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COMPARATIVE Volume 34 No. 1 · Spring 2000 How Music Matters: Some Songs ofRobert Johnson in the Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher Catherine A. Heñze Musicke I say the most divine striker ofthe senses. — Sir Phillip Sidney, The Defence ofPoesie (1595) Music, according to Italian Renaissance philosopherMarsilio Ficino, "by its nature, both spiritual and material... at once seizes and claims as its own, man inhis entirety."1 Music is so powerfulin thedrama of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher that it becomes the direct onstage cause of an attempted murder and suicide, a marriage proposal to awhore, and an attempted gangrape2—aswell as numerous more subtle changes in the plays' actions. My argument in this paper is not that musicin Beaumont and Fletcher'splaysisbythe composer Robert Johnson— this is not new, although marginallyrecognized.3 Rather, evidencepoints to Johnson's intentionally composing music for the particular plays in which they occur,knowing the details ofthe dramas as he did so. Consequently , Johnson's songs are such an important element in the plays' ac- 2 Comparative Drama tions that ignoring them may lead to an impression that the plays are disjunctive. Beaumont and Fletcher's works contain so much music that some, at least, verge on being what we today call musicals—most notably The Knight ofthe BurningPestle. This paper focuses on the contributions of Johnson, not Beaumont and/or Fletcher (about whose authorship there is a long-standing dispute) by examining three of Johnson's songs in detail, within the context of ideology and technique in Renaissance music.4 When necessary to differentiate between Beaumont and Fletcher, I use Cyrus Hoy's attribution scheme.5 There are songs in both of the dramas that Beaumont wrote alone, TheKnightoftheBurningPestle and TheMasque oftheInner Templeand Gray's Inn. Likewise,all ofthe fifteen plays that Fletcher wrote alone contain songs. Curiously, extant music is less prevalent in the BeaumontFletcher collaboration than in theplays theywrote singly. Ofthe thirteen plays of collaboration, seven contain songs, either formal art songs or popular tunes, distributed evenlyin scenes byBeaumont and byFletcher: Beggars' Bush, The Captain, The Coxcomb, Cupid's Revenge, Love's Cure, The Maid's Tragedy, and The Woman Hater. The only definitive original songs available from the plays ofcollaboration are those by Johnson. Many ofthe examples ofmusic's playing a seminal role in the action ofBeaumont and/or Fletcher's plays involve lust. Lelia's first song in The Captain is a case in point. Described in the list of characters as a "cunningwanton widow"6 in I.iii, Lelia tries unsuccessfullyto catch hersuitor Julio, who is both drawn to her charms but repulsed by her reputation. Lelia suggests marriage but Julio gasps, "Married to me?/ Is that your end?" (I.iii.268—69) and quickly departs.Thus far, Leliahas tried to capture Julio with her beauty, the sound ofher speakingvoice,and her sexual accessibility. These are clearly not enough. When he returns, she has a song prepared,7 Robert Johnson's "Away delights, goe seeke some other dwelling." (Example 1; see note 8 for a discussion ofeditorial practicefor this and subsequent songs.8) According to the style ofthe time, it would not have been uncommon for this and other songs to be highly embellished .9 Thewords alonecouldlead to an interpretationthatthesongis about Lelia's evoking pity for herself because Julio has recently been absent, and focuses on banishing delights. It serves to counter her well-deserved CatherineA. Henze m PÜ A Ne way de vera lights, gaine goe de seeke some o - ther lu - ding loveshall m w m W P? ^=ëEË dwel - ling, know me, ^ For I For I must will dye. dye: Fare And ÜÜ W well false Love, all those grief« thy tongue that thinke ver ver tel grow ling Lye me Shall ^mr r r "· r $b ?* Ji 33 af- rer lye. be as I. k)l\}· U For e - ver let For e-vcr will me restnow from thy I slcepe, while poore maids rir r r ¦' r r|6| PP id ^ smarts, cry, [Il 1 las,for pit-ty goe, And firetheir heartsThat lasfor pi-ty stay And letus dyewith Comparative Drama 16 ^ HH have been hard thee, men can to thee, not mocke...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 1-32
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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