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Shakespeare Quarterly 57.4 (2006) 474-478

Reviewed by
Skiles Howard
Shakespeare and Music. By David Lindley. The Arden Critical Companions. London: Thompson Learning, 2006. Illus. Pp. xii + 284. $95.35 cloth, $25.99 paper.
Shakespeare and Comedy. By R. W. Maslen. The Arden Critical Companions. London: Thompson Learning, 2005. Illus. Pp. ix + 270. $95.35 cloth, $25.99 paper.

According to the jacket copy, the Arden Critical Companions series seeks to "provide fresh insight to the student, scholar, and theatre-goer." David Lindley's Shakespeare and Music and R. W. Maslen's Shakespeare and Comedy approach this objective very differently. Lindley takes an extensive approach, considering music in the plays "within the period's wider cultural understanding of music both as symbol and as something experienced in the world beyond the theatre" (vi), ebulliently referencing the entire Shakespearean canon, sonnets and poems included, as well as ballads, plays by Shakespeare's contemporaries, Jonsonian masques, and recent criticism. Maslen, in contrast, focuses on "the contingent status of the comic moment" by tracing Shakespeare's changing attitudes to "the joke that goes too far" (2) in eleven of Shakespeare's plays by means of a "close analysis of [the] texts" (4).

Informed by his memorable work on the court masque and the "constellation of still-valuable studies published in the 1960s and 1970s" (vii), Lindley's Shakespeare and Music provides a useful introduction to the classical, Neoplatonic, and humoral theories that shaped contemporary understandings of music, surveying changing social attitudes towards music and the practices of music making. The book is divided into two parts: "Music in Shakespeare's Time" and "Music in Shakespeare's Plays," with a glossary of early instruments in the appendix and a [End Page 474] select bibliography. Lindley begins with Ariel's "Come unto these yellow sands" (1) from The Tempest (1.2.375–96)1 to introduce the complexities involved in an investigation hampered by a dearth of musical records, scribal stage directions, and the practical questions that arise concerning melody, instrumentation, and performer (2). To supplement incomplete and inconsistent evidence, Lindley turns, in the chapter "Musical Theory," to the mathematical and philosophical ideas of cosmic harmony that shaped contemporary understandings of music as explicated in a reading of Lorenzo's speech from The Merchant of Venice (5.1.55–88), which Lindley identifies as the "expression of [the] period's conventional theories about the nature and power of music" (14). Music was credited with the potential of generating beneficial or deleterious effects, bringing harmony to a disordered mind, balancing the humors or, conversely, inflaming the passions (31), the "dangerous doubleness of music," by turns martial or "'effeminate,'" emphasized by antitheatrical critics (45–47).

In "Music in Practice," Lindley examines the musical profession, with a lengthy and sometimes technical discussion of early instruments. The banter between Peter and the musicians in Romeo and Juliet (4.5.102–15) opens a discussion of the dubious social status of musicians and the expansion of secular music following the Reformation (63) and leads to an investigation of the many different kinds of music enjoyed in civic, religious, and household settings. The common musical experience of the time also included the divergent musical practices of theatrical venues, with trumpets and drums dominating the amphitheater and more and varied instruments in the indoor halls.

Part 2, "Music in Shakespeare's Plays," enlists these social and cultural contexts to interpret the performed music in the plays. From the semiotics of trumpets and drums in the histories, "Instrumental Music and Dance" proceeds to the music of the comedies, analyzing the "ambivalences and ambiguities" of the dances (134) and scenes of musical healing in The Winter's Tale and Pericles. In an extremely useful discussion of song, Lindley distinguishes between "'popular'" and "'art'" songs and between the "'performed'" song and the "'impromptu'" (141–42). Highlights of this chapter are his illuminating analyses of popular song in 2 Henry IV, Othello,Hamlet, King Lear, and The Winter's Tale and of formal song in Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida...


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