Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Austern, Linda Phyllis. "Musical Parody in the Jacobean City Comedy." Music and Letters 66 (October 1985): 355-66.

The early seventeenth century witnessed the rise of the English dramatic genre known as city comedy or citizen comedy, a play characterized by a contemporary London setting, recognizable character types from the social milieux between manual laborers and prosperous merchants, colloquial diction, and predominantly satirical tone. Another marked feature, overlooked by musicologists until recently, is its realistic use of contemporary English music, thus providing a unique documentation of the varied musical practices and beliefs of contemporary London. It must also be considered the first English dramatic genre to make regular use of musical parody, over a century before the ballad opera emerged. The music in these plays is a mixture of original compositions, popular existing songs, and their parodies, all of which help to show the city and its people in many moods. Songs selected for parody were drawn from the contents of published books of songs and ayres, from the popular ballad repertory, and from other plays. All songs were sung as unaccompanied monodies, regardless of the texture of the original. Musical parody in the city comedies can be divided into three distinct types, in which respectively (1) a song text is altered to fit the specific circumstances under which it is to be sung on stage; (2) the circumstances surrounding the origin of the song are imitated (often through the treatment of a broadside ballad); and (3) a song or musical scenario from another play is imitated as part of a reference to, or a parody of, that other drama.

Works: Thomas Dekker and John Webster: Northward Ho (358-59), George Chapman, Ben Johnson and John Marston: Eastward Ho (360-65).

Sources: Robert Jones: "My thought the other night," Second Booke of Songs and Ayres (358-59), "A Sorowfull Sonet made by M. George Mannington, at Cambridge Castle. To the tune of Labandala Shot," A Handefull of Pleasant Delites (360-61).

Index Classifications: 1600s

Contributed by: Mirna Polzovic

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