The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2434 Wednesday, 18 December 2002
From: Dave Kathman <
Date: Tuesday, 17 Dec 2002 23:18:25 -0600
Subject: 13.2411 Dancing Masters/Choreographers?
Comment: Re: SHK 13.2411 Dancing Masters/Choreographers?
Emily Winerock wrote:
>I'm looking for more information on dancing masters in Shakespeare's
>time or others who might have choreographed dances for the plays. I've
>heard that music composers were often the dance choreographers/teachers
>and would welcome suggestions as to resources to investigate this
>For example, there's a Thomas Giles mentioned as a dancing master by
>Chambers in 'The Elizabethan Stage' and recorded as getting paid for
>making dances for masques in Hertford & Simpson's 'Ben Jonson [Works]'.
>Chambers suggests that this may be the same Thomas Giles who was almoner
>of St. Paul's and involved with the boy players. Have there been any
>more recent findings?
Yes, there have; these were two different people. The Thomas Giles who
led the boy players was appointed almoner and master of choristers at
St. Paul's on 22 May 1584, and was buried at St. Gregory on 4 July 1600
as "Mr Thomas Giles one of the vicars chorall and Amner of St Paules
Church". (See Reavley Gair, "Masters of the Choristers at St. Paul's",
Notes and Queries, December 1977, 521-2; also Reavley Gair, "The
Conditions of Appointment for Masters of Choristers at Paul's
(1553-1613)", Notes and Queries, April 1980, 119-21.) Thomas Giles the
dancing master was appointed dancing master to Prince Henry by patent
dated 23 December 1605, receiving a salary of 100 marks per annum plus
50 pounds per annum for diet. He choreographed the dances for Ben
Jonson's masque *Hymenai*, performed on 5 January 1606, and was praised
by Jonson in the printed text. He subsequently performed in Jonson's
*Masque of Beauty* (1608) while also choreographing the dances, and
choreographed Jonson's *Haddington Masque* (1608), *Masque of Queens*
(1609), and *Oberon* (1611), and for Campion's *Lord's Masque* (1613).
He made his will on 1 September 1617, and it was proved on 5 September.
(See Andrew Ashbee and David Lasocki, *A Biographical Dictionary of
English Court Musicians 1485-1714* (1998), 484-5, and E. A. J. Honigmann
and Susan Brock, *Playhouse Wills 1558-1642* (1993), 110.)
>Chambers also mentions Thomas Cardell and Jerome Heron as dancing
>masters involved in courtly entertainments and a dancing school kept by
>Richard Frith who rented a Blackfriars property in 1561, but I haven't
>found any more information about these gentlemen.
I'm not sure about Cardell and Heron (also spelled Herne); I'm sure more
information about them must be out there in the archives somewhere, but
it hasn't made it into any published sources that I know of.
Margaret Frith, widow of Richard Frith, citizen and minstrel, made her
will on 15 May 1595 and added a codicil on 13 February 1602, and the
will was proved on 6 March 1605. (See William Ingram, "Minstrels in
Elizabethan London: Who Were They, What Did They Do?", *English Literary
Renaissance* 14 (1984), p. 40.) This indicates that Richard Frith had
been a freeman of the Company of Musicians and Minstrels, and as such
he's very likely to have been the dancing master of that name. The
Musicians and Minstrels were a London livery company whose members were
engaged in all performing arts involving music, of which dancing was
certainly one. (I suspect that some professional actors were also
members, but unfortunately almost no company records survive from before
>Similarly, I have Naylor's 'Shakespeare and Music', which has a nice
>section on music and dance, but it was written in 1896. Is it outdated?
Yes. A lot has been discovered in the last 106 years. Some books to
look at are P. J. Seng, *Vocal Songs in the Plays of Shakespeare*
(1967); J. P. Cutts, *La musique de la scene de la troupe de
Shakespeare* (1959); F. W. Sterfeld, *Music in Shakespearean Tragedy*
(1963); J. H. Long, ed., *Music in Renaissance Drama* (1968); and B. N.
S. Gooch and D. Thatcher, eds., *A Shakespeare Music Catalogue*. The
article on Shakespeare in the *New Grove Dictionary of Music and
Musicians* (2000) has a good bibliography.
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