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Gascoigne and Practical Music: Playing Loath to Depart

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Publication Date: 2015-08-21

Journal Title: The Review of English Studies

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Volume: 67

Issue: 278

Pages: 42-61

Language: English

Type: Article

Metadata: Show full item record

Citation: Alexander, G. (2015). Gascoigne and Practical Music: Playing Loath to Depart. The Review of English Studies, 67 (278), 42-61.

Description: This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Oxford University Press via

Abstract: Editors and critics of the important mid-Elizabethan poet and writer of prose fiction George Gascoigne have overlooked clear references to musical pieces and practices in his works. In particular they have missed an allusion to a song, ‘Loath to depart’, which forms a key motif in ‘The Adventures of Master F.I.’, and have not understood the use of an Inns of Court dance, ‘Tinternel’, in a central scene in which F.I. recites a poem to music whilst dancing. I explicate these musical moments in ‘F.I.’, reconstructing the music and words in question, after first assessing the significance of other allusions to music across Gascoigne’s work. Whilst these point to an interest in the relations between music and verse metrics, to be expected from England’s first vernacular theorist of versification, they do not amount to evidence of Gascoigne’s skill as an instrumentalist or composer. But it is clear that he could dance and sing, and that he thought hard about the implications––social, moral, psychological, and literary––of musical practices. Gascoigne deploys music in his works and represents music’s social functions. I suggest that Gascoigne’s interest in practical music helps him both to develop and to represent an implicit ‘theory of practice’, whereby the complex social interactions of lovers are structured, served, and figured by the musical interactions of word and tune, instrument and body, or partners in a dance.


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Author: Alexander, Gavin



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