Approaching playhouse song in the archive: the case of Dekker, Ford, Middleton and Rowley's "The Spanish Gypsy"

Simon Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This essay considers the archival traces left by early modern playhouse song. Acknowledging that most extant sources of theatrical song were not actually produced as records of playhouse practice per se, it advocates an approach to such material that is as attentive to the context of the surviving textual witnesses as it is to a song’s dramatic origins. By putting playhouse and wider context in direct conversation, this approach seeks not only to elucidate the cultural life of dramatic songs beyond the playhouse, but also to shed new light on playhouse music itself, based on wider engagements with and transformations of the songs.

Taking a case study approach, the essay investigates one song, “Come Follow Your Leader, Follow,” from The Spanish Gypsy, tracing its wide cultural circulation as a ballad tune under the title “The Spanish Jeepsie.” Building on previous work focusing on the song’s dramatic function in the playhouse, the essay argues that the song’s theatrical use as a locus of imaginative identification with marginal subject positions is then taken up in a series of ballads encouraging identification with figures ranging from fairies and drunkards to cobblers and Diggers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
Number of pages27
JournalEnglish Literary Renaissance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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