Music, Community, and Middleton's Anti-Masque in The Witch
This essay argues that the music in Middleton’s The Witch (c.1616), largely dismissed as unsophisticated spectacle by critics, is one of the play’s most innovative features. The witches’ songs implicitly critique the patriarchal order that has led to the dysfunctional intrigues of the courtly world from which they are excluded and offer the audience an alternative centred on a joyful, supportive community of women. To do this, Middleton’s play subverts the musical dynamics of Ben Jonson’s Masque of Queens (1609), deconstructing conventional associations between music and social harmony, and inviting the audience to explore alternative social formations.
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