Words and Music
R. W. INGRAM
MEETINGS between the arts were normal in Elizabethan England and that between music and poetry was only one of many. Before examining some aspects of that partnership in the production of the Air an indication of the unique nature of the artistic society in Elizabethan London must be given. As far as the arts were concerned, London was not England, for there were other centres in the Universities, Cathedrals and country houses; but within the boundaries of London the majority of poets, dramatists, musicians, painters, and designers lived and worked. A knowledge of other artists' experiments and achievements was normal; there was little room for ivory towers. As easily as they met each other so did various arts and skills tend to meet in one person. A man was rarely only a poet or a composer; this man's art and that man's scope were often found fused in a mixture of amateur and professional in the same man. In such a society at such a time of experiment and adventure it was natural that there was much discussion and argument about the arts. The twin effloresence of poetry and music inevitably concentrated attention upon those arts. Here lies the explanation of the amount of criticism published at the time. Sidney The Defence of Poesy ( 1595), Morley Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music ( 1597)--a bestseller despite being neither so plain nor so easy as its tide suggested-- Campian's Observations on the Art of English Poesy ( 1606) and Samuel Daniel's vigorous retort in the same year, An Apology for Rhyme, are four among many works testifying to an energetic interest in critical problems of poetry and music.
In the theatres and the court artists found most stimulation and their best source of income. The entertainments presented in them demanded collaboration. The actor, as described by T. G. in his Rich Cabinet, is the best symbol of the uniting of several skills in one person at this time; he is one 'who hath many times many excellent qualities, as dancing, activity, music, song, elocution, ability of body, memory'. The accuracy