OR THE MELANCHOLIC LUTENIST C. 1580-1640 by Peter Hauge I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these: but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.1

hakespeare’s works are suffused with melancholy and concepts associated with the mood. When reading the above quotation from As You Like It, it is evident that during the late Elizabethan age melancholy was very different and much more complex than the modern understanding of the concept as merely a depression or sadness. According to Jaques, who is the character delivering the lines, there were apparently many different kinds, of which the musician’s ‘fantastical’ melancholy was only one. But how did the Elizabethans define melancholy and why was it so popular that literature, poetry, paintings, and even music is suffused with concepts associated with this dark mood? That there was an extreme focus on melancholy is evident when looking at the amount of studies published between 1560s and 1630s specifically dealing with the concept. None of the other humours (sanguine, phlegmatic, and choleric) received so much attention or was thought so important that a writer found it necessary to devote a whole book to it. Some of the publications were translations of French or Spanish treatises while others were English. It must be emphasized, however, that most of these books deal with melancholy outside the area of literature and drama as they are more concerned with the nature and treatment of melancholy as a physical illness which had great impact on behaviour and social relations. The authors promote various cures usually of a moralizing kind interpreting melancholy as an emotion of sadness produced by


5 In the 1570s the traveller.2 One might argue that the huge focus on melancholy was due to the harsh social conditions at the time. but when reading contemporary descriptions of the dark mood it is very clear that Elizabethan writers were hardly concerned with the conditions of the lower classes of society which rarely seem to be mentioned in connection with melancholy. and Ireland) which interrupted trade. by modern standards the living conditions were indeed appalling. the realization that Man had sinned and hence was expelled from Paradise and now needed redemption – one proposed treatment was to accept that earthly goods were only transitory and to seek God’s guidance. Spain. returning to England after year-long visits to various countries on the Continent and now dressed in black (the garment of the Italian gentleman).3 Especially during the period 1585-1600 the political situation was very tense and unstable. The country’s economic problems were so desperate at times that the Queen sought advice from alchemists on the production of gold and secretly ordered at least one agent to buy alchemical equipment in Germany. Since sadness from a religious point of view was seen as reflecting sinfulness – that is. and belongs to spirits of the first ranke’.4 Around 75% of the population (including aristocracy and clergy) were unable to read and write whereas the majority of professional musicians belonged to the small group of literates: professional musicians usually had started their careers as choirboys who. Other treatments would depend on the persons affected and could be anything from recommending delightful distractions such as music or merry company to reading philosophical studies: ‘this manner of preserving a man from sorrow and melancholike passion is as rare. first of all because of various wars (the Netherlands. as it is excellent. but also because of years with bad harvests and plagues leading to many riots among the poorest parts of the population.44 Peter Hauge the sensitive part of the soul which needed to be controlled by reason. thereby restoring the peace of mind. was satirized in plays and literature as a malcontent with folded . when their voices were breaking. France. It was the affluent. Furthermore inflation was enormous: living expenses doubled during Elizabeth’s reign without any noticeable increase in basic salaries. It seems reasonable to assume therefore that the lower classes of society would suffer from melancholy because of the severe conditions. non-aristocratic but rich intellectual who apparently was most prone to the imbalance of the bodily fluids consequently producing melancholy. received instrumental training and attended school.

10 Some of his writings. So far two kinds of melancholy. have been explained. None of these. seems to be of primary importance for understanding the artist’s melancholy which apparently was not . Walsingham. the eminent spymaster and Secretary of State who died in 1590. Dowland’s biographer. as being crowded with melancholics seeking success and employment. Jaques must have sold his land to see other men’s. the centre of patronage. do reflect a certain bitterness or mention his ‘unhappie Fortunes’. suggests that ‘had he not been subjected to the shock of having his application for a post at Court refused in 1594. was affected. and she concludes that in order to travel. It was not just political posts allotted to the aristocracy that were affected by these economic difficulties. was not replaced for five years.The Elizabethan Amorist 45 arms. Jaques evidently suffers from the bad melancholy caused by travel. always complaining about life in the real physical world. the tendency to melancholy might have been appeased by satisfied ambition’.7 Many contemporaries describe the English Court. including art and music. In spite of several attempts to gain a vacant position as a lutenist at Elizabeth’s Court.8 It is clear that at least one type of melancholy (the malcontent which was considered a vice) was associated with the great dissatisfaction at Court with the economic situation. the whole range of Court patronage. Rosalind. one as a vice (the malcontent) and another as a disease (a medical condition which needs to be cured).11 One conclusion therefore is that Dowland would have suffered from melancholy or ‘malcontendedness’ caused by the rejection. however. and dissatisfied with conditions in England.6 Following Jaques’ explanation of his own melancholy in the introductory quote. The dire scenario meant that Elizabeth continuously tried to cut expenses by avoiding filling in the vacant positions at Court. that is he has seen much but owns nothing: ‘to have rich eyes and poor hands’.9 For example. from a political point of view the term was used to describe the two extreme sides of religion: Puritan and Catholic. John Dowland never achieved his highest ambition but had to accept an offer from King Christian IV of Denmark. Diana Poulton. especially his introductions to the printed collections of music. He might also have suffered from the traveller’s melancholy since he had spent several years on the Continent before applying for the vacant post at Court. The term ‘malcontent’ was not only interchangeable with ‘rebel’ but also with ‘melancholy’. immediately exclaims: ‘A traveller! By my faith you have great reason to be sad’. leaving his wife and family in England for a long period. bickering with his own shadow. daughter to the banished duke.

writers.12 The artist’s melancholy Through Marsilio Ficino’s translations and comments on the philosophical works of Plato. the soul might gain the much-coveted secrets of divine matters.13 Only when influenced by the melancholic humour was it possible to achieve original ideas. and to create art. for there are many sorts of melancholie: there is one that is altogether grosse and earthie. that the melancholicke are most wittie and ingenious: but we must looke that we understand this place aright. which relies heavily on the Galenic theory of medicine and the subtle combination of the qualities of the sanguine. and composers were prone to the dark mood and took a great delight in being melancholy.14 In 1599 Richard Surphlet published his translation of Andreas Laurentius’ A Discourse of Preservation of the Sight.16 . poets. It was a condition which they strived for and protected as their very special attribute. melancholic. however. and choleric humours. phlemagtic. inspiration. The highest achievement would be receiving knowledge of eternal things and the soul’s salvation. Most importantly. was combined with melancholy as interpreted in pseudo-Aristotle’s Problemata XXX: it was now possible to argue that all outstanding men. and in particular his explanation of the divine frenzies which in modern terms might be described as a state of trance. that the melancholic strain among artists should not necessarily be seen as reflecting a personal character but rather as being part of the artist as a creator: it may also have been a common tool employed by artists to heighten and expand the expressions and complexities of joy and sadness. the furor amatorius. most of which are base and should be avoided: Aristotle in his Problemes sayth. however.15 Throughout the book the author distinguishes between various kinds of melancholy. One of Plato’s divine frenzies. and yet notwithstanding is more drie and moyst. Artists. cold and drie: there is another that is hot and adust. It is important to keep in mind. whether in the realm of the arts. were melancholics.46 Peter Hauge something to be ashamed of. men call it atribilis: there is yet another which is mixed with some small quantitie of blood. the concept of melancholy received a more original and indeed a more positive interpretation. philosophy or statesmanship. as for instance the law of God and the angelic hierarchy.

and when the humour groweth hot.17 Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights would very often satirize the melancholic gentleman and ridicule the positive effects of being a melancholic. presently. I am melancholy myself. commonly called Enthousiasma. I pray you. divers times. Cousin [Wellbred]. is it well? Am I melancholy enough? Edw. sir: your true melancholy breeds your perfect fine wit. excellent. If one adds some dry light then the temperament is optimal and men’s conceit is very deep. Ben Jonson is caricaturing the whole cult for melancholy. have you a stool there to be melancholy upon? Mat. that you’ll say there’s some sparks of wit in ‘em. their memorie very fast. sir. make use of my study. In his comedy. at idle hours. and causeth them to excell others’. I shall be bold I warrant you. sir.: That I have. sir.The Elizabethan Amorist 47 However.: Oh. a kinde of divine ravishment.: I thank you. which stirreth men up to plaie the Philosophers. sir. it is the type of melancholy which is mixed with a certain amount of blood that ‘makes men wittie. sir. Poets. shows that melancholy was a fashion among the well-bred class. and also to prophesie. and overflow you half a score. their body strong to endure labour. or a dozen of sonnets at a sitting. which was presented for the first time in 1598 with Shakespeare playing a part. it’s at your service.: Oh ay. In the play Stephen travels to London to study and become a gentleman.18 . truly.: Ay. sir. Every Man in His Humour. it’s your only fine humour. I am mightily given to melancholy. Instead of spending time in idleness the intellectual higher up the social ladder could be inspired to write poetry. it causeth as it were. Step. That the playwright thought it worth while writing about. making a laughingstock of these gentlemen. and then I do no more but take a pen and paper. Between the experienced town ‘gull’ (Mathew) and the naive country ‘gull’ (Stephen) with his half-brother (Wellbred) and a son of an old gentleman (Edward Knowell) present. the following dialogue takes place: Step. when you see them. Mat. which includes learning how to be a melancholic. and some papers of mine own doing. by the vapours of the blood.

has depicted the melancholic musician with his various attributes (lute. ravishment. In the defence. and the third is enthusiasm. besides appearing in dictionaries and books on poetry. Poets.21 The first in England to deal with music and frenzies appears to be an anonymous writer (often thought to be John Case). It was through the frenzy of love that Man could regain some of his former happiness belonging to his notional ‘ideal’ status as the image of God. the writer explains that the creation of music is based on three distinct moods: the first is pleasure. or even an enthusiasm.24 Melancholy. Orators.22 In other chapters the writer expounds further on the subject arguing that ‘Musicians. the author of The Arte of English Poesie mentions that writing poetry cannot be achieved unless by ‘some divine instinct. whereby our cogitations and thoughts are brought into a celestiall acknowledging of their natures’. it must be emphasized that the author of The Praise of Musicke is mainly concerned with promoting music and enthusiasm as tools for lifting the souls to heaven making ‘them light and celestial’.25 The concept of love in its many manifestations became closely associated with melancholy and hence music and poetry. hat with a large brim covering the eyes. ultimately achieving a religious meditation through which divine knowledge could be attained. in his third edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1628). he wrote a defence of the use of music. black clothing. Philosophers … are of better iudgement than other men’. the concept is also found in books on music.23 However. ‘a fury’.19 Addressing the would-be poet. music scores) as being ‘inamorato’ – that . folded arms. and therefore it comes as no surprise that. which he points out. a ravishment of sences above’. love.20 The idea of enthusiasm is closely associated with the creation and expression of art. Amidst the religious turmoil at the end of the sixteenth century. the second grief. is ‘som divine & heavenlie inspiration’. 26 Burton. arguing in favour of music’s positive influences on society and especially the Anglican Church. for music ‘hath a certaine divine influence into the soules of men.48 Peter Hauge It was through a state of melancholy that the person could get into a fit or ‘a ravishment’. the Platonicks call it furor’. In his second edition of Queen Anna’s New World of Words (1611) John Florio defines enthusiasm as ‘a Poeticall or propheticall fury. and music As mentioned above it was Plato’s furor amatorius that was the means through which artists sought to obtain divine inspiration.

He is alwaies in hand with the deciphering of the rare beautie therein. evolved in the medieval tradition of the system of courtly love. Around 1595 the writer and poet John Donne commissioned a portrait of himself entitled ‘the melancholic lover’ dressed in black garments and with folded arms. The combination of the various species of melancholy with the two distinct types of love led to new interpretations extending and complicating the system greatly. turning the love-melancholy into a complex and subtle concept. inasmuch as Passionate Tunes make Amorous Poems both willinglier heard.29 The two-sided nature of love – that is. expounds in the preface on the most important recreations such as hawking and drinking. Dolour. finally arriving at one which they terme Enamoring. as that the melancholike partie alwaies thinkes. so truely exprest by none. who wrote a brief tract on music theoretical issues. is a ‘burning desire to obtaine the thing’. he seemeth to himselfe to see long golden lockes … a high . he explains in detail a melancholy which is of a more gentle and innocent kind: as when the imagination is in such a sort corrupted. Song.The Elizabethan Amorist 49 is. gives here in both a relish. According to Laurentius there were two kinds of amorous melancholies: a vulgar kind. before continuing to the ‘windy’ kind of melancholy also known as the ‘hypochondriak’. 2. 1. that Love teaches a man Musick. and better remembered. Ioy. or Poetry: the former whereof. but Musick. a Passion as (more or lesse) possessing and affecting all. I have heard it said. also called erotic. The idea. Thus the concept of love was laid open to satire. a terrible torment as well as a most pleasurable condition – is best expressed through ‘passionate tunes’. and a beauty to the latter. 3. who ne’re before knew what pertayned thereto: And the Philosophers three Principall Causes of Musick. found in abundance in Petrarchan poetry. love could be focussed on divine beauty (Venus coelestis) – a love without eyes ‘because it is above the intellect’31 – or it could be an appraisal of ordinary. that is.30 Similarly to melancholy. are all found by him within Loves Territories. that hee seeth that which hee loveth. running after it continually. Enthusiasme or ravishing of the Spirit. and kissing this his idoll in the ayre.28 Thomas Ravenscroft.27 It became so fashionable that often the artistic aristocracy wished to be diagnosed as sufferers of melancholy. physical love (Venus vulgaris). in love.

was a popular street cry and that cherries in iconography symbolized wanton behaviour or prostitutes offering their services. … a paire of cheekes of white and virmillion colour. resembling the beautiful flowers and sufficiently defended. Which when her lovely laughter showes. white and smooth. like the polished alabaster. nor Prince can buy. Where Roses and white Lillies grow. ‘Till Cherry ripe’. the texts are ambiguous so it is difficult to know whether the poet is in fact appraising the earthly physical object of beauty (Venus vulgaris) or the divine beauty of Venus coelestis. Wherein all pleasant fruits doe flow. Those Cherries fayrely doe enclose Of Orient Pearle a double row. however. it is apparent that this . like unto the bright heavens. which most likely appeared around 1618: There is a Garden in her face. When studying the texts of the English lute songs.32 Though it is clear that the author is mocking a rather besotted melancholic type. They looke like Rose-buds fill’d with snow. There Cherries grow which none may buy. casting out in most sweete sort a thousand lovely streames which are as piercing arrowes. having within it two sets of small oriental pearles. It should be noted that the phrase. it is still a revealing description of a gentleman poet such as Jonson’s Stephen – a character very often described in lute songs. Thomas Campion has included in his fourth book of lute songs a song titled ‘There is a Garden in her face’. like unto the purple lillie and damaske rose.50 Peter Hauge brow.33 Campion’s description is indeed very similar to Laurentius’ characterization of the more gentle and innocent melancholy. Yet them nor Peere. Till Cherry ripe themselves doe cry. A heav’nly paradice is that place. a mouth of corall. white and close ioyned. Very often. shewing their sides a little double trench. two starres standing in the head very cleere. which appeared between the end of the sixteenth century and the late 1620s. Till Cherry ripe themselves doe cry.

M.B. Conrad Russell. Thus one might say that the melancholy of the genius was a pill to purge the evil melancholy of the traveller or malcontent. Elizabeth I: A Study in Power & Intellect (London. Jones then continues to explain love as a tyrant. 22-43. 1. 1962). see e. tr. 521. see also G. Of course artistic geniuses such as Dowland. As You Like It. Mystical Bedlam: Madness. idol. esp. 1971). for a short while to be spared from the unhappy condition of being in the troubled. 559. by Samson Lennard (London. a melancholy fire. 5-31. Elizabeth I. Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Most Hon. 29 March 1598. vii. See also Michael MacDonald. pp. The present article is partly based on Hauge. painter. Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 William Shakespeare. Lute songs (domestic music) provided an opportunity for the intellectual amateur lutenist and singer to achieve the highest state of contemplation and gain some temporary bliss in life on Earth – that is. Paul Johnson.34 However. ending up in the final stanza concluding that ‘Love is a pretie nothing’. and heythen’d. 1976). 1990).g. Harrison. Z. Cipolla.S. Milton and Donne promoted themselves as melancholics. ‘Historical Manuscripts Commission’. Anxiety. Of Wisdome.g.The Elizabethan Amorist 51 genre is suffused with these concepts related to love and melancholy. 1981). ‘An Essay on Eliza- . Robert Jones included in one of his collections a lute song which sets out explaining that Love is a prettie frencie. 1977). terrestrial spheres. 325-76. 1992). and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge. Carlo M. and peddler. 1899). maintain’d with hopes. sc. IV. begot by lookes. by desire. Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy. 1606). MA thesis. 242. Fink. The Crisis of Parliaments: English History 1509-1660 (Oxford. 1000-1700 (London. Neoplatonic Concepts in Late Elizabethan Music: Dowland’s Seven Lachrimae (City University: London. CarusWilson (ed. On the conditions of life and the country’s economic situation. See e. 339. 151-52. Thomas Ferrer’s letter to Cecil. E. Essays in Economic History (London. Philological Quarterly 14 (1935). ‘Jaques and the Malcontent Traveler’. Voices of Melancholy: Studies in Literary Treatments of Melancholy in Renaissance England (London. the Marquis of Salisbury… Hatfield House (London. Bridget Gellert Lyons. and Johnson. 18. Pierre Charron.).

1640). Dowland: Lachrimae (1604) (Cambridge. 50-60. ‘An Essay’. 85. 76-101. Three Books. see Gretchen L. Peter Holman. The Praise. ‘Dowland’s Seven Tears. 19 John Florio. 1611). see Klibansky et al. Saturn and Melancholy. 86. 18 Ben Jonson. Erotomania or a Treatise Discoursing of the Essence… of Love or Erotique Melancholy (Oxford. A Discourse of Preservation of the Sight. 134. Queen Anna’s New World of Words (London. 179). The Praise of Musicke (Oxford. 1982. . 1586). The Arte of English Poesie (London. III. see also Klibansky et al. 122. The Optick Glasse of Humors (London. A Discourse. Nicholas Breton. Finney. The Lute 37 (1997). for it will draw the auditor (and especiallie the skilfull auditor) into a devout and reverend kind of consideration of him for whose praise it was made’ (p. Erwin Panofsky & Fritz Saxl. Religion and Art (London. for other interpretations on Dowland’s melancholy. J. sig. 1. 56-57. John Dowland (London. 14 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. Voices of Melancholy. 1607). tr. e. 22 John Case (?). or divine Rapture for soom present Oracle’ (The Principles of Musik (London. Three Books. 1938).F. 20 George Puttenham (?). or Seaven Teares Figured in Seaven Passionate Pavans (London. 1651). Saturn and Melancholy. n. 1597). 19. for it ‘moveth and causeth most strange effects in the hearer. 64-67. Morley explains that the motet more than any other genre has a special effect on both performers and listeners. tr. 168. thereby (as it seemeth) to excite a special Enthusiasm. 47-75. 25 Agrippa. 1 (Anglicized version). books on melancholy also mention the frenzy. Lachrimæ. Harrison. 15 Laurentius was possibly inspired by Agrippa’s book. 66. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. sc. Richard Surphlet (London. 21 For a modern study of this subject. 1964). 8 Lyons. 41. Dansk Årbog for Musikforskning 29 (2001). ‘Dowland’s Tears: Aspects of Lachrimæ’. 40. 34.g. or the Art of Concealing the Art’.). 2nd edn). 1636). Charles Butler later repeats this idea about a religious music when he finds it necessary to defend the use of ‘Divine Musik’.). n. A2r. 355-57.: Thomas Walkington. being aptlie framed for the dittie and well expressed by the singer. 499507. 1999).B. and James Ferrand. Aristotle’s problems were published several times in England during the period 1595-1647. 114). 26 See also Finney. 23 Case (?). 507-8. 19. 15-41. Musical Backgrounds for English Literature: 1580-1650 (New Brunswick. 228-40. (London.52 Peter Hauge bethan Melancholy’. Voices of Melancholy. Referring to ancient writings and the Bible. 68. 12 See also Raymond Klibansky. see David Pinto. Musical Backgrounds. The Praise. 10 Diana Poulton. 9 Lyons. 44-75. Melancholike Humours Edited by G. 17 Laurentius. In his Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musick (London. Every Man in His Humour. 24 Case (?). Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy. 78. Harrison (London. atribilis: the black bile.d. 1589).d. and Hauge. on the other types of frenzy see Agrippa. 13 For a thorough study of this text in connection with melancholy in the Renaissance. 9-36. 11 John Dowland. 16 Andreas Laurentius. Butler claims that ‘Musik was used by the Prophets. 1599).

‘New Light on John Dowland’s Songs of Darkness’. 35-9. haire. . Mystical Bedlam.d. 7 ‘There is a garden in her face’. 33 Thomas Campion. 11. The Anatomy of Melancholy (London 1621. Early Music 10 (1983). 1610). 32 Laurentius. The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture (London. 1614). 117-20. A Briefe Discourse of the True (but Neglected) Use of Charact’ring the Degrees (London. 1 ‘Love love’. No. No. 1987). Three Books. The Muses Gardin for Delight (London. which employs remarkably similar wordings as those mentioned by Laurentius: ‘… Roses red. on the portrait of Donne. 1972).The Elizabethan Amorist 27 53 See also Robert Burton. In Thomas Nabbe’s Microcosmus a Morall Masque (1637) the melancholic type is characterized as being a musician. Couliano. 152-53. briefly mentioned in Lyons. sig.). A3v. No. 34 Robert Jones. In the Booke of Ayres of 1601. A Discourse. 95-128. Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New York. He is likewise an amorist’. 1969). 22. / Love will adorne you’. sig. sig. 30 Roger Boas. 28 MacDonald. 1977). 31 Agrippa. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance (London. and clothes black: a lute in his hands. sig. 49-54. 507. H2r. cf. The Origin and Meaning of Courtly Love (Manchester. Fourth Book of Airs (London. 3rd edn 1628) frontispiece. Voices of Melancholy. Philip Rosseter has included a song. ‘his complexion. 352-53. Lillies white / And the cleare damaske hue. Anthony Rooley. and Joan P. / Shall on your cheeks alight. 29 Thomas Ravenscroft. F2v. 19 ‘Harke al you ladies’. see Roy Strong. on blindfolded Cupid see Erwin Panofsky. n. A3v.