“If music be the food of love, play on.”
On this edition of Ars Antigua Presents, we’ll hear selections from Shakespeare’s Songbook: music and dialogue from the Bard’s plays.
Popular songs of Elizabethan England played an important role in many of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare frequently chose to insert these songs to reveal the thoughts and emotions of his characters or to help set the scene. Today’s selections provide a rare sonic glimpse at the rich soundscape of Shakespeare’s theater.
Robert Johnson, an English composer and lutenist, was a contemporary of Shakespeare. We will hear two of his best-known songs, “Full fathom five” and “Where the bee sucks,” which are settings of dialogue from the Bard’s final play, The Tempest. Following these, we will hear a brief ‘Shepherd’s Dance’ by Dutch composer and music publisher, Tielman Susato. This festive, early-16th century tune would have provided a fitting accompaniment to the shepherd’s scene in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
We hear now, in these performances, members of the Chicago Early Music Consort.
Podcast episode produced by Joshua Sauvageau.