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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Age of Awareness
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2209  Tuesday, 14 December 1999.

From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 1999 09:12:14 GMT
Subject: 10.2187 Re: Age of Awareness
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2187 Re: Age of Awareness

>And while we are
>on the subject, would you say that W.S. also endorses/identifies with
>Orsino's love for music at the start of 12th Night?  Aren't we rather
>meant to consider Orsino the prototype of the modern major egotist?, and
>his love for the moody music of love as the echo effect of his
>narcissism?

>                 Tom Cartelli

Isn't this slightly the wrong question?  Shakespeare's plays present and
represent a whole range of possible responses to music deriving from the
contradictory, contested field of music within his culture.  So, for
example, Lorenzo speaks confidently of the properties of music as a
reflection of celestial harmony in Act 5 of Merchant of Venice; but Toby
Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Feste join in a 'catch' which, like the
collapsing song of Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban in The Tempest, seems
to gesture towards the subversive possibility of such musical
combination.  Music awakes Thaisa and Hermione, cures the addled wits of
Lear, but, when deployed by Prospero to a similar effect in The Tempest,
is troublingly implicated in the manipulations of political power.

What, however, complicates the picture/effect further is that music also
in some way affects the audience themselves as they watch - and perhaps
in ways that the text cannot fully control. (And this is even more true
in performances since the eighteenth century, where 'incidental' music
not called for by the play text is added.)

Music is slippery and indeterminate in its signification, - which is one
reason why it generated such diverse responses in the Early Modern
Period - and still does today.

We can't, then, say whether  W.S. does or does not 'endorse' Orsino's
love of music - the play offers a picture which can be placed within a
range of possibilities that his culture offered - and that's as far as
it goes.

David Lindley
School of English
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
email 
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