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80 Comparative Drama The writings I have cast away! But blessed he that stirs them not And lets the kind worm take the lot! (Var. Poems, 779). Waiting in the wings, so to speak, is a nearly complete set—albeit one not yet published—of the editions of the manuscripts of the plays, poems, prose, and family papers transcribed and commented upon by Irish, English, American, and Canadian scholars. As they gradually make their formal entrances, I suspect that the edited manuscripts of T h e P layer Q ueen will be one of the most frequently consulted in spite of the diffi­ culties surrounding their publication. VIRGINIA BARTHOLOME ROHAN F lorence, M assachusetts loAnna Dutka. M u sic in the E nglish M ystery P lays. Early Drama, Art, and Music, Reference Series, 2. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Pub­ lications, 1980. Pp. 171 + viii + 6 plates. $17.95 (paper $9.95). In a critic’s world, to tell a scholar that his book is interesting sounds like damnation with faint praise. loAnna Dutka’s M u sic in the English M ystery P lays is indeed interesting, and the reviewer’s use of the word is entirely honorable. To begin at the end, her bibliography is in its own right an adventure in materials where fields intersect. The research has been thorough, and the reader will appreciate the breakdown into cate­ gories so that editions can be found at a glance. Her descriptive catalogues of musical instruments, referenced to the plays where they are mentioned, and also her index of songs, are useful and informative. Each of these resources is accompanied by a commentary. The plates are well chosen and helpful. Dr. Dutka’s introduction is learned and generally well written. She has gone to the town records for evidences of musicians involved in productions of the English mystery plays, and she has pulled out a plum: musicians, it seems, were hired for performances, and they were well paid. This suggests that music had a part in the plays far more profes­ sional, and more important, than has been supposed. Dutka demonstrates that music was in fact used in highly technical ways that antedate our own employment of stage curtains, properties, and lighting: to open and close scenes, to mark entrances and exits, to create moods, and to predict action. She builds a strong case, moreover, for the probability that music, both sung and instrumental, was used more extensively than the manu­ scripts themselves reveal, and she argues effectively that cases which have been made for the absence of any music at all from some of the plays are not necessarily correct. She shows evidence, for example, that minstrels and other musicians were paid for performances in a Passion play of the smiths of Coventry, which is presumed to have been the Trial of Christ before Herod. It had been the received opinion, based on lack Reviews 81 of directions for music in manuscripts of the cycles of mystery plays in such cases, that there was no music when the Passion of Christ was acted. Indeed, one of Dutka’s main points is the fact that the manuscripts we possess are not exact witnesses to the actual performances of the plays. The precise ways in which music was actually used in any indi­ vidual performance may or may not be a matter of record. She notes the demands of a particular play and performance, the finances available at any given time, and the constantly changing notions of production as factors which would ensure that the use of music would not follow rigid patterns but would on the contrary be variable. These are reason­ able conclusions based on close examination of all the available evidence. The author has shown clearly that music in the English mystery plays, far from being embellishment as is widely assumed, was instead func­ tional. What kind of music might actually appear in any play is another matter. The musical modes each had its own ethos according to musical theory, but in theatre, practical considerations, rather than abstract, seem to have prevailed, one more illustration of music in functional use in these religious plays presented for secular...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 80-81
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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