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Staging HarmonyMusic and Religious Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Drama$
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Katherine Steele Brokaw

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501703140

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501703140.001.0001

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Arts to Enchant

Arts to Enchant

The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale

Chapter:
(p.188) Chapter 6 Arts to Enchant
Source:
Staging Harmony
Author(s):

Katherine Steele Brokaw

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501703140.003.0006

This chapter examines Shakespeare’s The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale. It argues that the religious diversity—even inclusiveness—that many see as characteristic of these plays is most perfectly rendered musically, where the metaphorical power of social concord and the persistent idea of universal harmony lend extra charge to performed songs. In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot and in the context of ongoing attempts by the clergy and laity to compromise regarding the use of music in the early Jacobean church, the harmonies of The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale resonate with the urgency of religious and social cooperation. These two plays represent music as both a speculative and practical art with myriad potentials for use and abuse. They ultimately suggest that the real power of music comes not so much from unexplained sources as from human performance and human myth making. But in Shakespeare’s late plays, the human element of music—its capacity for artistry and cooperation—makes it capable of not only deception and coercion, but also reconciliation.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, plays, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, music

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