‘Thou & Ile sing to make these dull Shades merry’: Herrick’s Charon Dialogues
Literary analysis of Robert Herrick's two Charon dialogues, published in John Playford's Select Musicall Ayres and Dialogues (1652), contextualizes them in the wider European Charon dialogue tradition that draws on a rich set of classical references, including Virgil and Lucian. Appreciation of the parodic ‘Charon and Eucosmia’, an elegy for the prominent royalist, Henry, Lord Hastings, with music by Henry Lawes, depends on familiarity with this otherwise comic genre, epitomized by its partner piece, ‘Charon and Philomel’ (music by William Lawes). Playford's volume anthologizes songs of the pre-Civil-War court, memorializing its particular social ambience and shared frames of literary reference, and may have played a role in post-regicide sustenance of royalist solidarity through social performances, or ‘musickings’.
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