Music of all kinds in any play demands collaboration. It requires that a composer, or at least a tune, be supplied from elsewhere to complete the moment; further collaborations then sometimes become necessary, with a dance master, a singing teacher, or a set of professional musicians. By looking at who creates the words for music in Middleton's plays, and how these then circulate, larger questions emerge: How possessive was Middleton about the music and song passages of the plays he wrote – and, by extension, about other passages? Were ‘ditties’ (the words to songs) seen as being permanent parts of Middleton's text – and, if not, what does that suggest about his plays as literature? To what extent was Middleton reliant for his emotional affect on music; and what can surviving words reveal of the theatrical concerns of the moment? This article examines specific songs in four plays stretching along the length of Middleton's writing, performing, and publishing career: A Mad World, My Masters (performed 1605 by Paul's Boys, printed 1608); A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (performed 1613 by Lady Elizabeth's Men, printed 1630); The Witch (performed 1615–16 by King's Men, printed 1778); and The Widow (performed 1615–17 by King's Men, and printed 1652).
Keywords: Thomas Middleton; collaboration; theatrical music; songs; plays
Article. 8424 words.
Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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