The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0176  Saturday, 30 July 2011
From:         Alan Dessen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         July 29, 2011 1:51 PM EDT
Subject:     A wanton stage direction

When going through Massinger’s The City Madam (in advance of seeing the RSC production), I came across the stage direction that ends 2.3 in the on-line old spelling edition: “Exeunt wanton, Musick plaid before’em.” Cyrus Hoy, the editor of the 1964 Regents Renaissance Drama text, changes the punctuation to have the s.d. read: “Exeunt, wanton music played before ‘em” (3.2.99, p. 49). “Wanton-wantonly” appears twice in our stage direction database, but neither usage is linked to music. The key figure in this scene is Shave’em, a prostitute, who is leading off the apprentice Goldwire to wanton activity. I see at least three options: 1) the context would fit “wanton music” if there was such a thing; 2) “wanton” refers to Shave’em; or 3) the signal should be understood as “Exeunt wantonly . . . ,” a usage found in a s.d. from Act IV of Massinger’s The Roman Actor: “Courting Paris wantonly.” (Middleton’s Your Five Gallants also calls for “wanton action”).

Are there any SHAKSPER participants with wanton expertise?

Alan Dessen

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