SHAKESPEARE’S GARDEN

     During 2004 and 2005, Wind in the Woods was performing two programs in which there was some overlapping of music.  One program called “All in a Garden Greene,” took the audience on an imaginary tour of manor house lands somewhere in Europe.   The “tour” included visits to the herb and flower garden, the pond and river, the orchard, and the fields.   The other program integrated music with quotes from Shakespeare’s plays and poetry, and a narrative about his life and times. 

     Our new CD combines music from both of the above programs, and so acquired the title “Shakespeare’s Garden.”  The dovetailing of these programs works well, for Shakespeare did in fact aspire to the life of a land-owning gentleman. He purchased New Place, a house in Stratford in 1597, and later farmland and a cottage. 

         This recorded program of music begins with an instrumental version of The Curtain Drawn, a consort song by Giles Farnaby.  The words to this song tell of a lover, approaching the curtained bed of his lady, and drawing back the curtain so that he could gaze upon her as she slept.   Imagine, though, that you are in Shakespeare’s large gabled house on Chapel Street in Stratford.  You are standing at a curtained window, and when you draw back the curtain you see a flower garden, grape vines, a herb garden, and an orchard of apple trees like the one mentioned in Henry IV. Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an arbour we will eat a last year's Pippin of my own graffing, with a dish of Caraways”. (2nd Henry IV.v.3).

          The window is slightly open, and you hear music. A celebration of some sort is taking place, Whitsuntide Festivities perhaps; there are men and women dancing on the grass while musicians play All in a Garden Green.    In Playford’s The Dancing Master of 1650 this tune is used for a “longways for six” kissing dance.

        Shakespeare’s references to music, musicians, instruments, and songs are prolific, and we assume that his guests must share his appreciation for music, as Shakespeare observes that:

                      The man that hath no music in himself
                     Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
                     Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
                     The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
                     And his affections dark as Erebus:
                      Let no such man be trusted The Merchant of Venice (V.i.83-88).

          You push the window open wider to better hear the music, and the delicious perfume of roses drifts in. A desire to behold the beauty of these flowers compels you to wander through a portal into Shakespeare’s Garden.  Shakespeare has planted a variety of roses including the damask rose, first brought to England by Knights returning from Damascus during the crusades.  A youthful swain, standing in an arbor near the red roses woos his lady with poetic flattery to the strains of Thomas Wilbye’s four-part madrigal “Lady, when I behold the Roses sprouting.”  Are those indeed her lips, or roses?  He bends to pluck a flower in order to make his comparison, but these words come to mind:When I have plucked the Rose, I cannot give it vital growth again It needs must wither.  I’ll smell it on the tree” (Othello, V.ii.86) and so he merely inhales the rose’s sweet scent and feels the softness of its petals.

 It is natural that there would be madrigal singing at a gathering of this sort, as it was a required social skill for any properly educated person. Henry Peacham, in The Compleat Gentleman (1622), wants the young and socially ambitious to be able to "sing your part sure, and at first sight, withall, to play the same upon your viol, or the exercise of the lute, privately, to your self."  To help those deficient in this area, Thomas Morley wrote a self-help book entitled A Plaine and Easy Introduction to Practicall Musicke.  The vogue for madrigal singing began when Nicolas Yonge published Musica Transalpina a book of Italian madrigals, with English words, in 1588.  John Wilbye, Thomas Weelkes and Thomas Morley were leading composers of the English Madrigal School.  

 The players have changed their tune again, now they are playing Thomas Morley’s  “Springtime Mantleth Every Bough” (Canzonets to Three Voices, 1593).  Morley,  a publisher as well as a composer, did much to promote and “Anglicize” the Italian Madrigal including the lighter kinds, the ballet and canzonet. 

       Thomas Morley’s lute song “It was a Lover and his Lass” is used in Shakespeare’s play As you Like it. “O Mistress Mine” a song used in Twelfth Night, was also set to music by Morley, although it is not known if his was the setting used by Shakespeare.  It is very probable that Shakespeare and Thomas Morley knew each other, as at one time, they both lived (possibly in the same building) in the parish of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate.  Morley was a member of the Chapel Royal, an elite group of musicians serving Queen Elizabeth I, and he may well have witnessed the plays performed by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men at court.

 While we have been talking about Thomas Morley, you have wandered away from the flower garden to the herb garden.  In the corner next to a high brick wall stands a fine bay bush, with its polished green leaves gleaming in the warm sun.  You reach out to pluck one of the pungent leaves and notice that the song which now floats across the garden is “When Daphne from fair Phoebus did fly.” Often referred to just as “Daphne” it was a very popular melody published in many forms.   The song tells this story from Ovid’s Metamorphosis:  the God, Phoebus Apollo, espied and lusted after the beautiful and virtuous nymph Daphne. He pursued her but Daphne ran from him and as she did so, prayed to the chaste Goddess Diana (Apollo’s sister).   Diana heard Daphne’s pleas for help and saved her by turning her into a Bay bush.  Shakespeare knew the story, for in Taming of the Shrew, he compares Kate to “Daphne roaming through a thorny wood, scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds” (Ind.ii.57-58).  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream though, the situation is turned around, for Helena says “Apollo flies and Daphne holds the chase” (II.i.231). 

 Suddenly you hear a voice calling for a dance, like Margaret in Much Ado about Nothing someone says “Clap’s into Light O’Love, (that goes without a burden) do you sing it, and I’ll dance it.” (III.iv.46) You find yourself pulled into the dancing, and afterwards, hot and a little short of breath you seek the coolness of the house.   You enter a passageway that comes out into a courtyard and then continues on, through the servants’ quarters. 

       You come to a doorway framed with sweet smelling honeysuckle and find that you are looking out onto Chapel Street.   Then you notice a brightly clad squadron of men, in high spirits, sauntering along the street.  They stop in front of New Place – these must be the Town Waytes come to welcome Shakespeare’s visitors. They carry some crumhorns (antiquated instruments for Shakespeare’s time), as well as recorders, a lute and a treble viol.  They launch into a piece they announce as “The Honeysuckle” which you recognize, although the Waytes play it more in the manner of a march than the graceful almain that Anthony Holborne intended.

        A servant brings out a flagon of ale to reward the enthusiastic musicians. You stay for a while observing the bees collecting nectar from the honeysuckle. When you return to the garden you notice that there are also bees buzzing around some hives.  As it happens one of the lady guests is singing, a song about bees.  It begins, “It was a time when silly bees did speak and in my time I was a silly bee.”  You listen carefully to the words, and soon realize that the song is a metaphor for the life of an angry and frustrated courtier.

       The Earl of Essex may have written the words of  It was a time” that John Dowland set to music and published in his The Third and Last Booke of Songs (1603). The Earl of Essex failed to suppress rebellion in Ireland and returned to England against the orders of Elizabeth I.    He burst into her Majesty’s chamber, still dirty and disheveled from his journey and caught the Queen without her customary make up, wig and ornate clothing.  Even though the Queen had him put under house arrest, Essex managed to plot a rebellion of his own.  He failed in this also.  Shakespeare’s company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, were caught up in the turmoil.

 One of the conspirators, Sir Gelly Merick, had insisted that the actors perform, on the eve of the insurgence, Shakespeare’s “Richard II.”  At first, they protested – “it was out of date - there was no demand for it,” but the actors were offered a sum of money they could not refuse. “Richard II” was about the deposing of a king, and its performance, especially on the eve of the rebellion, smacked of treason. In addition to this William Shakespeare’s young friend and patron, the Earl of Southampton was heavily involved in the plot.  Sir Gelly Meyrick was executed and the Earl of Southampton imprisoned; the actors were questioned, but happily, they were not punished.

    A quiet drowsiness falls now upon the garden; clusters of people talk quietly in the shade of trees, while the musicians play a piece quite familiar to the guests - “Browning” also known as “The Leaves be Green.”    You notice that the haunting melody shifts from one of the five parts to another throughout the music.   The guests know the words to the simple melody line and a few sing softly “The Leaves be green, the nuts they are brown, they hang so high they will not fall down.”   This setting is by Henry Stoning, but other composers too have written intricate music around this tune, the famous William Byrd for example, as well as the little known Elway Bevin.

    You are sitting now on a stone bench shaded by the grapevine-covered arbor.  A nearby group gossip about the musicians and you learn that the lute-player is Robert Johnson. He is now accompanying “Where the Bee sucks there suck I,” the lute song he composed for Shakespeare’s The Tempest a playfull of sweet airs that give delight and hurt not (III.ii.146).  Ariel sings this just before Prospero grants him his freedom and as he performs a final task for Prospero.  As Ariel helped Prospero to don his Ducal Robes, the prosperous William Shakespeare was no doubt thinking of his retirement to New Place as a Gentleman with his own coat of arms.

      Robert Johnson received his musical training in Sir George Carey’s household.  Sir George was the son of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon who was the Lord Chamberlain and patron of Shakespeare’s company of actors, The Chamberlain’s Men. Later Johnson became a lute player and composer to Prince Henry (d.1612) King James I and then to Charles I. Johnson composed music for the elaborate masques that were performed at court as well as for plays of Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher.  He worked closely with Shakespeare’s company of players, now,  under the auspices of King James and the patronage of Sir George Carey, known as “The King’s Men.” As well as The Tempest, Johnson wrote songs for Cymbeline and A Winter’s Tale.

    The next music you hear is a lute solo “Robin is to the Greenwood Gone” which is based on the tune of a well-known ballad “Bonny Sweet Robin.”  You are struck by the sweet poignancy of the lute, and think of Benedict’s remark in Much Ado About Nothing "Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men's bodies? " (II.iii.59-60).   The music inspires a good-looking youth (an aspiring actor perhaps), to play the part of the distracted Ophelia in Hamlet.   He walks around the flower and herb garden and with elaborate gesture points to various plants as he quotes:

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance  . . . and there’s pansies, that’s for thoughts . . . There’s fennel for you and columbines.  There’s rue for you and here’s some for me; we may call it a herb of grace a Sundays.  O you must wear your rue with a difference.  There’s a daisy.  I would give  you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end; for  Bonny Sweet Robin is all my Joy.” (IV.v. 175-189)

        A hush falls upon the guests in the garden as singers join the musicians for the old song “Hey Robin.”  This gentle air lulls you into a reverie about the vicissitudes of love!    “Hey Robin” was composed by William Cornysh, a court musician, composer, poet, dramatist and actor in the service of Henry VIII.   Cornysh died in 1523, and so this song was old by Shakespeare’s time.   However, Shakespeare seems to have known it well for he quotes it in both Twelfth Night and All’s Well That Ends Well. 

          Suddenly you are startled out of your reverie by an animated discussion going on between some people hidden from view by the arbor. They are talking about the local Whitsuntide celebrations which took place earlier in the day. The festivities featured the time-honored characters of Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Little John, but alas, times are a-changing!   The next song “Since Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Little John are Gone-a” tells how a new hero, William Kemp, has replaced traditional characters in song and story.

        Thomas Weelke’s three-part madrigal, “Since Robin Hood” is quoted in Loves Labours Lost in this amusing exchange between Don Armado and Moth:

                         Don Armado:  But O, but O
                        Moth: “The hobby horse is forgot”
                        Don Armado: Callst thou my love “hobby horse?”
                        Moth: No, master, the hobby-horse is just a colt (aside) and your love perhaps a hackney (III.i.28-33)

         The William Kemp (d.1603 – 1609) referred to in Weelke”s song was a comic actor for The Lord Chamberlain’s Men for six years.  He may have played the role of Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing and Peter in Romeo and Juliet.    Always on the move though, Kemp worked with other acting companies, and traveled extensively.    Before joining The Chamberlain’s Men he spent some time at Elsinore in Denmark – the site of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.  He was notorious for his jigs (bawdy song and dance comedy acts added at the end of plays).  One of his biggest claims to fame came from his well-publicized dance from London to Norwich and the song “Since Robin Hood” refers to this.  Kemp published an account of this feat called “Kemp’s Nine Daies Wonder” (1600).

         What is happening!  You are jolted from your repose by noisy shouting and singing coming from the courtyard you walked through earlier.   It turns out that the Town Waytes have been having a merry time in the servants’ quarters and are now ready for more music and dancing!   You join the general movement towards the courtyard.  The youthful actor of the garden and a balding bearded fellow with a tankard of ale in his hand, play out a scene from Loves Labours Lost :

Moth: Master, will you win your love with a French Brawl? 
Don Armado: How meanest thou? Brawling in French?
Moth: “No my complete Master but to jig off a tune with your tongues end, canary to it with your feet, humour it with turning up your eyelids, sigh a note and sing a note as if you swallowed love with singing love (III.i.28-32)

          The actors would continue, but shouts of  “A French Brawl, a brawl lets have a brawl!” drown them out. The Waytes, happy to comply, put down their tankards and pick up their instruments. Family, servants and guests quickly form a circle and dance with gusto to the Bransles de la Rien.   Arbeau describes this type of dance, called a Bransle in France and a Brawl in England in his dance manual Orchesographie (1589). “Bransles de la Reine” (I, II and III) are from Michael Praetorius’s Terpsichore (1612), a collection of 312 dances.

          More ale is brought forth to quench renewed thirst, and as the courtyard quiets down you hear the sound of recorders coming from the garden. You wander back in that direction and find that three musicians are playing another of Thomas Morley’s canzonets.  This one “Good Morrow Fair Ladies of the May” was probably played quite recently for May Day festivities.   On the eve of Mayday it is traditional for young maidens to sleep in the woods in the belief that they will dream of their future husbands.  Often young men anxious to add reality to those dreams join them!   In the morning, young and old gather the may- flower to decorate their homes.

          The cheerful sounds of “Good Morrow Fair Ladies” end. After a pause the lute player strums a chord, and a young woman begins a plaintiff song.  It seems familiar to you – of course – you have heard it in the play Othello, it is very like the one that Desdemona sings not long before she is murdered by her husband.     Yes, now you remember Desdemona’s words of foreboding:

                         My mother had a maid call’d Barbary
                          She was in love, and he she lov’d, rov’d mad.
                        And did forsake her.  She had a song of Willow,
                        An old thing ‘twas, but it express’d her Fortune,
                        And she died singing it.  That Song tonight

                        Will not go from my mind – hark, who’s that knocks? (IV.iii.26-30)

          The Willow Song fades away, and someone asks the musicians to play “Welladay.”  The lute player speaks up “Why not! King James is on the throne, the King’s Men are gathered here, and all’s well for Well-a-day.”  You wonder what this remark means.  You must have wondered out loud, for, as the lilting melody begins, a man standing near you explains: “A few years ago, when Queen Elizabeth still lived no one would have dared ask for this air – it was a popular ballad back in 1601, the year the Earl of Essex was executed for treason.   The song was also known as ‘The Earl of Essex' Last Goodnight’ and began ‘Sweet England’s pride is gone! Well-a-day! Well-a-day!’ By our Lady, the Queen wanted no reminders of the fate of her one-time favorite!”  Your informer wanders away, as if, even now, he feels that he has said too much.

          The sun is beginning to sink and there is a chill in the air.   You notice that the tune has changed again to another Weelkes’ three-part madrigal, “The Nightingale, the organ of delight,” a song that seems to merge with the late afternoon chorus of chirping birds.  Soon the birdsongs will give way to the single voice of the nightingale, a sure sign of the day’s demise.

          The frivolity has not yet ended, for some new commotion is afoot; the Waytes - Will-ye, Nil-ye -  have progressed right into Shakespeare’s Garden and are offering musical competition with their rendition of “Barley-Break.”  The theatre musicians, wishing not to be outdone by The Waytes, join in!  Someone obviously recognizes the tune and shouts out “Shall we play Barley-Break?”  Three couples arrange themselves so that two couples at some distance apart face inward toward a couple in the middle, the couples all hold hands, but the couple in the middle (which you learn is called “hell”) break and run – if they are caught by the outer couples "the blessed" they must take their turn as catchers (Duffin, 58)).

        One of the characters in Two Noble Kinsmen is refers to Barley Break:

                    Faith I'll tell you, sometime we go to Barley Break
                    We of the blessed; alas, tis a sore life they have i'th
                    Thother place, such burning, frying, boiling, hissing,
                    Howling, chatt'ring, cursing,  oh they have shrewd
                    Measure, take heed:  (IV.iii)

        Someone amongst revelers (who is well acquainted with A Midsummer Night’s Dream) is in the mood for something more light and tripping;  “come ” she calls “a roundel and a fairy song” (II.ii.1) and so the musicians play “The Faery Round.”  The few who are young, energetic and sober enough join to dance a galliard.

          After this, the musicians put down their instruments and reach for tankards of ale (music-making is thirsty work). The young man who earlier in the day was wooing his lady among the roses by the arbor, was apparently rejected, for he has been standing mournfully alone and now opines bitterly: "If music be the food of love, play on,/Give me excess of it; that surfeiting/ The appetite may sicken and so die "(Twelfth Night I.i.1).

          One of the musicians responds: “We’ll give you a Shakescene from Romeo and Juliet, for there is excess of love in that play and music enough to lift your doleful dumps!”  He turns to the other musicians “I’ll be Peter and you know well how to play the rest!”

Peter:  When griping griefs the heart doth wound,
and doleful dumps the mind oppress,
then Music with her silver sound.  
Why silver sound? why Music with her silver sound?
What say you Simon Catling?
Musician:  Marry sir, because silver hath a sweet sound.
Peter: Pratest; what say you Hugh Rebeck?
2nd Musician:   I say silver sound, because Musicians sound for silver
Peter: Pratest too, what say you James Sound-Post?
3rd Musician:   Faith, I know not what to say.
Peter: O, I cry you for mercy, you are the Singer.  I will say for you: it is Music with her silver sound, because Musicians have no gold for sounding:
Then Music with her silver sound,
with speedy help doth lend redress

        One of the musicians bows low, and doffs his cap; then with the hat in his outstretched hand he begins to canvas the guests with the words “Come friends! A silver sound from you is music to our ears” but our host quickly puts a stop to this  “Thou begging knave, earn your keep – give us more music, something lively!”

        The young man who earlier wanted his appetite for love to “sicken and die” has already had a change of heart.  He seems to have found a new love, and when the musicians strike up “La Volta” he pulls her into the dance, quite literally sweeping her off her feet, for this is a form of galliard that involves leaps and twirls, and demands that the man lift the lady high into the air. The actors, musicians and playgoers who watch the young couple are reminded of what the Duke of Britain says, in Henry V, on the eve of the battle of Agincourt:

 They bid us to the English dancing-schools,
  And teach lovoltas high and swift corantos;
  Saying our grace is only in our heels"(III.v.32-35)

             The dance is barely over when a fresh wave of excitement ripples through the company.  The ladies especially seem a-buzz with interest.   A pedlar has come to offer his wares, which include many “Fine Knacks for Ladies.  Within his pack the pedlar has “pins, points, laces, and gloves and diverse toys, fitting a country fai.r.”   The pedlar’s trinkets are similar to the ones Autoclyus sings of in A Winter’s Tale:

Will you buy any tape,
Or lace for your cape,
My dainty duck, my dear-a?
Any silk, any thread,
Any toys for your head,
Of the new'st and finest, finest wear-a? (IV.iv.315-320)
	    The musicians might just as well take a break, for the crowd’s attention is centered  on the pedlar. 
 Like Autoclyus, he makes his own music as the ladies examine his treasures: "He sings several tunes 
faster than you’ll tell money; he utters them as he had eaten ballads and all men’s ears grew to his 
tunes” (IV.iv183-186)

           As the hubbub dies away, you become aware of the lonely distant voice of a nightingale. It is dusk, people thank Master Shakespeare and his good wife for their hospitality and take their leave; there is time though for one last song, which gives the day “a swan’like end, fading in music.”  (Merchant of Venice III, ii) The song tells of how the silent swan finds its voice in a beautiful farewell song when it dies.

      The notes of Orlando Gibbon’s poignant song fade away, the garden musicians and the Waytes pick up their instruments and exit Shakespeare's Garden playing the familiar “All in a Garden Green.”

            Wind in the Woods Early Music Ensemble hope you have enjoyed this visit to Shakespeare”s Garden.  We would be glad to hear your comments on the CD and the above program notes and you can e-mail these to Margaret Erin at merin.windinthewoodsearlymusic.com

 Copyright March 2006   Margaret Erin

Margaret Erin, B.A. Music (Magna cum Laude), M. Hum.
Director: Wind in the Woods Early Music Ensemble
Adjunct Faculty: University of Dayton, Early Music Ensemble.
Proprietor: Manorhouse Music -Music for Early Instruments, Recorder Lessons

 

LINKS

Woodcuts of an Elizabethan Garden http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/may2001.html

 Instruments of Shakespeare’s Time: http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/stage/music.html

 Renaissance composers: http://www.hoasm.org/IVM/Englandthru1635.html and scroll down below the article to the alphabetical list of composers.

 Shakespeare and Dance: http://www.balletmet.org/Notes/anchor192445

"Nine Daies Wonder"   William Kemp's account of his dance from London to Norwich http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/kemp.html

 Town Waytes: http://www.luc.edu/publications/medieval/vol4/seitz.html

 The Lord Chamberlain’s Men: http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/stage/chamberlainsmen.html

 Shakespeare and Horticulture: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/history/lecture37/lec37.html

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ackroyd, Peter. Shakespeare: The Biography. New York: Doubleday, Random House Inc., 2005.

 Baker, Herschel et al, eds.  The Riverside Shakespeare.  New York:   Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997.

Cesarano S. P. "Kemp, William." Tudor England: An Encylopedia  Eds. Arthur F. Kinney and David Swain
    New York: Garland Publishing, 2001.

 Duffin, Ross W. Shakespeare’s Songbook. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 2004.

 Kermode, Frank.  The Age of Shakespeare. New York: Modern Library, 2004.

 Honan, Park. Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1999.

 Lamson, Roy. “Historical Notes.”  Elizabethan & Shakespearean Musicke for the Recorder arr. Claude Simpson. Boston:          E.C. Schirmer Music Co., 1941.

 Singman, Jeffrey L. Daily Life in Elizabethan England. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995.