Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

Shakespeare and Music:

Boyd, Morrison Comegys. Elizabethan Music and Music Criticism. 1940, 1962. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Pub., 1973.

"In 1564 Mary Queen of Scots sent a trusted servant, Sir James Melville, on a diplomatic mission to her 'dearest sister, the Queen of England'" (10). The description of Elizabeth's self-esteem issues follows (10-12).

"In most English schools of the Elizabethan period music was probably not taught at all. It was early replaced by arithmetic in the curriculum for the smaller children, and was also crowded out in the grammar schools" (Boyd 14, citing Foster Watson, The English Grammar Schools to 1660: Their Curriculum and Practice, Cambridge: 1908, p. 212).

Boyd covers the highlights of church music, madrigals, songs, instrumental music, music on the stage, music theory, and other aspects of the field, often primarily listing key composers and offering short notes on them and their works. He defers to Fellowes regarding madrigals.

"the Puritan Prynne tells us that every play had music connected with it:

That which is always accompanied with effeminate lust-provoking Musicke is doubtless inexpedient and unlawfull unto Christians. But stage-plays are always accompanied with such Musicke. Therefore they are doubtless inexpedient and unlawfull unto Christians.
[Histriomastix, 1633] (189).

"Shakespeare knew his audience well, and it cannot be a coincidence that the two plays whose titles imply that he was giving it what it wanted contain the most songs. As You Like It and Twelfth Night, or What You Will contain no fewer than six songs each" (Cowling, qtd. in Boyd 191). TC, Much Ado, The Tempest, MND, Cymbeline mentioned, as well as Hamlet and Othello (191-192).

"Robert Johnson's settings of 'Full fathom five' and 'Where the bee sucks' from The Tempest may have been written for the first performance of the play" (192).

"Including Musica Transalpina, five sets of Italian madrigals were printed in England, all of them between 1588 and 1598" (206).

From the Dedication of Musica Transalpina (1588):

I had the hap to find in the hands of some of my good friends certaine Italian Madrigales translated most of them five yeeres agoe by a Gentleman for his private delight (as not long before certaine Napolitans had been englished by a verie honourable personage, and now a Councellour of estate, whereof I have seene some, but never possessed any). I asked the gentleman if I might publish them, but he always refused, saying 'That those trifles being but an idle man's exercise, of an idle subject, written onely for private recreation, would blush to be seene otherwise than by twilight, much more to be brought into the common view of all men. (209)

"The Elizabethan writers on music mentioned numerous continental composers of madrigals. Of these they esteemed Marenzio and the elder Ferrabosco most" (213).

Music Bibliography
Shakespeare Index