Guest Post: ‘sweet airs, that give delight’

The following guest post is by Jacob MacKenzie, an English Literature MA student who is working on the Project Management module. As part of this module, and working with our magnificent collections here at Special Collections and Archives, Jacob has chosen his main ‘treasures’ from our collections which he deems especially worthy of showcasing in a series of blogs. These have been paired together because of their complementary, and contradictory qualities. Here, Jacob discusses his first set of items and his reasons behind their pairing:

Pair 1 – ‘sweet airs, that give delight’

Shakespeare is a literary figure who finds himself rather centralised within the canon, with good reason too. His plays have been performed, enjoyed, and firmly cemented in the public’s imagination since they were first written. With this in mind, a Shakespeare text seems an ideal way to begin my series of ‘treasures’ found within Special Collections and Archives, but with an interesting twist – the text is not written by Shakespeare. The play in question is a John Dryden and William D’Avenant adaptation of The Tempest, written 50 years after the original.

Dryden Tempest 2

John Dryden, The tempest, or The enchanted island : A comedy: as it is now acted at His Highness the Duke of York’s Theatre, (London, 1676), title page. Cardiff Rare Books Collection.

The second item was written a century afterwards, and is a musical score composed by Henry Purcell, designed to accompany the adapted play. Both texts play a critical role in exploring the culture of co-textuality, and in augmenting each other – as well as being archetypal examples of their rich textual histories. Since this project is founded in co-texts, it seems apt for these to open this series.

Tempest Music 1

Henry Purcell, The Music in the Tempest, (London, c. 1760s), title page. Historical Music Collection.

Treasure 1: John Dryden, The tempest, or The enchanted island : A comedy: as it is now acted at His Highness the Duke of York’s Theatre (1676).

The first item selected is an adapted play by John Dryden (co-author); William D’Avenant (co-author); William Shakespeare (source text author); and Thomas Shadwell (revisions and alterations author). This is a rewriting of Shakespeare’s The Tempest by John Dryden and William D’Avenant and this particular version has consistent adaptations to dialogue, whilst keeping the basic bones of the original plot. The most divergent addition is that of a number of siblings to the original character. These include a sister for Miranda called Dorinda who has never seen a man aside from Prospero (much like Miranda), a man called Hippolito who falls in love with Dorinda, a sister for Caliban, and a girlfriend for Ariel called Milcha. This particular copy is bound in full red morocco leather by Riviere & Son with their stamp in gilt on front turn-in, lettered in gilt on spine. It is in exceedingly good condition for a text of its age and still maintains the ripped page bottoms from its production. It also has a price written in pencil in the inside front cover.

This pair could be of particular interest to researchers of Shakespeare texts and the cultural reactions to them, in regards to the comparisons and contrasts between the source text and the adaptations. Whilst a performance would garner more appeal and  give a new cultural life to the texts in the public sphere, as the Dryden adaptation has fallen from the general public periphery. Moreover, with the emphasis of Shakespeare in the Secondary School national curriculum, this pair would be ideal for exploring the impact of Shakespeare in the literary world.

Dryden Tempest 1

Dryden, The tempest, or The enchanted island, (1676), page detail.

I chose this play as the first ‘treasure’ for two reasons. Firstly, as a Shakespeare play, it represents a vital part of the literary canon. The importance of its relation to the canon comes down to the perception and reception of it, as it remains an item which the public link intrinsically with literature, and a text which still inspires much debate in the academic world. The idea of a university archive presenting a particular Shakespeare text may seem predictable (and with reason, as the canon remains critically acclaimed and worthy of exhibition). However, and this brings me to my second reason; this is not a play authored by Shakespeare himself, but a revised version by John Dryden and William D’Avenant.  The inter-textuality, to be clear, is what I find to be so deeply stimulating about this text. Whilst being an isolated text in its own right, it also has a rich inter-textual history with the original and represents a cultural response to the original play. In addition, the item has revisions and alterations which evokes a sense of a constant and unending co-textuality. It is, in my opinion, an item which represents the very heart of literary revisionism and inter-textuality in a micro-cosmic manner.

‘Treasure’ 2: Henry Purcell, The music in the Tempest (1786).

This ‘treasure’ is a musical score created to accompany Dryden and D’Avenant’s play, The tempest, or The enchanted island : A comedy. The score consists of several pieces from the second act onwards. Two of them are specifically for Ariel’s scenes, suggesting a certain ethereality to the intended sound. The music was written with multiple lines of harmonies and melodies, indicating that several instruments may have been required for its original performances, possibly played in an orchestral style.  This particular score was printed for Messrs. Longman and Broderip, and sold at their Music-Shops, in Cheapside at the Hay-Market, Paper dimensions: 332 x 233 mm. With a pasted label over imprint, partly visible: ‘LEIGH and SOTHEBY’S, Booksellers, in York-Street, / […] following Music-shops, Messrs. BIRCHALL / […] and Mr. BREMNER’S, in the’., Half-bound in calf leather over marbled paper-covered boards; pasted cover label in gilt: ‘THE TEMPEST’., from the BBC Music Library in the Historical Music Collection at Special Collections and Archives, with the stamp of the BBC, as well as the pencil annotations on front pastedown: ‘Mrs. Edw. Charrington’ and flyleaf: ‘12.2.82. P. Wood Ret. Music Librarian’, and the manuscript annotations on flyleaf: ‘J. Nicholls. 1793’ and at head of title page: ‘Mrs. Nicholls 7th June 1786’. It could prove particularly fruitful for researchers into inter-textuality in Shakespeare, music students, with the potential for cross-university or school projects, as well as musical history scholars.

Tempest Music 2

Purcell, The Music in the Tempest, (c. 1760s), composition detail. Historical Music Collection.

This particular ‘treasure’ was selected in conjunction with the first due to the continuing theme of its deeply intertextual nature. As a text, it is written for performance alongside another text –the adapted play The tempest, or The enchanted island: A comedy. When combined the two texts inform, augment, and illuminate each other. It is even more interesting in the esoteric nature of it as the physical composition of it is to include singing parts of Milcha – a character which only exists in the D’Avenant/Dryden adaptation. The addition of lyrics in the score accentuates a deeper textual layer to the texts and their intertextuality. They were written a century apart, but produced to be performed in unison. In this literal pairing, it only seems fitting that what history has split into two separate ages, formats and authors, should be brought back together as was originally intended.

You can listen to a sample of music from  Purcell’s The Music in the Tempest, adapted by Jacob, here:

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