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But music for the time doth change his nature:
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. - Mark the music."
We are not disposed to regard the last six lines of this sentence as absolute statement of fact; it must be borne in mind that this sentiment is given to one of Shakespeare's lovers, and by no means the greatest of his kind. It is Lorenzo's ecstatic praise of music that we hear, and the poet has, perhaps purposely, made it somewhat extreme. The extravagant use made by commentators of this passage aroused the ire of one of the Shakespearian editors. Steevens, in commenting on the scene, bursts forth with this violent diatribe:
"The present passage, which is neither pregnant with physical and moral truth, nor poetically beautiful in an eminent degree, has constantly enjoyed the good fortune to be repeated by those whose inhospitable memories would have refused to admit or retain any other sentiment or description of the same author, however exalted or just. The truth is that it furnishes the vacant fiddler with something to say in defence of his profession, and supplies the coxcomb in music with an invective against such as do not pretend to discover all the various powers of language in inarticulate sounds."
It is in this connection that Steevens calls the sentence a "capricious sentiment," and intimates.
that Shakespeare only employed it to curry favour with his audience, with whom music was a fashion.
The attack is so extreme, especially as coming from the editor of the greatest music-lover among poets, that Furness (Variorum Edition, Vol. VII. p. 252) ventures to doubt its authenticity. Furness
"It is difficult to decide, as we have had more than once to note, whether Steevens is in jest or earnest. I am by no means sure but that this attack on music was not a trap, whereby to lure some honest Goodman Dull into a defence of it."
One feels loath to differ from the most eminent of all Shakespearians, but such jesting would utterly unfit Steevens for any task like that of commentation, where not to be clear and reliable would be the deadliest of sins. If, however, he intended a trap, he has caught plenty of victims, for a torrent of indignation was the result, a torrent which has not spent its force even in the present day.
But it may be borne in mind that Shakespeare pictures Othello (Act iii. Sc. 1) as being averse to music, as may be seen from the following:
The reader will find another anti-musical quotation from Steevens in Chapter X., which tends still further to discredit Furness's lenient suggestion.
"Enter CASSIO and some Musicians.
Cassio. Masters, play here, I will content your pains. Something that's brief; and bid - good morrow, general.
Clown. Why, masters, have your instruments been at Naples, that they speak i' the nose thus? How, sir, how?
Clown. But, masters, here's money for you: and the general so likes your music, that he desires you, of all your loves, to make no more noise with it.
First Musician. Well, sir, we will not.
Clown. If you have any music that may not be heard, to't again: but, as they say, to hear music, the general does not greatly care.
First Musician. We have none such, sir.
Clown. Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I'll away: Go; vanish into air; away. [Exeunt Musicians.”
And, like the impetuous and tropical Othello, the courageous and impatient Harry Hotspur cares nothing for the art; indeed, the second example is more pronounced than the first, for Othello "did not greatly care" for music, while Percy evidently detests it, judging by the following citation from the first scene of the third act of "Henry IV." (First Part).
"Glendower. I can speak English, lord, as well as you; For I was train'd up in the English court:
Where, being but young, I fram'd to the harp
Many an English ditty, lovely well,
And gave the tongue a helpful ornament:
A virtue that was never seen in you.
Hotspur. Marry, and I'm glad of it with all my heart;
I had rather be a kitten, and cry — mew,
I had rather hear a brazen can'stick turn'd,
Or a dry wheel grate on an axle-tree;
Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
Yet the same citation shows, by the musical gifts of Glendower, that Shakespeare deemed musical appreciation or ability not incompatible with bravery and military prowess.'
Not all of those who care nothing for music are "fit for treason, stratagem, and spoils," for there is a very respectable list of notabilities who were tone-deaf. Among these we may mention Tenny. son, Charles Lamb, Addison, Doctor Johnson (who thought it necessary to apologise for Shakespeare's love of music), Dean Swift, and a host of others. But Shakespeare seems to intimate, at least, that a lack of musical appreciation is to be viewed with suspicion, for in "Julius Cæsar" (Act i. Sc. 2)
'Note also Lucentio's definition of the use of music (“Taming of the Shrew," Act iii. Sc. 1), quoted in Chapter III., beginning "Preposterous ass," for a lesser estimate of music.
'Closely akin to the Shakespearian line, is that quoted by Morley (1 598); he says: "I ever held this sentence of the poet as a canon of my creed, That whom God loveth not, they love not Musick."
Cæsar speaks of a dislike of plays and of music as being one of his causes of distrust of Cassius.
"Cæsar. Let me have men about me that are fat;
Antonius. Fear him not, Cæsar, he's not dangerous;
I do not know the man I should avoid
- But I fear him not:
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer, and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
It is a point worth noting that, whenever Shakespeare points his jests at music, he is sure to bring forth some of his most earnest tributes to the art in the same play. "Twelfth Night," as may be seen in other chapters, is full of the ribald side of music, yet no play is richer in earnest musical allusions. The very first lines of this comedy are devoted to a eulogy of music.
SCENE I. An Apartment in the Duke's Palace.