A Dramaturgical Study of Merrythought's Songs in The Knight of the Burning Pestle

  • Katrine K. Wong University of Macau


Among the many musical characters present in Jacobean city comedies as well as the broader canon of English Renaissance drama, Merrythought from Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle is undoubtedly one of the fullest and most vivid exemplifications of how characterization can be conducted via constant singing. This merry old man sings more than he speaks. His singing accounts for more than 140 lines, which is about twenty lines surplus of his speech. He believes in achieving mirth and health through much singing, a good portion of which has the pretext of conviviality, in particular, drinking. This article offers a dramaturgical study of how Merrythought’s songs form an indispensible component in this metatheatrical city comedy, while accommodating an expression of the contemporary belief in music’s duality.