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Garrick's Incidental Lyrics: Supplementing, Not Supplanting Shakespeare LINDA R. PAYNE The name of David Garrick is today inextricably linked with that of Shakespeare, primarily because among the twenty-six Shakespeare plays which Garrick produced during his thirty-year management of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1747-1776), at least twelve were his own adaptations. His editing is now generally respected for its recov­ ery of Shakespeare from the Restoration travesties which used Shake­ spearean characters and plots with little appreciation for their original context. Yet one aspect of Garrick's adaptations that has received little at­ tention is their context—the way in which they made use of the eighteenth-century audience's taste for the "whole show" by includ­ ing additional songs not provided by Shakespeare, at least forty of which had lyrics written by Garrick himself. These songs deserve more study for the light they can shed on the Garrick success story. As pioneer Garrick scholar George Winchester Stone, Jr., has said, "without bucking the current of eighteenth-century taste, Garrick provided his contempories with a rather complete Shakespearian ban­ quet, a richer and purer one than their predecessors had enjoyed, and gradually helped to change that taste." Although his theatrical reputation is what endures, in his own time Garrick was also known for his song lyrics, not only in the theater, but 165 166 / PAYNE in the street, pub, and coffee house as well. For the theater alone, he composed lyrics to more than 106 songs for plays (his own or others), including ten primarily musical Garrick adaptations or original plays. Many of the lyrics were topical; they were often light, bantering, or satirical, and included love songs, drinking songs, pastorals, dirges, and epithalamia. He collaborated with the important English compos­ ers of his day, among them William Boyce, Thomas and Michael Arne, and John Christopher Smith, Jr. We might guess that Garrick put so much creative energy into the musical side of production not only be­ cause he wished to please his spectacle-hungry audience, but also be­ cause he considered music an intrinsic part of the dramatic effect he sought to achieve. This view is confirmed by a letter he wrote to his close friend, the music historian Dr. Charles Burney, referring to music as "that nice feeling of ye passions (without which everything in ye dramatic way will cease to entertain)."2 Given his own general practise as well as the demand of public taste for music and dance, it is not surprising that Garrick provided addi­ tional music for those Shakespeare plays that he adapted. He based his contributions to the periodic examination with all-sung English opera on A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Fairies, 1755) and The Tem­ pest (1756). In his landmark history, Burney could recollect "no En­ glish operas in which the dialogue was carried on in recitative, that were crowned with full success, except the Fairies, set by Mr. Smith in 1756, and Artaxerxes, by Dr. Arne in 1763."3 Although Garrick followed the eighteenth-century tradition of in­ terpolating new incidental songs into plays written by other play­ wrights, his additions were generally less wanton than the almost ludicrously unrelated bits of spectacle interrupting the course of many period plays. Biographers Stone and Kahrl say of his songs that "the intellectual content of many is slight, but one must bear in mind that the song quality depends on a context of music, play, and the­ atrical setting."4 A closer look at Garrick's incidental songs for the Shakespeare adaptations will illustrate his approaches to supplement­ ing the play text, as well as the relationship between the success of the song and the success of Garrick's characterization and fidelity to Shakespeare. The second edition (1758) of Garrick's adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra included a page of verse, headed with the note, "The Song at p. 39, being thought too short, an addition was made to it while the play was in rehearsal, and it is as follows."5 The song that follows has two stanzas of six lines each, an expansion of Shakespeare's one- Garrick's Incidental Lyrics I 167 stanza, six-line...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 165-181
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-20
Open Access
No
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