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'Singe The Enchantment For Sleepe': Music And Bewitched Sleep In Early Modern English Drama

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Chapter Summary

Early modern English theologians, philosophers and composers have acknowledged the cosmic similitudes between music and magic, and judging from the number of plays featuring musical witches and sorceresses, London?s playwrights were well aware of these contemporary treatises. Though scholarship on sleep and dreams and the early modern imagination have come to the fore in recent years, serious musicological research into the relationship between witchcraft, music, and enchanted sleep as represented on the early modern English stage is noticeably absent. This chapter examines three strikingly similar English plays, with Greco-Roman antecedents, written around the turn of the seventeenth century ? Robert Greene?s Alphonsus and Orlando Furioso, and John Lyly?s Endymion ? for the potent combination of music, magic, and bewitched sleep. Using a combination of song, sorcery, and erotic magic, the witch-sorceresses in these works charm the unsuspecting heroes to sleep with vocal and instrumental music.

Keywords: Alphonsus; early modern English stage; enchanted sleep; Endymion; erotic magic; music; Orlando Furioso



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