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Broken HarmonyShakespeare and the Politics of Music$
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Joseph M. Ortiz

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449314

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449314.001.0001

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“Her speech is nothing”

“Her speech is nothing”

Mad Speech and the Female Musician

(p.45) Chapter 2 “Her speech is nothing”
Broken Harmony

Joseph M. Ortiz

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on the convergence between attacks on music and early modern representations of women. Renaissance writers often associated music and women as producers of unintelligible sound, and this anxiety drives the attempt to transform music and women into “speaking pictures.” Hamlet and The Rape of Lucrece document the suppression of musical sound and the female voice, an aesthetic move that becomes a hallmark of Romantic versions of Shakespeare. As in Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare foreground the promiscuity of musical meaning, but in ways that specifically identified this promiscuity with the female voice. In this respect, he rehearsed a strand of early modern Reformist and misogynistic rhetoric that represents music's meaninglessness and women's unruliness as equivalent. Shakespeare was well aware of the negative association of music and women, but he was also critical of positive representations of music that ennoble the female musician at the risk of pictorializing her.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, plays, Hamlet, music, Renaissance, women, female voice, The Rape of Lucrece, musical meaning

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