The Tudor period saw the development of a great interest in music, and the appreciation of the musical abilities of the artists. The population was involved in this musical enthusiasm: there were sorts of competitions among the people in the tavern along the Thames and, sometimes, popular songs became the theme of masses such as Western Wind. Under the reign of Henry VIII, in the university of Cambridge was instituted the title of doctor in Music The Catches, polyphonic composition on canon with more than a voice, started in this period: they were manly based on jokes and puns. There were also many mutual influences, which involved Fiamminghi and Italian musicians. A typical Italian imitation was the mask, a dramatic composition that involved various arts such as dance, acting, music, and also scenery (famous architect on the stage was the Inigo Jones). Among the most popular musicians of the mask are remembered Thomas Campion (1567-1620) and Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543- 1588) of Italian origins..
Around 1600 in England, composers and poets were collaborating on a body of music known as the English madrigal. The composer and lutenist John Dowland (1563-1626), although concentrating mainly on melancholy ayres for solo voice with lute accompaniment, also wrote madrigals. Some of the best known of the English madrigalists include Thomas Morley (1558-1602), Francis Pilkington (ca.1570-1638), William Byrd (1543-1623), Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), and Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623). Queen Elizabeth I herself was an accomplished Harpsichord (a sort of lute) player, and supposedly delighted in the songs and Ayres of the madrigalists. Weelkes’ madrigal Come, let’s begin to revel’ out is a prime example of this cheerful and sprightly part-song. The texts of many of these madrigals, however, deal with spurn or not mutual love, and are often sad, but very beautiful.
From popular ballads to solemn church music and the sophisticated music of the court, Elizabethan music was varied and inventive, delightful and moving.
By Shakespeare’s time the music of the Church, the Court, and the stage had become sophisticated and varied, capable of communicating many moods. Virtually all plays–comedies and tragedies–used music to heighten the drama.
Shakespeare probably heard in the Court and in the houses of the educated the sophisticated madrigals and instrumental music of Thomas Morley; in Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s; he probably heard the masses of William Byrd, and around the streets of London also ageless folk music: the street cries, the ballads, the love songs.
On the stage, music played an important role. There was a special musicians’ gallery above the stage; sometimes the music was played on the stage itself; and there were even occasions when it was played under the stage to achieve an eerie effect. The comedies are full of songs and the gentle sound of the lute, while the tragedies and histories echo with the ceremonial sound of trumpets and drums.
Only a few of the original settings of songs Shakespeare wrote have survived; those that do illustrate the variety and melodic inventiveness of the music of the period. Among the most famous examples are, from As You Like It, the lyric “It Was a Lover and His Lass” (2.3.112-144), set by Thomas Morley; from The Tempest there are two pieces sung by Ariel: the haunting Full Fathom Five (1.3.18-22) and Ariel’s delighted response to the promise of freedom, Where the Bee Sucks.

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