THE year of 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses on a Wittenberg church door. This event kick-started a theological reformation that encouraged rigorous scanning of received texts for their authority and antiquity. It is appropriate, therefore, to review a textual crux on psalmic allusions in William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor which has exercised editorial opinion for more than 300 years. Through the presentation of new historical evidence, this note will intervene in the current trend towards heavy emendation, making a case for a restitution of the original spelling in future editions and glosses of the play, however fraught with bibliographical and hermeneutic issues. Recent editions and their methodologies of proof such as the musical dimension of psalms are discussed before introducing novel bibliographical material, bringing to light a new option in understanding the particular moment of the comedy. In the 1623 Folio version of the play, Mistress Ford shows her friend the identical love letter both have received from Falstaff, using a musical metaphor to describe the knight’s falseness: [he] gaue such orderly and wel-behaued reproofe to al vncomelinesse, that I would haue sworne his disposition would haue gone to the truth of his words: but they doe no more adhere and keep place together, then the hundred Psalms to the tune of Greensleeues1 The original number of psalms is 150, although there existed numerous collections in European vernaculars which included a variable number of psalm translations (see below p.7). There is, however, no known English collection of one hundred psalms only, a circumstance which has incited lively editorial intervention in relation to Mistress Ford’s remarks, ranging from emendation (of ‘the hundred Psalms’ to ‘the hundreth psalm’), to addition of the whole number of psalms (‘one hundred and fifty’). In the Modern Critical Edition of the Complete Works of The Oxford Shakespeare of 1986, John Jowett replaces the written number of Folio by ‘the hundred and fifty psalms’, that is, the complete number of psalms, a decision which the new 2017 edition by the same editors adheres to: the Modern Critical Editions replaces the number in letters by ‘150 Psalms’; the scholarly Critical Reference Edition accompanying the Complete Works presents the number as ‘[cl]Psalms’, and states that ‘Shakespeare had used Roman rather than Arabic numbering’.2 They suggest the “l” in “cl” was omitted without, however, offering any further explanation how this might have happened, resting their heavy emendation on too slight a conjecture. In his 1993 Oxford edition of the play, W. T. Craik follows the Complete Works, and chooses to insert ‘one hundred and fifty psalms’, explaining in the notes this is done in order to mark the general reference to ‘all or any psalm’ or unspecified ‘sacred song’.3 In a similar vein, Giorgio Melchiori’s New Arden Shakespeare (2000) annotates the textual puzzle as a reference to ‘any number of psalms’, while preserving Folio’s version in a rare conservative editorial decision.4 The opposite editorial strand (picking out one psalm rather than adding up to the complete number) began with Nicholas Rowe’s emendation of ‘the hundred Psalms’ to ‘the Hundredth Psalm’ in his 1709 The Works of Mr. William Shakespear, particularizing a unit of psalms to relate to a specific one.5The New Cambridge Shakespeare (2010) follows Rowe, acknowledging the taxing nature of Folio as it stands.6 The decision to single out one psalm rests amongst others on multiple conjectures, namely that Shakespeare’s manuscript did read ‘hundredth’, but, owing to a slip of the typographer’s eye (or Shakespeare’s pen for that matter), looked like ‘hundreth’, a common spelling variant of ‘hundred’ (compare George Gascoigne’s 1573 A Hundreth Sundry Flowers). Five out of the six editions discussed emend, suggesting that the general editorial trend of this crux is one of heavy intervention that potentially skews the connotations opened by Folio, a tradition which the evidence brought forth below challenges. In all cases, the justification of the editorial choices is based on the psalms’ double life as songs sung by the congregation, but their musical analyses, if anything, add yet more conflicting circumstances to the puzzle. A brief overview of the psalms’ sonic dimension will be followed by bibliographical evidence which attempts to offer a new resolution to this thorny material. Emendation of Mistress Ford’s allusion to ‘the hundredth psalm’ potentially makes sense, since there existed a widely-current song version called ‘The Old Hundredth’: All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell; Come ye before Him and rejoice.7 ‘The Old Hundredth’, also known as ‘Jubilate Deo’, was a well-liked tune for psalm 100. Its lyrics are written by William Kethe, an English expatriate in Geneva, printed by John Day in the first English psalter in 1561.8 Opinions on the emotional quality of ‘The Old Hundredth’ and its potential to be compared to a perhaps more buoyant ballad like ‘Greensleeves’, however, are divided: some critics, like Christopher Wilson, argue the tune is ‘slow and lugubrious’, and therefore unlike ‘Greensleeves’;9 others, like H. C. Hart, concede to the possibility of the lyrics of ‘The Old Hundredth’ being sung to the tune of the popular ballad.10 Apart from the, perhaps subjective, musical impression of psalm tune and ballad tune, the versification of the two pieces’ lyrics has posed further problems: ‘The Old Hundredth is in the long metre, that is, four stresses per line (in this case regular quatrains of eight syllables and four stresses a line).11 Robin Leaver claims this versification does not map onto ‘Greensleeves’ whose refrain (the first stanza below) is in the common measure of alternating four and three stresses per line per quatrain.12 Greensleeues was all my ioy, Greensleeues was my delight: Greensleeues was my hart of gold, And who but Ladie Greensleeues. Alas my loue, ye do me wrong, to cast me off discurteously: And I haue loued you so long Delighting in your companie. Greensleeues was all my ioy, Greensleeues was my delight: Greensleeues was my heart of gold, And who but Ladie Greensleeues.13 The narrative verse of the ballad, however, here the stanza after the refrain, is in the long metre, just as Kethe’s tune, certainly enabling the practice of contrafactum, that is, mapping new words on an old tune, common in secular and spiritual song alike.14 Leaver thus, perhaps, conflates the lyrics of ‘The Old Hundredth’ with the text and metre of Day’s metrical psalter in fourteeners (breaking down to the common measure when sung). If Mistress Ford’s allusion is indeed to the musical version of the hundredth psalm, it is unclear whether she means Kethe’s or Day’s version and whether their lyrics or tunes. Musical analysis, therefore, does not nudge towards emendation of Folio as ‘hundredth psalm’. What is clear, however, is that Mistress Ford likens Falstaff’s hypocrisy to a potential musical inappropriateness and perceived impossibility to fit a scriptural text to a worldly song. As much as godly words will not be made to fit the sound of worldly songs, Falstaff’s superficial meekness does not, according to the play, express his real character. Sound, Mistress Ford seems to say, goes deeper than words, representing the true nature of the song or person. At the same time, however, sound lacks the semantics of words, taking over subjective connotations transferred onto it by listeners. Sound, in combination with lyrics, thus transcends categorizing into form and substance, dissolving Ford’s witty reasoning. The yet more obvious irony is that it is perfectly possible to map new words onto old tunes as described above: it was both appropriate and possible to match psalms and hymns to secular sound owing to the shared versification of English balladry and psalmody which enabled melodies to wander from one to the other spectrum. The first published English translation of the psalms is Thomas Sternhold’s metrical psalter from ca 1547, augmented by further translations by John Hopkins in 1549. Both offered musical notations to the psalms composed in fourteeners. Since Sternhold was a minor courtier, one could legitimately locate the origins of his tunes in the soundscape of courtly song under Henry VIII, an ancestry corroborated by a psalm in the Lumley music book assembled around 1547–58 which resembles the secular love song ‘Blow thy horn, hunter’, extant in the much older song collection the Royal Manuscript from the first decade of Henry’s reign (1510–20).15 Aurally, then, spiritual words were indeed sometimes intoned to secular tunes. When reformers left for their Continental exile under Queen Mary (1553–58), they took the so-called Sternhold and Hopkins psalter with them, mingling its English sound with the French and German tunes on which they composed the rest of the missing psalms, leading to the first complete English psalter with music printed in Geneva in 1560. From the very start, then, psalm music was international and hybrid, mixing musical registers from spiritual and secular backgrounds, which belies Mistress Ford’s exigencies of sonic purity. It is, therefore, neither unlikely nor unacceptable as such that the psalms (whichever of them) was sung to the tune of ‘Greensleeves’. Whether the Windsor wives like it or not, music can be turned inside out to serve Falstaff’s purposes of disguise. As shown, the musical relationships between ‘Greensleeves’ and the hundredth psalm, cloud any editorial decisions of this bibliographical crux. A historical circumstance, then, might clinch the argument for a restitution of Folio’s reading, providing new insight: all European psalm translations have initially been published as varying numbers of psalms, such as the first Sternhold psalter in (19 psalms) or the 1551 Genevan Les Psaumes Octante-trois (83 psalms). There is no English or French collection of only one hundred psalms, but a Dutch version called Hondert Psalmen Davids by Jan Utenhove, a prominent member of the Dutch Stranger Church community in London. The Hondert Psalmen Davids was printed by John Day in London in 1561, a year before his Whole Booke of Psalms. Owing to the Dutch book’s great popularity, there were two editions in the same year (see ESTC S90839 and S90840, an 8° and a 16°), but it was not re-printed again. For now, it is not known whether there was an English translation of the Hondert Psalmen, for example printed by the cheaper Continental presses and smuggled into England, but the possibility cannot be excluded out of hand. The influence of the Hondert Psalmen on the experience of psalm singing by ordinary Englishmen is unclear. That Shakespeare makes an allusion to this particular collection of a small book 40 years after its publication is unlikely, but, considering the similarity of the Dutch title to English, it is not impossible that Shakespeare or the typesetter skipped to ‘the hundred Psalms’ not because of a spelling mistake or a musical allusion, but because of an unconscious memory of the Dutch collection. It is also not impossible that Shakespeare gently alludes to the Oldcastle controversy, overshadowing the earlier Falstaff plays, parts one and two of Henry IV.16 The Dutch Stranger Churches in London and neighbouring regions had a reputation for evangelicalism, so an allusion to the Dutch psalms in relation to Falstaff would feed back into the character’s early connections to the protestant martyr Sir John Oldcastle, a finely nuanced in-joke through elusive musical networks.17 This small piece in the mosaic of the textual problem in the Merry Wives should clarify the conundrum, heping tip the balance to a restitution of Folio’s reading with all its concomitant issues. Footnotes 1 William Shakespeare, The Merry Wiues of Windsor (London, 1623), D4r. 2 Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (gen. eds), with John Jowett and William Montgomery, Complete Works, The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford, 1986), 518; the Modern Critical Edition (1777); the Critical Reference Edition, 1666. 3 The Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. W. T. Craik (Oxford, 1990), 116. 4 The Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. Giorgio Melchiori (London, 2000), 167. 5 The earliest marginalia the author found also corrects to ‘the hundreth psalm’ in a 1663 third Folio now in the Bodleian Library (Wing/S2917, D2r). The late seventeenth-century hand heavily annotates the book throughout, adding stage directions and changing scene divisions in all plays. 6 The Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. David Crane (Cambridge, 2010). 7 William Kethe, quoted in Havergal, 46, see note 8. 8 Kethe’s translation dropped from the second edition of the psalter in 1562, but continued to circulate independently. For an exhaustive study of English psalter translations in the Renaissance, see Beth Quitslund, The Reformation in Rhyme: Sternhold, Hopkins and the English Metrical Psalter, 1547–1603 (Aldershot, 2009). The tune of ‘The Old Hundredth’ stems from the second edition of the Genevan Pseaumes Octante Trois de David (1551), composed by Louis Bourgeois, see Paul-André Gaillard. Loys Bourgeois: sa vie, son œuvre comme pédagogue et compositeur (Lausanne, 1948). For a book-length study of the tune, see William Henry Havergal, A History of the Old Hundredth Psalm Tune (New York, 1854). 9 Christopher Wilson, Music in Shakespeare: A Dictionary (London, 2005), 467. For the tune base of ‘Greensleeves’, see Adam Knight Gilbert, ‘Thundering to the tune of Greensleeves’, in Hands-On Musicology: Essays in Honour of Jeffery Kite-Powell, ed. by Allen Scott (Ann Arbor, 2012), 101–17. 10 The Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. H. C. Hart (London, 1904). I am thankful for this reference communicated to me privately by Michael Steppart, editor of the forthcoming The Merry Wives of Windsor: A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare. Shortly after ‘Greensleeves’ was printed, ‘Greensleeves moralized’ followed suit, replacing the amorous lyrics of the ballad with pious words (see Hart, 467). Such godlifying practice was common and capitalized on the catchiness of secular tunes, evincing the carefree hijacking of sound for political purposes. 11 Martin J. Duffell, A New History of English Metre (London 2008), 63. 12 Private communication on 28 April 2017. 13 Clement Robinson, A Handefull of Pleasant Delites (London, 1584), B2r. 14 Contrafactum creation means singing an old tune to new words, a wide-spread activity for both the musical elite and ordinary people, witness the broadside ballad rubric ‘to the tune of’. For contrafactum habits see Willi Apel, The Harvard Dictionary of Music, rev. edn (Cambridge, MA, 1969), 203–4. 15 See Judith Blezzard, ‘The Lumley Books: A Collection of Tudor Church Music’, in The Musical Times, cxii (1971), 129. 16 For the nexus between Falstaff, Oldcastle, and puritanism, see Kristen Poole, ‘Saints Alive! Falstaff, Martin Marprelate, and the staging of Puritanism’, in Shakespeare Quarterly, xlvi (1995), 47–75. 17 For Dutch reformist congregations in England, see Ole Peter Grell, Calvinist Exiles in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 2017). © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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