The Mourning Bride "Music Has Charms To Soothe A Savage Breast"

William Congreve

"Music Has Charms To Soothe A Savage Breast"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The scene of Congreve's tragedy is Granada, one of the kingdoms of Old Spain. Almeria, a princess of Granada, dressed in mourning, bewails the fate of Anselmo, late king of Valencia, who has recently died and been buried in Granada as a captive. Almeria's sorrow and that of her chief attendant seem overly great, even though we learn that Anselmo had once had Almeria as his captive and had treated her as well as his own child, before losing a war to Granada and himself becoming a captive. In a dialogue between Almeria and Leonora, her chief attendant, we learn a little later the real cause of the intense sorrow: King Anselmo, her father's prisoner, was Almeria's father-in-law; Almeria and Alphonso, the Prince of Valencia, were secretly married. Alphonso is now presumed dead, drowned at sea. The quotation is the opening lines of the play, spoken by Almeria when music accompanying the opening curtain ceases.

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!