John Dowland’s Printed Ayres: Texts, Contexts, Intertexts

Kirsten Vanessa Gibson

There can be few early English composers more aware of their authorial persona than

John Dowland. In an age obsessed with ‘self-fashioning’, self-publicist Dowland is conspicuous among early modern English composers for carefully manipulating an artistic persona. This was a persona that was particularly enlarged and distributed through the medium of early modem print. Disproportionately little is known about Dowland’s life in comparison to other early modern English composers such as William Byrd. A historiographical picture of Dowland emerged in the last century overshadowed by debate and contestation regarding the ambiguous nature of his self-confessed Catholic sympathies and his seemingly ‘melancholic’ articulations of disappointment and frustration at a lack of advancement in the English court. Debate about Dowland’s perceived melancholy disposition was further compounded by the high proportion of his musical output concerned with themes of melancholy, darkness and tears.

Newcastle University

John Dowland’s Printed Ayres: Texts, Contexts, Intertexts

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