commanded. They are both extremely important in the history of English dramatic song, for they are the first where in the temperament of the singer is reflected in lyric.
“Both songs are charged with poetic emotion, tinged
with misanthropy – their object is to extol unsheltered
solitude and thereby by contrast to make society appear
The first song “Under the Greenwood Tree”, serves to make us
personally acquainted with Jacques.
“Under the greenwood tree
Who lives to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird’s throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.” (6)
“In this scene Jacques is the champion of realism just as event-
ually his contrary spirit leads him to become a convert to romanticism on the restoration of his friends’ fortunes.” (7) Amiens sings of the joy of careless existence, where one lies under the tree and emulates the notes of the birds with nothing to annoy but the inclemency of the season. Jacques finds the singing so pleasing that he importunes Amiens for a second stanza in which all are required to join:
“Who doth ambition shun
And loves to live in the sun,
Seeking the food he eats,
And pleased with what he gets,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
But wind and rough weather.” (8)
Then Jacques turns around and parodies the whole theme of the song – “I’ll give you a verse to this note, that I made yesterday in spite of my
“If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
And if he will come to me.” (9)
Unfortunately, when this scene occurs on the stage, it is usual for Jacques to recite his parody, whereas it would be more effective were he to make some effort to sing it. “It is not clear in the original whether Jacques was meant to sing or not, but probably he was, for did he not sing in the second stanza?” (10) No serious meaning ought to be attached to “Ducdame” which occurs in this parody instead of “Come hither“. It is just ‘Jacques’ jargon, improvised or imitated from some stray vagabond.” (11) Most likely he uses it as “a token of their eaasy-going acceptance of order” (12) in the
forest of Arden: “This a Greek invocation,” he explains, “to call fools into a circle.”
The second song, “Blow, blow, thou winter wind”, Act II, vıı, is sung by Amiens in response to Duke‘s “Gives us some music; and, good cousin, sing”. Amiens then begins:
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most frienship is feigning, most loving more folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.
Heigh-ho! sing, etc.
This song affords an opportunity opportunity for the Duke to be informed of Orlando‘s circumstances without the spectators being wearied by the repetition of that which is already familiar to them. “The theme of the song is variant of ‘Under the greenwood tree’, only its misanthropic vein is more pronounced.” (14) Winter, with all its harshness is more tolerable than the ingratitude and insincerity of man.
This song, like the Cucoo and Owl song in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is also considered a seasonal song. The lines:
“Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.”
are a “crystallization of the mood of Christmas cheer, when it was customary for the men to sing songs in praise of holly, as their emblem… This custom explains why the ‘As You Like It” chorus begins with a vocative: “Heigh-ho, sing high-ho, unto the green holly!” (15) Shakespeare uses the gesture of group singing in the hall ogether to express the solidarity of the banished Duke and his merry men in Arden. He takes the Christmas feeling of “mastering the cold by good life around a great fire and uses it to convey the exiles’ feeling of mastering ingratitude by pastoral fellowship.” (16)
In a side scene, Act IV, ıı, usually omitted in modern representations, we have, at Jacques‘ request, a song “What shall he have that killed a deer?” The scene itself is evidently intended to cover up the break of two hours agreed upon in the previous scene between Rosalind and Orlando – a device rendered superfluous by the modern drop-curtain. The song sung by the foresters, is as follows:
“What shall he have that killed a deer?
His leather skin and horns to wear.
Then sing him home:
Take thou no scorn to wear the horn;
It was a crest ere thou wast born:
Thy father’s father bore it,
The horn the horn, the lusty horn
Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.” (17)
After the conclusion of the song, the scene ends very abruptly in a manner quite unlike Shakespeare’s usual practice. “That Jacques should be dumb after the song has been rendered, passes belief.” (18) Possibly some lines have been dropped by the printer. More probable it is “that the party, which Jacques has encountered is on its road home to the Duke, and it stops for a moment by the way and that the last strains of the song are uttered as the singer and his companions are leaving the stage.” (19)
Finally in Act IV, ııı, we have the ever-delightful Spring Song, “It was a lover and his lass”, sung by two page boys sitting on either side of Touchstone who presumably joined in the lines common to all stanzas.
“It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey and a ho, and a hey nomino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time
When the birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:
Sweet lovers love spring.
Between the acres of the rye
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nomino,
How that a life was but a flower
In spring time, etc.
And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey romino,
For love is crowned with the prime
In spring time, etc.” (20)
From the context it may be presumed that two pages sing in unison, “both in a tune like two gypsies on a horse.” (21)
The scene wherein the song is contained was most likely added. It has no bearing on the development of the action, unless we assume that it was designed that by means of the song, lapse of time should be iindicated and that the season’s change from winter to summer be made evident. “It is, however, more probably that the episode was specially devised to meet the growing taste for song and possibly to counter the attraction of the children at Brickfriars, where there were the best-trained choristers the metropolis possessed.” (22) But while the addition may have been made for and for the motive named, yet it is no less clear that Shakespeare did not allow the feature to go to waste, but caused it to serve the same dramatic end, as did the other songs in the comedy, namely to act as scenery.
By universal consent the very height of gay comedy is attained in “Twelfth Night” and therefore, this play lends itself to an abundant atmosphere.
“In his comedy, Feste, the clown does all the singing,
if we except a few maudlin snatches by Sir Toby and
a part in a catch by Sir Andrew; and this concentration
enables a modern manager to engage a better man to
fill the part than would be possible were the singing
distributed among several players as in “As You Like It.” (23)
Feste in this comedy is not only a witty fool and a plausible beg-gar, but domestic minstrelsy in his profession, and Malvolio distinguished him from Sir Topas by his breaking into song.
The first song “O Mistress Mine” in Act II, ııı, is as follows:
“O Mistress mine where are you roaming?
O stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journey’s end in lovers meeting
Every wise man’s son doth know.
What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no pleny;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.” (24)
The song serves as a prelude to a good evening leading to a ‘catch’
“From that to snatches of ballads, and generally to so
noisy and riotous a time that Malvolio is constrained
to intervene, and the resentment bred by this interfer-
ence with the revellers’ gaiety gives birth to the conspi-
racy against him.” (25)
The whole scene is contrived skilfully – the episode is a development of the song. “There is a deliberate variation from the expected in the fact that it is a love song about spring pleasures, and not the within-doors drinking party.” (26)
It is interesting to note that this particular song has presented problems to the Shakespearean student. “Twelfth Night” is assumed to have been a new play in 1601-2; but “O Mistress Mine” was the title of a consort which appeared in Morley‘s “Consort Lessons” in 1599, and likewise was used as a theme for the virginal by Bird. It was of the opinion, ten, that this was a popular song of the day which Shakespeare incorporated in the play. However, the late Dr. Furneas, as authority on Shakespeare observes:
“Oxen and wainropes cannot hale me from the belief that
this song is Shakespeare’s very own. Its phraseology, its
histrionic quality (it is a drama in miniature), its senten-
tiousness – ‘Journey’s end in lovers’ meeting’, ‘Youth’s
stuff will not endure’ (the very word stuff is Shakespearean),
its interrogation – ‘What is love?’ (like ‘Tell me where is
fancy bred?), its defining love by what it is not than what
it is – all these proclaim its author to be either Shakespeare
– aut Diabolus.” (27)
Feste is make to sing the second song: “Come away, come away death” by a convenient and very obvious device. Duke Orsino is an exotic in search of sensation; his love affair and his attachment for music move him to ask Feste to sing. Perhaps the most delightful feature of Feste‘s song is its humorously playful pity for the Duke‘s sad love grief; ‘no one takes the poor nobleman’s passion at a high value’, and Feste hints that a beneficial medicine for such constancy might be found in employment. ” (28) It pro-
ceeds as follows:
“Come away, come away, death,
And in sad sypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My port of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To wheep there.” (29)
The third song “I am gone Sir” in Act IV, ıı, occurs at the end of the very scene where Feste tantalizes Malvolio. Feste again sings:
“I am gone sir.
And anon, sir,
I’ll be with you again,
In a trice,
Like to the old vice,
You need to sustain:
Who with dagger of lath,
In his rage and his wrath,
Cries, ah ha, ‘ to the devil:
Like a mad lad,
Pare thy nails dad;
Adieu, goodman devil.” (30)
The interest of the song lies entirely in its illustration of Shakes-peare’s dramatic craftsmanship, and helps to bear out Irwing’s remark “that no actor could ever complain that Shakespeare had sent him tamely off the stage.” (31) The genius of this song is in covering the clown’s exit; Feste is enabled to withdraw gradually and with mock ceremony and to disappear of the final insult ‘devil’, hurled decisively at the much-wronged Malvolio.
Appropriately enough Feste winds up this high-spirited comedy with an Epilogue in the form of a song round – a popular refrain, which in all probability the groundlings would take up. Though the clown actually sings five stanzas, the first two stanzas will be sufficient here to give an expose of this type of song it is:
“When that I was a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.” (32)
“To Warburton, Steevens, Staunton, and a host of other grave Georgian and Victorian editors the song was anatema, and they would have consigned the ditty to the footnote as being the gag of an actor.” (33) It is of importance to remember that Shakespeare was not a dry antiquarian cast of mind like some of his commentators. He was an actor and a practical man of affaires, out to entertain all those willing to pay for their amusement, and he well knew the value of nonsense in attacking that end.
“Every one, whose life is at all worth living, has a
capacity for nonsense in its proper in its proper
season, and where could it be more timely than at
the end of ‘Twelfth Night’, for the wise nonsense
contained in this ditty serves as a commentary on
the events of the play, and is a fitting corollary to
the first song, ‘O Mistress Mine’ ” (34)
We have thus seen in the consideration of “Twelfth Night” the vital part music and song plays. Song has become almost essential to sustain the tenor of gaiety throughout. Here, Shakespeare has progressed to such an extent in his use of song that now scenes result from the songs; while, at the same time, the songs fulfill a need for Shakespearean audience. We, however, reach the height of Shakespeare’s use of song in the “The Tempest”.
Music is the very life of “The Tempest“; without its aid in the play would be impossible for presentation. Caliban says of the scene of its action:
“… the isle is full of noises,
sounds and sweet airs that give delight
and hurt not.” (35)
In addition Stephano says that the island “will prove a brave king-dom to me, where I shall have my music for nothing.” (36) There are frequent opportunities not only for vocal music but also for instrumental music as well. “The Tempest” is a dream, through a wonderful prophetic dream on Shakespeare’s part, of the effect which music drama was to achieve. Even as it is, Shakespeare came nearest in the play to “making a musical play natural and free from absurdity.” (37) “The Tempest”, then, marks the culminating point in the use made of song. The more Shakespeare gained in experience, the more relevant did he make his songs to their context, and the more important was their office in promoting his dramatic ends.
In “The Tempest”, with the exception of the characters in the Masque, which Prospero discloses, Ariel, Stephano and Caliban do all the singing. The singing in every time in character – Ariel’s is distinctly ethereal, Stephano has a very human, work-a-day note, and caliban has all the intensity of a primitive in giving in to his hatred of drudgery.” (38)
Of Ariel’s songs, Hazlitt observed that “without conveying any distinct images (they) seem to recall all the feelings connected with them, like snatches of half-forgotten music heard indistinctively and at intervals.”(39) This is just the effect in Act I, ıı, of the first two songs -“Come unto these yellow sands“, and, “Full fathom five”.
The first song, a laughing invitation, has drawn Ferdinand hither from the sea and the illusion of firm soil is given by dogs barking and cocks
“Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Courtsied when you have and kiss’d
The wild waves whist:
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
The watch dogs bark:
Hark, hark, I hear
The strain of strutting Chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.” (40)
The singing has hardly ceased when it recommences with Ariel‘s second song. “Full fathom five” is in another strain and from the waters rather than from the sands:
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of the bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding, dong. (41)
Here, Ferdinand is mocked into the belief that his father is drowned and the nymphs no more than formerly grieve. The impression is given that Ariel has translated into song Ferdinand‘s imaginings and fears.
Ariel, as an unsubstantial creature of the air, can hardly talk otherwise than in song. Where music in any form is, he is there too. It is Ariel who intervenes and corrects with tabor and pipe the following ‘catch’ which Stephano and Trinculo are endeavoring to sing in Act III, ıı.
“Flout ‘em and scout ‘em,
And scout ‘em and flout ‘em;
Thought is free.” (42)
When in Act II, ı, Gonzalo is to be warned of the assasination, Sebastian and Antonio are devising, it is by singing in Gonzalo‘s ear that
Ariel awakens the sleeper:
“While you here do snoring lie,
His time doth take.
If of life you keep a care,
Shake off slumber and beware:
ware, awake!” (43)
Finally, in Act V, just as he is about to be freed, Ariel sings of himself, as if to himself.
“Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.” (44)
Here Ariel exposes an ideal life in just a few words. It is this brevity and speed of development which distinguish Shakespeare’s songs from all others. “There is motion also suggested; one can almost see him pirouetting with ecstasy as he sings: ‘Merrily, merrily, shall I live now!’ (45)
In contrast to Ariel are Stephano and Caliban, and a song is made to be the means of Stephano‘s introduction to the audience in Act II, ıı. “We
observe Stephano, ‘reeling ripe with wine’, stagger onto the scene wherein
he, Trinculo and Caliban form their stupid and vicious alliance against Prospero.” (46)
“The master, the swabber, the boatswain, and I,
The gunner, and his mate,
Loved Moll, Meg, and Marian and Margery,
But none of us cared for Kate;
For she had a tongue with a tang,
Would cry to a sailor, Go hang!
She loved not the savor of tar nor of pitch;
Yet a tailor might scratch her where ‘er
she did itch,
Then, to sea, boys, and let her go hang.” (47)
Of course, Stephano sings because he is drunk, but the nature of both the singer and the song reveals symbolic connotations. “In contrast to the spirit – music provided by Ariel, this is a scurvy tune sung by a carnal oaf much befuddled by drink.” (48) The bawdy song, the gross nature of Stephano, his drunkenness – all these reveal in the character of Stephano the earthiness, sensuality and disharmony personified. A modern dramatist probably would have put into Stephano‘s mouth a landman’s song of the sea, but Shakespeare, with his usual artistic truth, “provides us with a genuine article – a song which a sailor might sing and his fellows would relish.” (49)
Our third singer Caliban, stands in a class by himself. The only near-human creature lower than Stephano and Trinculo in the chain of creatures, soon gilds himself with the celestial liquor borne by Stephano. In his drun-ken condition, delighted by the license promised him by his new god, Caliban burst into song:
“No more dams I’ll make for fish;
Nor fetch in firing
Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish:
‘Ban, ‘Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new Master: get a new man.” (50)
The song is here used to suggest license and lack of harmony.
Caliban cannot sing as does Ariel, or even Stephano. What he ‘howls’ as Trinculo describes his performance, is “strange doggerel quite different from the music heard previouslyin the play.” (51) An interesting feature of the song is the ‘Ban, ‘Ban, Cacaliban which is characteristic of the triumphal chorus aboriginal savages in its emphasis and repetition of parts of a name. If it does not indicate, on Shakespeare’s part, a study of music more search-ing than he has hitherto been credited with, it does at any rate illustrate the minute care he bestowed on his characters at crucial dramatic moments.
“It is highly improbable that Shakespeare had knowledge
of tyhe music of man in a primitive state, but it is evident
that Shakespeare had observed the improptu musical efforts
of young, untrained boys who, like savages, make a chorus
by emphasizing and repeating parts of a name, and with an
instinct unerring in its judgment he thought fit to invest
Caliban’s ebulition of defiance with the same peculiarity.” (52)
We have thus evidenced Shakespeare at the height of musical effort in his late comedy “The Tempest”. The songs sung by the individual characters are significant not only in giving insight into the specific treats of the characters but also in contributing to the plot and action of the comedy. We cannot overlook the constant employment of instrumental music throughout the entire play which adds to the airy and fanciful atmosphere. Truly we can say the “Tempest”, Shakespeare’s final great comedy, with the world of love and harmony and it surges of language reveals Shakespeare at the peak of his artistic treatment of song.
The foregoing study has attempted to illustrate Shakespeare’s interest in music as a handmaid in drama. Being the product of his age, the
sizteenth century, imbued with tyhe musical spirit of the period. We have seen how music was an integral part of the educative, domestic and social life of Elizabethan England; music, therefore, would be a natural, appealing element for audiences of the drama of the time. Shakespeare did not neglect this element, but employed it in his plays, not only to satisfy his audience, but also to effect specfic dramatic ends.
To use of song in six of Shakepeare’s comedies has been treated with somewhat in detail. The early comedies, “Love’s Labour’s Lost”, and “The Merchant of Venice” in particular, manifested the use of song in an elementary fashion while “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” depicted a prog-ression in its use of song as part of the action. Three later comedies, “As You Like It”, “Twelfth Night”, and “The Tempest”, revealed the use of song as a significant factor in the plays’ action, characterization, and plot.
Studying te comedies in this order we have also witnessed the prog-ression of Shakespeare as an artistic dramatist. Shakespeare tried as far as possible never use song and musiz as an additional element, but rather as a means of fulfilling a dramatic purpose. The plays of Shakespeare have spoken to peoples of all ages; and the music employed in the plays have contributed to their universal appeal to all audiences.
FOOTNOTES – CHAPTER III
(1) Richmond Noble, “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, p.71.
(3) Ibid., p.72.
(6) William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, Act II, v.
(7) Noble, p.73.
(8) Shakespeare, Act II, v.
(10) Noble, p.73.
(11) Noble, p.73.
(12) John Russel Brown, “Shakespeare and His Comedies”, p.154.
(13) Shakespeare, Act II, vıı
(14) Noble, p.73.
(15) C.L. Barber, “Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy”, pp.115-6.
(16) Ibid., p.116.
(17) Shakespeare, Act. IV, ıı.
(18) Noble, p.75.
(20) Shakespeare, Act.IV, ııı.
(22) Noble, p.72.
(23) Ibid., p.80.
(24) Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”, Act II, ııı.
(25) Noble, p.82.
(26) Barber, p.115.
(27) As quoted from ‘Dr. Furness in Richmond Noble’, “Shakespeare’s Use Of
(28) Noble, p.83.
(29) Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”, Act II, ıv.
(30) Ibid., Act II, ıı
(31) Noble, p.84.
(32) Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”, Act IV, ı.
(33) Noble, p.85.
(35) Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act III, ıı.
(36) Ibid., Act II, ıı.
(37) Noble, p.100.
(39) As quoted by Hazlitt in Richmond Noble, “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”,
(40) Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act III, ıı.
(42) Ibid., Act III, ıı.
(43) Ibid., Act II, ı.
(44) Ibid., Act V, ı.
(45) Noble, p.101.
(46) John H. Long, “Shakespeare’s Use of Music – The Final Comedies”, p.142.
(47) Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act II, ıı.
(48) Long, p.103.
(49) Noble, P.102.
(50) Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act II, ıı.
(51) Long, p.102.
(52) Noble, p.103.
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