Shakespeare and the Politics of Music
Publication Year: 2011
Music was a subject of considerable debate during the Renaissance. The notion that music could be interpreted in a meaningful way clashed regularly with evidence that music was in fact profoundly promiscuous in its application and effects. Subsequently, much writing in the period reflects a desire to ward off music's illegibility rather than come to terms with its actual effects. In Broken Harmony, Joseph M. Ortiz revises our understanding of music's relationship to language in Renaissance England. In the process he shows the degree to which discussions of music were ideologically and politically charged.
Offering a historically nuanced account of the early modern debate over music, along with close readings of several of Shakespeare's plays (including Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale) and Milton's A Maske, Ortiz challenges the consensus that music's affinity with poetry was widely accepted, or even desired, by Renaissance poets. Shakespeare more than any other early modern poet exposed the fault lines in the debate about music's function in art, repeatedly staging disruptive scenes of music that expose an underlying struggle between textual and sensuous authorities. Such musical interventions in textual experiences highlight the significance of sound as an aesthetic and sensory experience independent of any narrative function.
Published by: Cornell University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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List of Illustrations
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...long and enjoyable history. At Yale my interests in Renaissance literature and music were guided and nurtured by Annabel Patterson, Heather James, Cyrus Hamlin, and Jeremy lanni. Harold Bloom read and approved my ear-liest foray into the subject of music and Ovid in shakespeare. At Princeton my many discussions with Michael Goldman, Nigel smith, and Andrew ...
Introduction: Disciplining Music
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...as prescient as Portia in The Merchant of Venice. At the climax of the play’s famous casket scene, as Bassanio is about to choose the casket that holds her portrait, Portia commands a musical performance while deftly deconstruct-This is a remarkable moment, not least because it is one of the few in-stances in Shakespeare in which a description of music precedes a musical ...
1. Titus Andronicus and the Production of Musical Meaning
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Renaissance begins not with bees, but with birds. Martin Luther, in com-mending music’s ability to make nature comprehensible, cites birdsong as the best example of music that praises its divine Creator: “Music is still more wonderful in living things, especially birds, so that David, most musical of all kings and minstrel of God, in deepest wonder and spiritual exultation ...
2. “Her speech is nothing”: Mad speech and the Female Musician
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...particularly Ovidian play.1 Still, the allusions to Niobe and Hecuba in Ham-let point to powerful models of female grief, famous for their ability to evoke sympathy. Moreover, for both Niobe and Hecuba, grief is speech-less. Ovid’s Niobe is transformed into a marble statue whose only signs of mourning are the streams of water that flow continually from her face, while ...
3. Teaching Music: the Rule of Allegory
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...as Hortensio’s attempt to teach Katherine the lute in The Taming of the Shrew. The lesson, which happens offstage, is presented as a smaller version of the larger campaign in the play to tame Katherine and make her conform to prescribed models of feminine behavior: Baptista’s question to Hortensio—“Canst not break her to the lute?” (2.1.145)—calls to mind the breaking ...
4. Impolitic Noise: Resisting Orpheus from Julius Caesar to The Tempest
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...harmony is so ubiquitous in Renaissance England that it may be taken as a commonplace. In his archly conservative The Boke named The Governour (1531), for example, Sir Thomas Elyot firmly ties his program of political philosophy to the study of musica speculativa. Addressing the education of commende the perfecte understandinge of musike, declaringe howe ...
5. Shakespeare’s idolatry: Psalms and Hornpipes in The Winter’s Tale
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...ping up musica speculativa suggests the hollowness of universalizing notions of music. By repeatedly demonstrating that the Renaissance allegories of music and Ovid are allegories, in the service of specific political and cultural view-points, the plays and poems cultivate a profound skepticism about texts that profess to explain the true nature of music. At the same time, by emphasizing ...
6. The Reforming of Reformation: Milton’s A Maske
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...music, Milton’s comments on music and Scripture in the Prolusions and Areopagit-ica constitute a defense of allegory, based on a careful understanding of figura-tion. Just as the Bible represents divine truth elliptically or “darkly,” music—as it is understood and experienced by a human audience—has a figural relation to cosmological and divine knowledge, not a literal one. And while Milton ...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2011