Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 11659
Jacquelyn Fox-Good, Illinois Institute of Technology
Most recent criticism of The Tempest has insisted upon the play's "worldliness," its status as a production of an imperial culture that was—at just the time (1611) the play was written and first performed—colonizing islands like the one Prospero inhabits and subjecting natives like Caliban. As is now quite familiar, these readings foreground the play's ideological and historical contexts, which have both "written" the play and "been written" by it. This emphasis is a crucial value of this approach, which must be seen, at least, as an interrogation of the long-dominant "idealist readings" of the play and of Prospero "as an exemplar of timeless human values," of the "profit" of language, "civilization," forgiveness, all of which finally achieve (in this humanist vision) "a harmoniously reconciled new world" (italics mine).1
"Harmony" (and related musical metaphors like "concord" and "resolution") occur frequently in such humanist readings, and may even epitomize—by virtue of their "idealism" and apparent "aestheticism"—the kinds of assumptions most subject to ideological critique. According to a colonialist reading, interpreting the play with such metaphors amounts to complicity in the play's strategic "effacement" and "euphemisation" of Prospero's power. Paul Brown, whom we might take as representative of the colonialist position, argues that The Tempest's music mystifies and thus tacitly justifies Prospero's power over his subjects, drawing an aesthetic veil over his colonial "project." According to Brown, the play's use of "harmonious music to enchant, relax, and restore," along with its "observation of the classical unities" and its "constant reference to pastoral," underline the play's "aesthetic and disinterested, harmonious and nonexploitative representation of power."2
It is The Tempest's music that I wish to foreground and investigate in this essay, and it seems useful to begin by noting that music has been rendered subordinate by the two most prominent threads of critical treatment of the play. Humanism conflates "harmony" and music with social "concord" and reconciliation; new historicist/materialist readings make the same conflation but are critical of it, regarding music in its presumed "aestheticism" as a colonialist tool for masking and reproducing the dominant discourse.
At the heart of both arguments lies a naive claim about music, one that has only recently come under scrutiny, even within the academic study of music, where one might expect to find such scrutiny undertaken. Susan McClary, a musicologist who has been at work to develop a feminist criticism of music, would say that it is especially within the academic disciplines of music scholarship (history, theory, ethnomusicology) that such scrutiny has failed to develop, the result of tight "disciplinary" and ideological "control" over the study of music.3 Until very recently, none of these disciplines within music scholarship had seriously raised any questions about musical signification.4 Music has been analyzed structurally, its "history" told chronologically and positivistically, but it has generally been assumed to float free of its historical contexts, to be transhistorical, transcendent (a "universal language"), so meaningful as to be inscrutable, meaningless.
These assumptions about Western music in general have of course been manifest in criticism of music in Shakespeare. The "reading" (hearing) of Shakespeare's music that I shall argue for in this essay developed initially as a response to the inadequacy of the critical response to Shakespeare's music that has prevailed—in literary criticism and music scholarship—for most of this century. A brief outline of these responses will suggest not only the critical context for my own argument but will reveal some of the assumptions (or failure to recognize assumptions) that this essay will critique. Music—and particularly music in drama—has been insufficiently theorized; I will offer some theoretical observations here, using them as the basis for some new ways of hearing Shakespeare's music, particularly in The Tempest.5
Shakespeare's music has by no means been ignored; it has, rather, long been the topic of much literary and music scholarship. In addressing music in Shakespeare, however, literary critics have made two basic errors. First, they have regarded Shakespeare's songs not as music but chiefly as poems, more noticeable, perhaps, but as mainly continuous with Shakespeare's written texts. Shakespeare's songs are routinely anthologized as poems; if the music of the songs appears at all in printed editions of the plays it generally does so only in appendices. Critics who avoid this first difficulty usually fall into the second: they consider the songs as music, but music not enacted but abstracted, as an idea, and one that always connotes or symbolizes essentially the same things or performs the same function. The materiality of music dissolves, is made to point to a transcendent signified. Thus W. H. Auden, in an influential interpretation, says Shakespeare uses instrumental music "as an auditory image of a supernatural or magical world."6 Similarly, music is often said to denote a feeling like joy or peace or, most commonly, a concept metaphorically associated with music. This concept is summarized in the word "harmony" (variously articulated, as in musical/spiritual/political/social/cosmological harmony) and sometimes appears in other terms that employ musical metaphors, such as personal "resolution" and social "concord." Thus in a 1965 book, Clifford Leech concludes that the music of Feste's final songs in Twelfth Night counteracts its "negative" images ("tosspots and their drunken heads"). Although the song offers, he says, a "painful narration," "we leave the theatre with a tune in our ears, and the harmony of Twelfth Night is after a fashion maintained."7
It is this simplistic equation of music with "harmony" that enables different critics to offer virtually identical comments about different songs in different plays. A song's words may be about happiness, sadness, love or pain or loss, but such states are invariably either undercut or reinforced by the song's always "harmonious" music. Thus, Charles Frey, writing nearly twenty years after Leech, can say that all the songs in As You Like It
are dialectical in that, on the one hand, against leisure and love, they admit rough weather and faithlessness but, on the other, they are all occasions for merriment. . . . Despite winter, feigning friendships, foolish loves, the songs insist [partly through their "lyric art"] that "This life is most jolly. . . . "
Frey sees the centrality of song in the play as one aspect of its larger movement toward reconciliation, the "possibility of harmonizing a shifting of likings" (italics mine).8
Interpreting Shakespeare's music as a univocal symbol, frequent in response to the comedies, has been even more insistent in response to the last plays, where the significance of "harmony" appears to expand from the social into the supernatural realm, and where music on stage is heard as "music of the spheres," the earthly register of divinity. As Shakespeare's "most musical" play, The Tempest is clearly the best case in point. G. Wilson Knight found in the play the key polarities around which he organized his long-influential book, The Shakespearean Tempest (1932). In all of Shakespeare's plays, he argues, the tempest (symbolizing disorder) opposes music (symbolizing order), which is invariably "harmonious" and "positive."9 In a 1958 essay, John P. Cutts, a major contributor to the scholarship on music in Shakespeare, particularizes this view: The Tempest's music is "equivalent to music of the spheres" heard on a "golden-age island. . . . , where strife and friction are allayed and everything is wrapped in a serene air of celestial harmony."10 As David Lindley has pointed out more recently, despite
the general revaluation of The Tempest which has seen the older view of it as a celebration of reconciliation replaced by a critical consensus stressing its inconclusiveness, ambiguity and doubt, the music has consistently been accepted as imaging and enacting ideals of harmony and concord, whether or not those ideals are finally attained.11
As I have already suggested, little has changed in what there is of music scholarship on Shakespeare, either. The major contributors mainly emphasize bibliography and history, about which they have provided much crucial information (about sources, manuscripts, instrumentation, use in the theater), but they offer limited and relatively unsophisticated commentary on music's dramatic function within the plays. 12 Critics who strive for a more interdisciplinary approach, a more markedly "literary" criticism of the play's music, take so broad a view that they are unable to say much in detail about particular songs or plays.13
Against the view of Shakespeare's music as transhistorical, transcendent, univocal, more signified than signifying, more soul than body, I take a different theoretical approach. This approach is informed by a body of related theoretical work: by Roland Barthes's theories of signification in music and, more fundamentally, by the response of French feminism and post-colonialism to music as (an)other discourse, a language constituted in the "wild zone" occupied by a "muted" group (that of the female or racial other). 14 The view I develop here has partly derived from but also suggests a reading of The Tempest. It presents a new way of understanding the effects of its music and also of assessing several of the play's most problematic aspects, including the extent of Prospero's power and his relation to Ariel and Caliban.
In basic outline, my premises are these. Music is, in general, a construction of (and itself participates in constructing) the sociocultural order of which it is a part. It is, in complex ways, representational, and by means (style, texture, harmony, rhythm) that can be described, although such description should not be reductive, should not give the impression that music is transparent or can be "fixed" by the word. Thus I presuppose not that music expresses feeling but that it is "expressive of it."15 Such feeling as music is expressive of is affiliated, especially in the Renaissance, with specifically sexual feeling, desire, eroticism, the body. Music, particularly vocal music, gathers this expressiveness in part from its mode of production, which may be writing but is mainly performance, embodiment. Music's expressive capacity is inflected, moreover, by a range of contexts, a range that must obviously be extended when music is heard within a nonmusical ("literary") text.
These premises can be distilled to two essential emphases: first, music's materiality, its sounds, and second, music's expressive capacities. These suggest to me that music is a "signifying process," in Julia Kristeva's complex sense, a sense useful in this context because Kristeva invokes music in order to articulate it. That is to say: Music must itself be regarded as a kind of "language"—subject to the Law of the Father, to what Kristeva calls (following Lacan) the Symbolic Order. Yet music, nevertheless, more nearly approximates (and is more porous, more open to) the instinctual drives organized in/by the semiotic order, or the chora, which is nonverbal, prelinguistic, non-expressive, "full of movement," yet articulated, "regulated" by the body of the mother.16 Kristeva borrows "chora" (Gk. for "enclosed space" or "womb") from Plato (Timaeus,) but the word of course also bears musical associations ("chorus"; "chord") with it; Kristeva defines the chora partly by analogy with music: "the chora is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm."17 Music, then, does not "float" in an endless play of signifiers, nor does it simply point to a transcendent signified. Rather, it (especially vocal music) passes through a voice, a body, one shaped and constructed—like music itself—by dramatic, political and cultural contexts.
The music that "passes through" the "air" of The Tempest helps explain why anyone who has seen even a mediocre performance of the play has felt what can be loosely described as its "atmosphere." Indeed, reference to this atmosphere, and attempts to characterize it, amount to something like a standard feature of Tempest criticism, especially in its precolonialist phase. Hazlitt wrote that the play "had the wildness of a dream";18 Coleridge called it "this almost miraculous drama"19—a mood captured more recently by Michael Goldman in the play's own language, as the "strange and wonderful Tempest."20 Colonialist readings of the play also acknowledge these qualities, although of course not to valorize but to expose them, as part of a "strategy by which sovereign power might at once be praised and effaced as power in a colonialist discourse."21
"Atmosphere"—dreamlike, magical, and thereby either wonderful or tyrannical or the latter by means of the former—is central to the experience of this play, and music is, and was for Shakespeare, too, one of the essential means of producing that atmosphere. As is well known, Shakespeare's stage, although it relied on various means of visual representation (costume, properties) employed little or no scenery, so that what one "saw" depended a great deal on what one heard in the "infinite variety" of Shakespeare's language. Music must have been for Shakespeare a highly effective means of dramatizing the atmosphere The Tempest requires. At court, where the play was first performed in 1611, he certainly possessed the means of producing the music he wished to use.22 More importantly, he could use music to give to his play's atmosphere a more material presence than his flexible stage or his language alone could provide, yet not so much materiality as to limit or falsify what the language did want audiences to imagine.
In any case, considering music in its theatrical context requires an emphasis on its materiality. As I have already made clear, however, what has been advanced, instead, has been its supposed transcendence and immateriality. To some extent, this view has followed from the fact that for the Elizabethans, music was, at least in part, "transcendent." It functioned as a potent symbol, a component of the complex ancient traditions of Plato and Pythagoras and later of Boethius. These traditions do read music as harmony, within and between the heavens ("music of the spheres"), the elements (musica mundana,) and the body and soul (musica humana) and as possessing—by means of its connection to the divine—emotional effects and curative powers.23
But The Tempest radically deconstructs this kind of musical symbolism by several means, which I shall explore in the middle sections of this essay. It does so, first, through the particular ways in which characters and stage directions refer to and describe music in the play; secondly, through the play's actual songs (words and music);24 third, by means of the space music occupies in the text; and finally, through the broad, often contradictory range not just of philosophical meanings but also of sociocultural constructions and practices of music. These meanings still resonate for twentieth-century listeners and have been articulated and deepened by post-structuralist theory, particularly by the responses of French feminism (especially those of Kristeva and Hélène Cixous) to music and song.
There is indeed much music in The Tempest, including Stephano's "scurvy tunes" (2.2.45-52) and Caliban's freedom song (2.2.175-182),25 Ariel's "songs" (2.1.375-87; 397-406), his "solemn music" (2.1.183) and "music and song" (2.1.298), and his tune played on tabor and pipe (3.3.123); the singing of goddesses (4.1.106-7); various instances of "solemn" and "strange music" (2.1.183; 3.3.22) or "soft music" (3.3.83 and 4.1.58) or "heavenly music" (5.1.52). Much of the music comes to the human characters mysteriously; they hear it distinctly but often cannot say where it originates. The characters do, however, suggest how the music sounds: it seems frequently, as in Ariel's first song ("Come Unto These Yellow Sands") to come "dispersedly," from all over the stage/island (1.2.382, 384), eliciting Ferdinand's questions: "Where should this music be? I'th'air, or i'th'earth?" (1.2.388-89). The characters frequently describe the island's music simply as "sound" (1.2.406) or "noise" (2.1.324) or "humming" (2.1.315). Caliban's description is the most memorable and expressive: "Be not afeard," he tells Stephano and Trinculo,
the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ear; and sometime voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
Caliban's description is elusively suggestive, but at least one thing it should make clear is that The Tempest' s music is not simply, as so many have said, harmonious, the "very symbol of order."26 For one thing, this conclusion would seem to require that the play end with a consort (or some similar enactment of "harmony"). It does not; indeed, for so musical a play, music is apparently absent at its close. But even if these distinctions between "harmony" or "concord" and "discord" are not pressed into claims about the play's harmonious ending, they remain too simple to account for the felt experience of music in the play. The island's music is pleasing, "marvelous sweet," (3.3.19) and often "harmonious" (4.1.119); it frequently crystallizes into recognizable forms—"ditties," tunes," and "solemn airs." The pun spoken by Ferdinand and by Caliban—"sweet airs"—connects music in the form of "airs" with the air itself. Thus, the island's music is in part what makes Adrian feel that "the air breathes upon us here most sweetly" (2.1.49), and this sweet "air" can also assume the shape of "airs," the songs Ariel sings and the "solemn music" Prospero sometimes commands. Yet the play's music is chiefly characterized not by order but by dispersion. Most often, it is not orchestrated or given form; rather, it is everywhere, seeming to constitute the very air of the island.
What makes music, especially song, a medium particularly suited for these effects of dispersion, shiftiness, explosiveness is suggested in Roland Barthes' discussion of singing (music and language) in his "The Grain of the Voice" (1972) and The Pleasure of the Text (1973). In trying to conceive an "aesthetic of textual pleasure," Barthes invents a category he calls "writing aloud," which is "not expressive" (not, that is, in the "service of communication, representation") but is carried by the "grain of the voice," an "erotic mixture of timbre and language." What Barthes hears in the grain is "the articulation of the body, of the tongue, not that of meaning, of language," but of materiality and sensuality. In such "writing"/hearing, the signified is "shifted" a great distance, and the "anonymous body of the actor is thrown into [Barthes's] ear."27 The grain is, for Barthes, a "dual production" of language and music, and it is just this duality, or rather the space, the site where its parts encounter or rub against each other, that produces significance, jouissance.28
Barthes helps shift attention to the "playing" of music, to how it sounds (not to what it "means" or "says") and to how it makes the hearer feel. And as we shall see, this emphasis on the body, on the voluptuousness of the signifiers and the erotic relation between singer and hearer does a great deal to account for our response to the material "sounds and sweet airs" of The Tempest, to the music that composes and decomposes itself in the island's "sweet air."
Our response derives not only from the way music is described in the play but from the songs themselves. An excellent example is Ariel's "Full Fathom Five," the play's most famous song and one of only two in the play for which original music survives and which thus allows us to consider its musical effects.
Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
(Burden) Ding dong.
Hark, now I hear them, ding dong bell.29
The song has been read as a virtual epigraph for the play, a summary of Shakespeare's chief thematic preoccupations, with suffering, change, rebirth.30 Heard not just as words but as words and music and voice, however, the song has more complex effects. In what follows here, I hope to suggest how the song exemplifies the "dispersed" or multivalent quality that characterizes so much of the play's music, in a way that begins to suggest what the effects of this dispersion might be.
David Lindley has argued that "Full Fathom Five" catches us in a "double response" between our awareness of music's "emblematic significance" in Renaissance drama—its potential for pointing to a Platonic "truth"—and our awareness that the words of the song are untrue (Alonso is not really dead). Music symbolizes truth; the song's words are untrue. Thus the song makes us conscious (in Lindley's words) "of the compromise with truth that Prospero's designs necessitate."31 There is more than doubleness here, how ever, and it arises not from a contradiction between verbal untruth and musical truth but from the complex interplay of feelings created by the song's words and actual music.
Johnson's song begins decisively in G major (with five iterations of the tonic note in the first two measures), lending it a full, open quality not suggestive of trouble or death. Its rhythms move smoothly, not heavily; as its words speak of death, it remains steady and soothing. The song begins also to speak not just of death but of change, and although the effects of this change are to depersonalize and dehumanize Alonso ("father" becomes "bones" become "coral"), they are also to render him beautiful, like pearls, "rich and strange." It is the song's music that enacts and seems to provide a medium for this transformation, pulling against the verbal statements of death and stasis (however lovely its forms). It does this by moving within and against its own formal harmonic constraints. In the fourth measure, ("of his bones") the melody seems to be shifting its ground to D, moving from the tonic to a secondary dominant to the dominant ("made" in m. 5), thereby suggesting a brief tonicization of the dominant key (D Major) before the next two measures continue in G. The allusion to D (m. 4) would amount to little, but it recurs; measure 5's "nothing of him," which begins in G, then again suggests D major, this time more strikingly (by means of the sharp-# in the melody). The more substantial shift here creates the expectation that the song has modulated to the dominant key, a modulation that coincides with the apotheosis of Alonso into coral and pearls. The song's next section (m. 10-18) begins again in G, but then introduces chords that sound, especially to modern ears, first like part of G but then like C Major.32 What results, however it is described, is a striking harmonic change, even more so because it sounds at precisely the moment that Ariel sings of suffering a "sea change."
The music of "Full Fathom Five" partly enacts, and so elaborates, interprets, and extends the song's words; but it also pulls against them—that is, it differentiates the experience of the song from its words alone. Although both words and music make "assertions" about death and transformation, the words seem to define transformation primarily as what moves us from bones to coral, eyes to pearls, what precedes or leads us from death to another kind of finality. But the music seems rather to catch us up in the process of transformation, as something opposed to finality, as an "end" (without end) in itself, and not merely as a means to an end. The song's music does not refer to or summarize "sea change" but rather enacts it (melodically/harmonically) involving the hearer in that process with more immediacy.33
The song's words and music can be said to create a multivalence of feeling that is not resolved (something Coleridge called a "hovering between images"), suspending us in a gap, of the kind Barthes seems to have in mind when he writes of "displacing the fringe of contact between music and language."34 The song's words emphasize death, intensify and beautify its finality; its music enacts transformation, change, possibility. "Full Fathom Five" sings about "sea change"; it is itself, by means of its music, a kind of sea change, inhabiting a middle realm, in neither air nor earth, but in the sea Ariel is singing about—a liminal, fluid, shifting medium with continuous potential for change and rebirth.
This hearing of music as "dispersed," even fragmented, as a locus of instability, complicates significantly the account of music's function in The Tempest. First, it particularizes the point I have already made about music's offering Shakespeare a means to constitute his play's "atmosphere." The play's particular kind of music, which is "dispersed" and "humming" and then takes formal shape as an "air" or "ditty," is one powerful reification of a world in which all manner of things—spirits, banquets, goddesses—take shape and then disperse, seem present then absent, appear and disappear at will.
The will in question, of course, is presumably that of Prospero, for whom music also serves a complex function. The play's "humming" sometimes seems an externalization of the "beating" (4.1.164) of Prospero's mind. Beyond this, many have regarded the play's music chiefly as the expression and the instrument of Prospero's power. This seems a curious statement, however, for although he sometimes "commands" or "requires" music, Prospero never performs or sings it himself. And although this might be taken as more evidence of his mastery (his power to enslave others to perform his "work(s)"), it nevertheless means that music is not wholly identified with him, but inhabits a separate space, possesses, perhaps, a separate "identity."
It does so by two means. First, the songs, as music, possess a substantive difference from the verbal text that surrounds them. This difference frequently generates the impression that songs and music exist in the margins (or between the lines) of this and others of Shakespeare's plays. (Music did often serve in medieval and early modern drama as or as part of an "interlude.") This effect is powerfully reinforced by the marginal status of those who usually sing: in his earliest plays, Shakespeare usually brings on stage singers who serve only that role, who are not characters more fully implicated in his plots. Even later, as this practice begins to shift, songs are still more frequently sung by "others"—by women (Desdemona, Ophelia), fools (Lear's, Touchstone, Feste), spirits (Puck, Ariel), servants/slaves (Caliban). It is in part this marginality that enables these voices to exert the pressure of critique, even subversion, against the dominant even oppressive "central" figures in these plays (Othello/Lear/Prospero, for example). What results is a "marginal discourse"; The Tempest's music, dispersed, fluid, marginal, approximates Kristeva's conception of the semiotic chora, a conception that can further clarify its function, especially in relation to Prospero. Music is "a jouissance which breaks the symbolic chain, the taboo, the mastery," which resists, finally defies, Prospero's attempts (in the drama that often seems his monologue) to appropriate, control, or repress it.
Yet Shakespeare's music gathers subversive energy not only from its marginal position in the text but also from the fact that it is music, given the way in which music's substance and meaning have been so consistently constructed in the Western tradition. In this construction we can glimpse one reason that Shakespeare's singers are female or feminized—for song and music are themselves thought to be of a "feminine nature." As Susan McClary and others have observed, Western music shares with women a social construction of "irrationality" and the either divine (ineffable) and/or bestial (mad, unreasonable, or unreasoning) status which that irrationality confers. Such irrationality, of course, is irrevocably bound to the body, making music, like women, dangerously erotic and seductive.
This bond between music, women, and the body was especially strong and explicit in the English Renaissance. Recent Renaissance scholarship has become increasingly interested in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Puritan anti-theatrical tracts, full of warnings about the dangerous seductiveness of the theatres, which were rife with eroticism and seductive temptations to sin—off stage, in an audience that included women, and on stage, in boy actors whose female disguises violated biblical injunctions against crossdressing and titillated male viewers with a disturbing homoerotic appeal.35
But additionally, these writers regarded the theaters as the sites of numerous moral dangers—"dicing, dancing, plays, and interludes"36—and of those who performed them—"poets, pipers, players and jesters."37 Among these dangers, music may have posed the most insidious threat, because it possessed, in Stephen Gosson's characterization, for example, the most "goodly outside." For Gosson, music's beauty and its "right use" reside in a Platonic idea[l] which has become disfigured in the process of "descending," both epistemologically (from essence to existence) and historically (from ancient purity to modern "abuses"). Regarding epistemology: they who wish to profit well in the "arte of musicke" will not debase it (or themselves) by wrenching it from the metaphysical into the physical realm, but "shut [their] fidels in their cases and looke up to Heaven""40
the order of the spheres, the infallible motion of the planets, the juste course of the yeere, the varietie of the seasons, the concorde of the elements and their qualities . . . concurring together to the constitution of earthly bodies, and sustenaunce of every creature.38
And regarding history: the ancients (Chiron, Homer, Apollo) practice "right musicke," "perfect harmony";39 the moderns have broken the ancient rules, exceeded all bounds, "coin[ed] strange precepts."40
To represent the fall of music Gosson introduces the example of "Phaerecrates, a comicall poet," who personifies (modern) Musicke as a woman "with her clothes tattered, her fleshe torne, her face deformed, her whole bodie dismembered." When Justice asks her "howe she came in that plight," she replies that
Melanippides, Phrynis, Timotheus and such fantastical heads had so disfigured her lookes, defaced her beautie, so hacked her and hewed her, and with many siringes given her so many woundes, that she is stricken to death, in daunger to peryshe.41
The figure itself (of music as woman), along with the rape implied by its use in this passage, suggests the dense matrix within which music and woman are bound, including of course the "woman's partfs]," both her sexuality and her emotion. First, music is itself a temptation, especially to women, for whom Gosson expresses particular concern, not only because "[they] are citizens," but also "because [they] are weake."42 In one part of the book, Gosson directly addresses the "gentlewomen" in his audience, for fear that in going to the theater, they will be corrupted, seduced, lose "credit."43 Yet "woman" is simultaneously endangered, ("weake") and the danger itself. She is the hearer whom music can tempt, and she is Music "herself," a repository of ideal virtue and beauty that has been "defaced," ravished because it/she is beautiful. That which chiefly defines, gives value to woman—her sexuality—makes her, at once, powerless (able to be seduced) and dangerously powerful (able to seduce and destroy virtue, including her own). Women and "female nature" or qualities, then, are not just likened to but located within the deadly, seductive center of music, which thereby becomes as well, both effeminate and feminizing. "Plutarch complayneth," reports Gosson,
that ignorant men, not knowing the majestie of auncient musicke, abuse both the eares of the people, and the arte it selfe, with bringing sweet comfortes into the Theaters, which rather effeminate the mind as prickes unto vice, then procure amendement of maners as spurres to vertue (italics mine).44
Thus in what Barthes calls the "grain"—"the body in the voice as it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it performs"45—and in which he takes his (erotic) pleasure, these Renaissance moralists also feel this physical, sexual power. But they account it, like "Woman," dangerous.
In The Tempest this context lends additional significance to Ferdinand's response to Ariel's first songs. As so often in Shakespeare, the death (symbolic or real) of a parent permits the transfer and transformation of a character's affection to a lover, involving, not least of course, the awakening of sexual desire. Ariel's songs, especially "Full Fathom Five," are both the occasion and the impetus for this awakening in Ferdinand, an awakening that is polarized, like music, between the divine and the sensual. The song seems at first to "allay" his "passion," leading him to think it is "no mortal business" (1.2.406) and that Miranda is "the goddess / On whom these airs attend": but it also incites (or least coincides with) his sexual desire for Miranda, his "wondering" about her status not only as a goddess but also as a mortal, sexual being, a "maid" and a "virgin" (1.2.448).
More significantly, despite the impression the text may give that the play's songs are sung by a disembodied voice (an "invisible" Ariel), they are, rather—in performance—nearly always sung by the "airy spirit" that the audience can see. (M. C. Bradbrook notes the use on the Elizabethan stage of special costumes to signify a character's invisibility 46 ; in my own experience of seeing performances of this play, attempts to make Ariel more "spiritlike" or "airy"—by costuming him in dance leotards or see-throughy gauze—usually produce the contrary effect, of making him seem all the more physical and bodily.) In any case, the overall result is that nearly all of The Tempest' s songs are sung not by a disembodied but by an embodied voice; and the body is that of an "asexual boy,"47 or, rather, of a body whose indeterminate gender feminizes "him,"48 affiliates him more nearly with the female body.49 What strengthens this affiliation, as Orgel observes, is that all the roles played by Ariel (for Prospero) are feminine ones: sea nymph, harpy, Ceres.50
This means that the songs and music in this play occupy not just a textual but also a physical, even sexual space, one that is separate and also different from the space occupied and controlled by Prospero. Although music may appear to be an expression and instrument of Prospero's power and is one of the many things he attempts to "require" (5.1.51) control, and command,51 music and sound exceed his grasp, constitute a significant constraint upon, even a sub-version of his considerable power. We may further understand the workings of this process by two means, which are linked in the way that both have been used, especially by recent readers and rewriters of The Ternpest, to speculate about what is missing from, suppressed or subjected in the play: the absent mother of Miranda (Prospero's absent wife), and the colonized other (Caliban). For both, music becomes a means of figuring, if in a ghostly, decomposed, "humming" way, what is dead, absent, suppressed, and of giving voice to it, to what remains (like "woman" in Western culture) outside representation.52
A suggestive way to theorize this connection in The Tempest (between music and an apparently absent female or maternal body) is suggested by French Feminism, specifically in Hélène Cixous's account of l'écriture feminine. She defines this, in one instance, as writing that privileges the voice, whose source is the mother, the maternal body, a nameless voice which Cixous nevertheless names as "a song before the Law, before the breath [le souffle] was split by the symbolic, reappropriated into language under the [phallogocentric] authority that separates."53 For Cixous, the song both flows from and is the mother's body; this Voice is the fluid(s) that flow from that body: "Voice: inexhaustible milk."54 This description conjoins the feminized singer of The Tempest's songs with the dispersed, fluid quality of those songs, by which means they become strongly suggestive of what Coppélla Kahn has termed "the maternal subtext" located beneath (or alongside) the "patriarchal structures" on the "surface" of the text. What Kahn locates as the "psychological presence of the mother [in the text] whether or not mothers are literally represented as characters"55 becomes manifest in The Tempest and in Prospero in a number of ways. To be clear, I should emphasize that I speak here not specifically of Prospero's mother (or even only of his wife, whose absence from the play is conspicuous) but in Kahn's more general sense of the Mother, whose psychological, social and biological functions constitute her power, a power patriarchal Renaissance culture sought to control and to bring into the service of lineage and primogeniture.
In this play, Prospero works, in effect, to "reconceive"56 both his child and himself, by means of appropriating the female (pro)creative act of childbearing, labor, delivery. He praises Miranda for helping him to endure his suffering at sea. "Thou didst smile," he tells her,
Infused with a fortitude from heaven,
When I have decked the sea with drops full salt,
Under my burden groaned, which raised in me
An undergoing stomach, to bear up
Against what should ensue. (italics mine)
Stephen Orgel and Janet Adelman have similarly interpreted Prospero's appropriation, one driven in part by the common suspicion about women's infidelity, which Prospero invokes obliquely in this same scene to assure Miranda that he is her father: "Thy mother," he says, "was a piece of virtue" (1.2.56) It would have been more likely, this implies, that she was not. This anxiety about women's virtue receives its fullest expression in the representation of Sycorax, the play's evil mother, now dead, yet alive in Prospero's memory, an embodiment of "all the negative assumptions about women that he and Miranda have exchanged."57 Prospero's attempt to become and (as Adelman reads the play) to control the Mother,58 then, depends upon his demonizing and banishing her (as Sycorax) from the island. Kahn, Orgel, and Adelman all address the inevitable failure of such control, but they find this failure at the play's end, when Lear (like Prospero) must weep "women's weapons—water drops" (King Lear, 2.4.279) and when Prospero (like Lear) must yield to the "women's emotions"—forgiveness, kindness, "virtue"—that those tears signify. Yet the failure to suppress or control the female, or, rather, her irrepressible power, manifests itself throughout The Tempest. Miranda's mother is powerfully absent partly because the Mother is struggling to be present, her presence displaced onto Prospero's childbirth metaphor; fragmented into the "four or five women" that Miranda remembers once "tended [her]" (1.2.47); dissolved into the fluids—tears, tempest, sea—so central to the experience of this play, into the medium of music and song, the maternal voice, that beats and hums in the island's air.
Given this emphasis on the maternal, the most significant song Ariel sings (the original music for which does not survive) and the most significant role he plays may be that of Ceres in the masque. Ceres is of course the primal mother, goddess of nature and fertility, who here sings of
Earth's increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines with clust'ring bunches growing,
Plants with goodly burden bowing;
Spring come to you at the farthest,
In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you;
Ceres' blessing so is on you.
Ceres is, as Prospero tells Ferdinand, one of the "spirits, which by mine art / I have from their confines called to enact / My present fancies" (4.1.119-20). The interruption of the masque by Prospero's sudden memory of the "beast Caliban" 's "conspiracy" has usually been understood to suggest the failure of Prospero's art to construct a barrier against "reality" or his own failure as he again (as in Milan) becomes too "rapt in secret studies" (1.2.77) to attend to "government" in the political realm.
But Prospero's masque—as it in effect reconstitutes the Mother in the figure of Ceres and in the medium of song—is not dissolved by "outside realities" but from internal pressures: although he "calls" upon Ceres, her power exceeds his rational, artistic control, both the "confines" in which he has held her and the art by means of which he now tries to represent her. She has come to bestow a marriage blessing, yet she also speaks of having undergone precisely the experience that Prospero is here attempting to prevent, partly by means of the masque itself: the seduction and abduction of a daughter, the result in Ceres's case of a "plot" by Venus and Cupid. The word "plot" (4.1.88) uttered by Ceres during the masque is reiterated by Prospero when he refers (as the masque dissolves fifty lines later) to the "plot" of Caliban. The two plots are linked by the "beastliness" of appetite, desire and lust. The masque, then, cannot enable Prospero to overcome his anxiety about Miranda's sexuality or to forget Caliban and his conspiracy; rather, it ensures that he remembers them. And what presses in upon Prospero here is less the "plot" itself and more what drives it: the body, which here most obviously assumes the "deformed shape" of the "beast Caliban." The body of the "beast" is linked with that of the female, by this scene, and more fundamentally by sound.
The character in the play who most loudly sings against Prospero and his power to suppress or subjugate is the slave Caliban. Rereadings of the play, and various rewritings from the point of view of Caliban, have within the last couple of decades made Prospero and Caliban an almost standard trope59 of colonization, "figures portrayed as self-and-other, the West and the Rest of Us, the rationalist and the debunker, the colonizer and the indigenous."60 What in text has given these writers a position from which to respeak or rewrite Caliban's story is in part his position in relation to Prospero, who subjects him by means of paternalism, assumptions of racial superiority, linguistic conversion, "art," and violence. Yet although Caliban has learned Prospero's language (his "profit on't is [he] know[s] how to curse"), it is not only within the discourse of colonialism that Caliban can speak. He possesses an(other) language of his own, as well: music. It is Caliban's distinctive sound, the grain of his voice, that empowers him in ways even Prospero cannot subjugate.
Caliban's experience and knowledge of music include not only the "sweet airs" that Ariel sings but also the island's more unmediated pre- and extra-linguistic "sounds" and "noise," the humming of its "twangling instruments," its "voices." It is partly this knowledge of his native place that enables Caliban to exceed the limits or constraints of his subjected status. For Caliban's world thereby possesses what Stephen Greenblatt has called "opacity," Shakespeare's acknowledgement of "independence and integrity" in "Caliban's construction of reality."61 Greenblatt finds this quality in the words Caliban uses;62 I locate it, rather, in the sounds (among them musical ones) that he makes and that he understands or is "in tune" with.
Caliban's distinctive sound is one he possessed when he was "his own king" and that he does not relinquish even when he knows Prospero's language, which he then uses in order to curse his master. This sound, then, is clearly separate from Prospero, as seems demonstrated partly by the way in which Caliban plans to overthrow Prospero, not just politically but linguistically—telling Stephano first to "possess his books," the play's metonym not only for Prospero's art and cunning but for language, the word itself. Without Prospero's language, Prospero will be "but a sot as [Caliban is]," but Caliban's sound will persist: after Caliban soothes Stephano's fear of the island's sound, Stephano is pleased to discover that he shall "have [his] music for nothing." "When Prospero is destroyed" (3.3.150-51), replies Caliban. When Prospero is destroyed, music shall remain.
Caliban's sound is thus not merely "opaque" and selfpreservative in Greenblatt's sense but is also a sound of protest and resistance, asserting "a potent force . . . that can not be comprehended or controlled by Western philosophy."63 This last statement is that of Houston Baker, who relies on "the sound of Caliban"64—for Baker, the first representation of a "vernacular" voice in Western literature—in order to characterize two strategies of expression by African-Americans: "mastery of form" and "deformation of mastery." The first of these depends on the mask (a "cryptic" one), a disguise worn to conceal, inside the master's forms, one's political task. Deformation wears a different mask ("phaneric"), "meant to advertise, to display in the manner of a go(ue)rilla," whose "deformation is made possible by his superior knowledge of the landscape and the loud assertion of possession he makes."65 Caliban deforms. He knows, has always known the "form" of his "indigenous vale/veil"66 : as he reminds Prospero, "I did show thee all the qualities o'th'isle, / The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile" (1.2.339-41). Caliban's "loud assertions" sound alien, but only to intruders, who regard as "crude hooting" what is, in Baker's view, really "racial poetry."67
Baker's praise of Caliban's vernacular sound is part of a theoretical polemic that urges the use of African-American vernacular as a means of "deforming," of speaking outside and beyond the traditional Western dualism still inscribed in critical discourse. The explicitly political aim of Baker's reading, like that of other postcolonial readings, suggests the cultural basis of his theory; in this it differs from the biological or psychoanalytic bases within which French feminists have theorized what is distinctive about the sound of the other. Yet Baker, too, shifts his position toward a kind of essentialism by asserting the primacy of Caliban's sound: Caliban is thus an "instructor in a first voice," in "tune" with "first meanings" and "'natural' forms," with sounds that are "truly foundational" (italics mine).68 This formulation recalls Cixous's virtually mythic "song before the law." Both Baker and Cixous over-simplify song and music, which are not merely primal sound, but the oversimplification reveals a more crucial point of connection: both Baker and Cixous wish to identify, or invent, a language of/for the colonized; both discover this (l'écriture feminine; "racial poetry") in sound or music. Yet this conception risks confining music's signification to the "natural" in much the way it has long been confined to the "divine." What is needed, again, is to regard music as a signifying process and to listen to the grain of its voice.
By Caliban's "sound," for example, Baker seems chiefly to mean his "hooting" tone and the native knowledge that gives him the confidence for that tone, but there are more precise ways to characterize Caliban's sounds. The one song Caliban sings himself is sung "drunkenly," evoking from Trinculo just the response—"A howling monster! A drunken monster!" (2.2.187)—that Baker argues the "intruders" will have. The original music for this song does not survive, but the song's words and their sounds are both deformational and transformational, creating a song of protest and of freedom.
No more dams I'll make for fish,
Nor fetch in firing
Nor scrape trenchering, nor wash dish
Ban Ban Ca-Caliban
Has a new master. Get a new man!
The first four lines assert "no" or "nor" four times; Caliban is refusing to serve and, in the fifth line, to be named. He deconstructs his name, fracturing it into its hardest (labial and glottal) sounds and emphasizing the negation and the curse contained in the meaning of "ban." (Caliban's name literally contains a curse—"ban," which was used in the Renaissance to mean "to curse" or "to anathematize"69—and might therefore be said to be a curse—one he here lets loose and so partly frees himself from). In the sixth line, "no/r" becomes, by way of alliteration and near rhyme, "new"; refusal to serve, to be named, to speak the (old) master's language thus begets a "new man." For the other, negation of the master and his signs is a form of affirmation. "Freedom, high day!" The song's message of "freedom" becomes comic, of course, given Caliban's expressed intent to "get a new master" (the drunken Stephano). Still, the song's effect, on the events of the play and on Prospero, nevertheless remains disruptive and transformational.
Such disruption is one particular realization of what I have been arguing is music's more general function as a signifying process in The Tempest: as, itself, a language that is nevertheless differentiated from the word and thus seems pre- or extra-linguistic and therefore separate from language and, more specifically, from Prospero's rational control. As Caliban most strikingly shows, music exerts pressure on such control, on resolution, especially through its dispersed grain and through its evocation of the body in its most threatening forms, as sexual, as female, as beastly, or deformed.
Because these assertions about the function of music, particularly in The Tempest, significantly revise the conventional thinking about Shakespeare's music, it might be sufficient to conclude with them. But the more particular argument here, concerning the "pressure" that music exerts on Prospero, raises questions about consequences: does Prospero respond to or even feel this pressure? Does music's subversive energy participate in any way in the apparent "change" in Prospero at the play's end?
There is no question that Prospero speaks of yielding, in many ways, by the play's end: he chooses "virtue" rather than vengeance (5.1.28); abjures his art and his "book," (5.1.33-57) and is thus left with his "own" "strength" (5.1.320); passes his dukedom to his daughter and Ferdinand even as he repossesses it; contemplates his own death (5.1.311). The first of these shifts, the decision to forgive his enemies, is precipitated by Ariel:
Ariel. Your charm so strongly works 'em
That if you now beheld them, your affections
Would become tender.
Prospero. Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel. Mine would, sir, were I human.
Prospero. And mine shall.
This is significant, for it is Ariel that most nearly embodies music as I have been describing it here. The voice of the other makes itself heard, and it seems, finally, to be registered within Prospero in some way. There are other indications of this: in the "female voice" that emerges when Prospero abjures his art, using the words of Medea from Ovid's Metamorphoses. And finally, in Prospero's epilogue, spoken in a meter used elsewhere in the play only by Ariel, in his short speech before the masque (4.1.44-45) and in his songs. The meter is catalectic trochaic tetrameter, conveyed in the songs' rhythms by the relatively longer note values accorded to accented beats (as in "Those are pearls that were his eyes.") There is no "heavenly music" or conclusive "harmony" at the play's end; there is only, in the rhythms of the epilogue, vestigial music, suggesting that music's rhythms have in some way left their traces in Prospero's words.
Music compels Prospero to hear it, but it retains, finally, an "other" location in the play. This separation is felt rather keenly in the play's concluding moments, especially in Ariel's last song and in Prospero's final meeting with Caliban. As Prospero "discases" himself, exchanges his magic robe for that of his dukedom, Ariel is once again singing, but not—this time—at Prospero's command:
Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch while owls do cry;
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
The simultaneity of Prospero's change of "identity" with Ariel's song suggests, on the one hand, that Prospero participates in the music's shifting, transformational energies (its fluidity, his "changing"); on the other hand, it reasserts separation (Ariel sings of nature in which he will soon be free; Prospero re"eneases" himself). Ariel's freedom song recalls Caliban's but has moved beyond protest for freedom to what such protest has led to: an unsubjugated living within one's native place (with bees, cowslips, an owl's cry, bat's back, blossoms, boughs) and native sounds. "When Prospero is destroyed" (3.3.151) (or removed), music remains, and it remains, like Ariel, in motion. The song's words help evoke this sense of movement, by reference to Ariel's flight and to his constantly changing position (from "cowslip" to "bat's back" to "under the blossom"). The song's music—its "lively" tempo, rhythms, harmonies—materializes this movement.
The song's first section moves rapidly between tonic and dominant both within and between phrases, a vacillation that opens up to one of the possibilities within it. (This occurs, for example, in measure 4, in a modulation to the dominant, which has already been used so prominently in relation to the tonic.) The song generates a sense of movement between possibilities that are essentially constituted of the same materials, such that transformation is always immanent (and imminent). In measures 8-10, for example, the chord set to "af ' (in "after") can function in either D or G major; we hear a kind of magical transformation take place within it, as one thing becomes another (we hear it first in D, the key in place during the second phrase, and almost at once in G, to which we are returned by the C natural in the chord set to the word's second syllable ["ter"]).
Movement is heightened in the song's second section, partly with a quickened tempo and a shift into a more rapid-seeming triple meter. Moreover, Johnson now takes the harmony more swiftly from one key to the next, beginning again in G, modulating to D, briefly suggesting D minor, then returning to G. These successive and now more rapid movements between tonic and dominant intensify the feeling that the song/singer is opening up, pressing against and breaking out of the established key. This sensation—of energies breaking out—helps realize Ariel's longing for release. And it is this sense of release, a movement outward, that resists the play's (and Prospero's) final attempts to maintain control. For although Prospero has relinquished his power in some ways, he seems in others to be reasserting it, shifting to another kind of rational, logocentric control. He predicates his forgiveness, for example, on a decision to "take part with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury" (5.1.27-28). He stages the end of his "project," drawing everyone into a circle, an emblem of his wish to make all one at the play's end, to incorporate them, to achieve resolution. The wish for such incorporation (related to the urge of the text and perhaps of Shakespeare for comic closure) is manifested in Prospero's taking Ferdinand into the family (thereby also marrying two dukedoms), in the physical "embrace" of Alonso (5.1.109), in the forgiveness (and acceptance, albeit somewhat forced) of Antonio and, most significantly for my purposes, in the "acknowledgment" of Caliban: "This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine" (5.1.275-76).
The most benign reading of this line is that Prospero "owns" or owns up to Caliban, in the sense of admitting Caliban is part of Prospero's party on the island (not of the ship's, in distinction from Stephano and Trinculo, whom Alonso "must know and own"). He may also of course be testifying that he "owns" Caliban in the economic sense, as his slave, property. The line is frequently read psychologically, as Prospero's acceptance of that within himself (his own "darkness," his destructive, vengeful appetites, especially sexual ones) which Caliban ("misshapen," "demi-devil," "bastard," unregenerate, inhuman "thing") is seen to externalize and embody. (Shakespeare's line break is suggestive here: "This thing of darkness Il"). Now, when Caliban speaks, he does not curse,, but says he will be "wise hereafter, / And seek for grace" (5.1.294-95). Yet the deformational power of Caliban, the grain of his voice—as this has resonated with the play's dispersed and humming music—continues to resist, to pose its opacity against Prospero's wish to appropriate it.
Shakespeare was never, of course, the only author of his plays: some were clearly written in collaboration; all become collaborative work in the course of theatrical production. In The Tempest, "Shakespeare's music" was mainly Robert Johnson's—not wholly outside Shakespeare's artistic control, but nevertheless the work of another. It is tempting to speculate that Shakespeare came increasingly to regard music, which appears most prominently in the last plays, as a means of figuring that which could not be "figured," that which seemed to him beyond his power to represent: the force of the body, the experience of women, of the alien or the other, the imponderable depths of his "own" physical, sexual, and mortal being, this thing of darkness which he could acknowledge but never really know.
1 Meredith Anne Skura, "The Case of Colonialism in The Tempest, " Shakespeare Quarterly, 40, no. 1 (Fall 1989): 42-69; rpt. in Caliban, ed. Harold Bloom (New York and Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1992), 221-48. Skura's essay contains a useful summary of historical and new historicist approaches to the play, and a wellselected bibliography.
2 Paul Brown, "'This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine': The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism," in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 64.
3 Susan McClary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender and Sexuality (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), especially 3-7, and "Reshaping a Discipline: Musicology and Feminism in the 1990s," Feminist Studies 19, no. 2 (Summer, 1993): 399-423; see also McClary's earlier essay, her "Foreword: The Undoing of Opera: Toward a Feminist Criticism of Music," introd. to Catherine Clément, Opera, or the Undoing of Women, trans. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), ix-xviii.
4 McClary is not the first from within academic music to make this complaint. Joseph Kerman makes a plea for a real music criticism, complaining that musicologists are respected "for the facts they know about music. . . . , not for their insight into music as aesthetic experience" (Contemplating Music: Challenges to Musicology [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985], 12-14). For another suggestion about what an "interpretive criticism" of music might be (and a bibliography of works by some who attempted it), see Anthony Newcomb, "Sound and Feeling," Critical Inquiry 10 (June, 1984): 614-43. McClary also wants interpretation of music, but of a particular kind, emphasizing ideological and cultural critique. A few recent examples of such work include McClary's Feminine Endings, Richard Leppert's Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), and Rose Subotnik's Developing Variations: Style and Ideology in Western Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
5 The theoretical discussion I present here extends arguments I have made elsewhere, in "Ophelia's Mad Songs: Music, Gender, Power," in Subjects on the World's Stage: Essays on British Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (University of Delaware Press, 1995), 332-66, and also in "'Ringtime': Sexual and Musical Play in Shakespeare's As You Like It" forthcoming in Ars Lyrica (Journal of the Lyrica Society for Word-Music Relations).
6 W. H. Auden, "Music in Shakespeare," in The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (New York: Vintage, 1968), 507.
7 Clifford Leech, "Twelfth Night" and Shakespearian Comedy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965), 55.
8 Charles Frey, "The Sweetest Rose: As You Like It as Comedy of Reconciliation," in Experiencing Shakespeare: Essays on Text, Classroom and Performance (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988), 20.
9 G. Wilson Knight, The Shakespearean Tempest (London: Oxford University Press, 1932). Knight's comments on Love 's Labor's Lost and Twelfth Night typify his overall approach. In the former, the song "When Daisies Pied" moves significantly, he thinks, from spring to winter, "yet song is, nevertheless, music. The pain is dissolved in music" (83). Similarly, in Twelfth Night, "all tragic and tempestuous things are finally blended in the music of Feste's final song, with its refrain. . . . Which song presents a microcosm of the play: tempests dissolved in music" (127).
10 John P. Cutts, "Music and the Supernatural in The Tempest" (1958); rpt. in Shakespeare: The Tempest: A Casebook, ed. D. J. Palmer (London: Macmillan, 1968), 196.
11 David Lindley, "Music, Masque, and Meaning in The Tempest" in The Court Masque, ed. David Lindley (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 47.
12 For history and sources, the two most useful books in this category are Peter J. Seng's standard work, The Vocal Songs in the Plays of Shakespeare: A Critical History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967) and F. W. Sternfeld's Music in Shakespearean Tragedy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; New York: Dover, 1963). See also Edward Naylor, Shakespeare and Music, rev. ed. (London: Dent; New York: Dutton, 1931) and other work by John P. Cutts, "Jacobean Masque and Stage Music," Music and Letters 35 (1954): 185-200; "Robert Johnson: King's Musician in His Majesty's Public Entertainment," Music and Letters 36 (1955): 110-25; "An Unpublished Contemporary Setting of a Shakespeare Song," Shakespeare Survey 9 (1956): 86-89; "The Original Music of a Song in 2 Henry IV, Shakespeare Quarterly 1 (1956): 385-92; "A Reconsideration of the 'Willow Song,'" Journal of the American Musicologica! Society 10 (1957): 14-24; ed., La musique de scène de la troupe de Shakespeare (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1959; rev. 1971). (Cutts has also written on the masque more generally and on Ben Jonson.) John Stevens's book, Music and Poetry in the Early Tudor Court (London and New York: Methuen, 1961, 1978) is generally regarded as the standard work on the topic for this period; his "Shakespeare and the Music of the Elizabethan Stage" (in Shakespeare in Music, ed. Phyllis Hartnoll [London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin's, 1964], 3-48) provides a useful summary, particularly of stage practice. Stevens's work falls into the broader category of "studies in poetry and music," of which Louise Schleiner has more recently provided a bibliography in "Recent Studies in Poetry and Music of the English Renaissance," English Literary Renaissance 16, no. 1 (Winter, 1986): 253-68.
13 In this category see especially the multi-volume work by John H. Long, Shakespeare 's Use of Music, 3 vols. (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1955-1971), Winifred Maynard's Elizabethan Lyric Poetry and Its Music (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), especially chapter five, "Ballads, Songs and Masques in the Plays of Shakespeare" (151-223), and Mary Chan's Music in the Theatre of Ben Jonson, with some consideration of Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). The most comprehensive attempt to organize what's known about music and Shakespeare (a connection broadly defined) is the recent Shakespeare Music Catalogue, ed. Bryan S. Gooch and David Thatcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).
14 This terminology is Edward Ardener's, from "Belief and the Problem of Women," in Perceiving Women, ed. Shirley Ardener (New York: Halsted Press, 1978); qtd. in Elaine Showalter, "Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness," in The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature, and Theory, ed. Elaine Showalter (New York: Pantheon, 1985), 262-63.
15 This distinction comes from Alan Tormey's Concept of Expression: A Study in Philosophical Psychology and Aesthetics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), 39-40 and 106-110). I owe its application to music to Peter Kivy's important work on musical aesthetics. See especially The Corded Shell: Reflections on Musical Expression (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1980).
16 Julia Kristeva, "The Semiotic Chora Ordering the Drives," in Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller, 1974; rpt. in The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril Moi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 93-98.
17 Kristeva, "The Semiotic Chora," 94.
18 William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespear's Plays, ed. Ernest Rhys. (London: Dent; New York: Dutton, 1906), 89.
19 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Ninth Lecture," Shakespearean Criticism, vol. 2, ed. Thomas Raysor (London: Dent; New York: Dutton, 1961), 138.
20 Michael Goldman, Shakespeare and the Energies of Drama (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), 137-39.
21 Brown, 63.
22 One of Shakespeare's chief resources there would certainly have been the composer of The Tempest' s songs, Robert Johnson. There is ample evidence of his connection with the court of James I and the masques and plays that were an integral part of it. The son of John Johnson (a lutanist in Elizabeth's court), Robert Johnson (c. 1582-1633) became a lutanist in James's court in 1604. As John Cutts has detailed, extant settings from 1607-1617 show that during this period, Johnson was writing music continuously for Blackfriars' productions of the King's Men ("Robert Johnson: King's Musician," 110). He composed music not only for Shakespeare's plays (Cutts discusses songs from The Tempest as well as from other late plays), but also for plays and masques by Jonson, Chapman, Beaumont, Fletcher and Middleton.
23 For a summary of these ideas about music, see Catherine M. Dunn, "The Function of Music in Shakespeare's Romances," Shakespeare Quarterly 20 (1969): 390-405. Mary Chan provides a more thorough account of these ideas in her Music in the Theatre of Ben Jonson.
24 I restrict my discussion of actual music to that which is original—that is, to Robert Johnson's settings of two of Ariel's songs, "Full fathom five" and "Where the bee sucks." (More information on the sources of these songs follows in later notes.) I exclude from discussion a piece that some regard as original to the play: a dance entitled "The Tempest" in a collection of masque music (British Library Add. MS 10444). I side with those who disagree with W. J. Lawrence's assertion (Music and Letters 3 : 49-58) that this music belongs to Shakespeare's play. For a summary of information about this controversy, see Orgel, 221.
25 All references are to The Tempest of the Oxford Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Orgel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
26 Rose Abdelnour Zimbardo, "Form and Disorder in The Tempest" Shakespeare Quarterly 14 (1963), 50.
27 Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (1973), trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975), 66-67.
28 Roland Barthes, "The Grain of the Voice," in Image, Music, Text, selected and trans., Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 182, 185.
29 As Seng reports (257), Johnson's music for "Full Fathom Five" survives in two manuscripts and one collection of songs: in Birmingham City Reference Library MS. 57,316; in Folger Library MS. 747.1 (fols. 9v-13v); and in John Wilson's Cheerful Ayres or Ballads, 1660 (sigs. B3v-B4). The Arden edition gives a facsimile of the song as it appears in Wilson's collection (157). For my analysis I have used Ian Spink's edition of the song (reprinted in Orgel's Oxford edition), which appears in Johnson's Ayres, Songs and Dialogues, vol. 17 of The English Lute-Songs, 2nd ser., 2nd rev. ed. (London: Stainer and Bell, 1974), 24-25.
30 For a representative article, see "The Mirror of Analogy: The Tempest," by Reuben Brower, in Fields of Light (New York: Oxford University Press, 1951); rpt. in The Tempest, ed. Robert Langbaum (New York: Nal-Signet, 1963), 182-205, esp. 182 and 184-85.
31 Lindley, 49.
32 A slightly more technical explanation of what happens here is that the section begins (in m. 10) in G major, then introduces a flatted vii0 chord of that key (the diminished F-sharp AC replaces the major FAC). Johnson may have conceived of this as a shift from Ionian to Mixolydian mode, but to modern ears the shift produces for two bars (m. 11-12) what sounds first (in relation to G) like a flatted vii0 of G, then like C major (in which FAC is the subdominant chord).
33 There is, of course, formal, harmonic resolution at the song's end, but I suspect that this is undermined at least in effect by the singing of the burden at the song's end. Johnson's text doesn't indicate this, but the burden may be performed as is indicated by the stage directions for Ariel's first song, "dispersedly", which may mean either not in harmony or not synchronized (i.e., it's not sung by all singers at the same time).
34 Barthes, "The Grain of the Voice," 181.
35 Among the most provocative uses of this material is that of Lisa Jardine, Chapter 1 of Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare, 2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 9-36; and Madelon Sprengnether, "The Boy Actor and Femininity in Antony and Cleopatra, in Shakespeare's Personality, ed. Norman N. Holland, Sidney Homan and Bernard J. Paris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 191-205.
36 John Northbrooke, A Treatise Against Dicing, Daneing, Plays and Interludes With Other Idle Pastimes (1577), ed. J. Payne Collier (London: Shakespeare Society, 1843).
37 Stephen Gosson, The Schoole of Abuse (1579) (London: Shakespeare Society, 1841).
38 Gosson, 16.
39 Gosson, 16.
40 Gosson, 18.
41 Gosson, 18.
42 Gosson, 48. Northbrooke similarly instructs women to absent themselves from plays (95).
43 Gosson, 48-51.
44 Gosson, 18-19. Linda Phyllis Austern has done very helpful work on music in relation to women and the feminine in early modern culture. Especially germane in this context are " 'Sing Againe Syren' The Female Musician and Sexual Enchantement in Elizabethan Life and Literature," in Renaissance Quarterly 42 (1989): 420-48 and "'Alluring the Auditorie to Effeminacie': Music and the Idea of the Feminine in Early Modern England," in Music and Letters 74 (1993): 343-54.
45 Barthes, "Grain," 188.
46 M. C. Bradbrook, Elizabethan Stage Conditions: A Study of Their Place in the Interpretation of Shakespeare's Plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932), 110.
47 Orgel, Introd., 27.
48 Ariel is referred to as "him" in the text.
49 Most who have taught this play to undergraduates will acknowledge the frequency with which they refer to Ariel as "she," against information given in the text. The play's performance history is also interesting in this regard: Ariel's part was played only by men through the seventeenth century, then became exclusively a part for women, until the 1930's (Orgel, 70).
50 Orgel, 27.
51 Paul Brown links it to James I's use of music in masque—as an "harmonics of power"—to celebrate his coercive power. Interestingly, Brown also discovers through Caliban's own speech about music ("sounds and sweet airs") a "quality in the island beyond the requirements of the coloniser's powerful harmonics," but this quality, this "site of resistance" can only be represented in the discourse of the colonialism it is resisting (Caliban may be cursing but is still speaking Prospero's language). My point is that music in this play constitutes a truly other discourse, one that resists not only Prospero's control, but his language as well. See Brown, 63-65.
52 The phrase summarizes the concept suggested by Luce Irigaray in referring to women as interdit, "in between signs, between the realized meanings, between the lines." See Speculum of the Other Woman; (1974), 20; I have quoted from Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (London, New York: Routledge, 1985), 133.
53 Hélène Cixous with Catherine Clément, La Jeune Née (Paris: UGE 10/18), 172. See also Cixous's related text, "The Laugh of the Medusa," where she writes that "in women's speech as in their writing, that element which never stops resonating .. . is the song: first music from the first voice of love which is alive in every woman" (trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 1:4 , 881).
54La Jeune Née, 173.
55 Coppella Kahn, "The Absent Mother in King Lear," in Rewriting the Renaissance, ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 35.
56 See Orgel, 19.
57 Orgel, 20.
58 Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers (New York, London: Routledge, 1992), 237-38.
59 Houston Baker has termed it "the venerable Western trope" ("Caliban's Triple Play," in "Race," Writing and Difference, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 389.
60 Baker, 389.
61 Stephen Greenblatt, "Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century," in First Images of America: The Impact of the New World on the Old, ed. Fredi Chiapelli, 2 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 2:575.
62 Greenblatt thus finds it fitting that no one, still, is certain of the meaning of Caliban's word, "scamels" (575).
63 Houston A. Baker Jr., Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 45.
64 Baker, "Caliban's Triple Play," 389.
65 Baker, 390.
66 Baker, 391.
67 Baker, 394.
6S Baker, 391-92.
Source: "Other Voices: The Sweet, Dangerous Air(s) of Shakespeare's Tempest," in Shakespeare Studies, Vol. XXIV, 1996, pp. 241-74.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support