Tag Archives: drama

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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Illustrating Shakespeare: Interview with the curator

posterOur latest exhibition, Illustrating Shakespeare, has been guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman. The exhibition focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Our archivist Alison Harvey interviewed Michael to find out more about the exhibition, and his wider research on illustrated Shakespeare.

A: So what was the thinking behind the exhibition?

M: Well, my PhD research is focused on Victorian Shakespeare illustration and it just seemed like the right time to do the exhibition. I’m coming to the end of my doctoral work now and this year is also the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death so I’m delighted that we can mark the anniversary in this way.

A: Ok, let’s take a step back, then. Why did you want to look at Shakespeare illustration for your PhD?

M: Shakespeare illustration is, basically, an untapped resource of vast research potential. It’s a treasure trove. When I was exploring my potential PhD ideas I couldn’t believe that hardly any work had been done in this field at all. This is amazing for two reasons: the first being that almost everything to do with Shakespeare has been covered many many times previously and, secondly, because the illustrations are hugely important culturally.

A: Why is that, do you think?

M: The images are important culturally, certainly by the time we get to the Victorian period, because these illustrated editions would have been the first encounter with Shakespeare that many readers would have had. They were sold relatively cheaply and were affordable to members of the working classes – a group of people who may not have been able to experience Shakespeare in the London theatre. Their experience of Shakespeare was based on these illustrated pages as opposed to the stage. As such these editions are significant as they played a very significant part in how the Victorians, for example, thought about and constructed Shakespeare.

A: If they are so important, then what can account for the lack of scholarly research in this area?

M: In academia there is a real fear of images. People don’t know how to read them, let alone what to do with them. So when you get a form like illustration that combines both word and image in often highly complex ways, it is easier just not to bother trying to analyse it or think about it. Historically, illustration has been considered as mere decoration, subservient to the words that it is simply embellishing. Illustration does not have the capacity to create meaning in and of itself, we seem to be told through the brevity of work that has been done. Obviously, I am coming at this from an English Literature perspective, but even in disciplines like Art History, the focus is on painting and ‘high art’; illustration isn’t considered ‘serious’ enough. These problems are magnified further when we start working with Shakespeare, because for many people, Shakespeare’s words are considered almost sacred. So we have two situations combining to create a situation where these illustrations have been ignored: the academy’s fetishisation of the word as the sole source of knowledge, and the Shakespeare scholar’s obsession with the written word itself.

A: But surely without the written word, there would be no Shakespeare to study?

M: That’s not quite what I’m saying. What I mean is that Shakespeare’s plays create meanings that aren’t confined to verbal discourse alone. They are plays: by their nature, they rely on an interplay between visual and verbal modes of communication. A vast industry has grown up around Shakespeare scholarship that looks at the most tiniest details of the text to explain what Shakespeare meant. As if having textual validation about Shakespeare’s intentions is a desirable thing to have. It is not. I really do not care what Shakespeare meant, but what I do care about is how, to quote the late Terence Hawkes, we mean by Shakespeare. In short, if a comma in a speech creates meaning, and is worth so much time agonising over, then surely so does placing an illustration next to that speech? And if that is indeed the case (as I suggest it is) then we need to begin to rethink how we consider the Victorians’ relationship with Shakespeare.

A: This would be a good time, then, to talk about your big project that you have coming out in the next few months, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive?

M: The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive is an open access database that contains over 3,000 Victorian illustrations of Shakespeare’s plays. As it has a Creative Commons license by attribution, any user will be able to take any of the images and do whatever they like with them. The archive is the practical part of my PhD. The other part is the more traditional thesis aspect that explores how I have gone about setting up this resource in the first place. The archive came about when I was discussing this work with my supervisor, Professor Julia Thomas, and, as I have said, because the illustrations that I found were so rich, compelling and interesting, we decided I should build an archive and share them with the world!

A: And when will you be launching?

image1M: Early summer. Stay tuned.

Michael John Goodman is in his final year of his PhD at Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy. His research focuses on Victorian illustrated editions of Shakespeare and how digital technology is changing our relationship to research and Shakespeare himself. He is the RA on Cardiff University’s brand new Digital Cultures Network and can be contacted at GoodmanMJ@cardiff.ac.uk.