Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare (1898)

Illustrated by Paul Woodroffe



A rare copy of Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare published at

Aldine House (London) in 1889.


This copy shows the original unassuming blue cloth cover.









To the right, we show the decorated Title Page for the 1st Edition

of Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare by Paul Woodroffe.


Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare is a collection drawn together and introduced by Ernest Rhys, and in respect of the

Edition published at Aldine House (London) in 1889, a number of the songs are accompanied by major monotone

illustrations by Paul Woodroffe.


Rhys' Introduction to Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare makes wonderful reading - particularly in respect of his summary of the literary value of the Songs.


To accompany Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare, Paul Woodroffe prepared a suite of 12 ornate major monotone

images with additional marginalia. Each of the major illustrations is presented with Pre-Raphaelite style and accompanied

by an integrated decorated border - with each border being unique to the associated illustration.



Our Greeting Cards and Reproduction Prints 


We have prepared sets of 12 Greeting Cards displaying each of Woodroffe's major monotone images for Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare (1898) and on the left, we show an example of how these Greeting Cards appear. Ordering one of those sets is as easy as selecting the "Add to Cart" feature below and following the prompts provided with our Shopping Cart secured through PayPal. Multiple purchases will be consolidated by that feature and shipping and handling costs to any destination in the world are accommodated by our flat-rate fee of US$20 for every US$200 worth of purchases.




Code: PW SPS MS(12)
Price: US$60.00


When presented on Greeting Cards, these images are prepared as tipped-in plates - in homage to the hand-crafted

approach typical of prestige illustrated publications produced in the early decades of the 20th Century.


Hand-finishing is used to replicate the visual appearance of a tipped-in plate and the images are presented on

Ivory card stock (in the case of colour illustrations) or White card stock (in the case of monotone illustrations)

with an accompanying envelope. We have left the cards blank so that you may write your own personal



Should you wish to order a Reproduction Print of one or more of these images, we have provided some

options below. Of course, should you wish to discuss some customised options, we welcome your contact

on any matter through


In the meantime, enjoy perusing these wonderful images from Paul Woodroffe.



The major monotone illustrations


Full image




You spotted snakes with double tongue


You spotted snakes, with double tongue,

Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;

Newts and blind-worms do no wrong,

Come not near our fairy Queen!


Weaving spiders, come not here;

Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence!

Beetles black, approach not near;

Worm not snail, do no offence.


Philomel, with melody

Sing in our sweet lullaby;

Lulla, lulla, lullaby, Lulla, lulla, lullaby:

Never harm

Nor spell nor charm

Come our lovely lady nigh:

So, Good Night, with lullaby.


Detail (for reference)

Reproduction on 10x15" sheet

Code: PW SPS M1 (10x15)
Price: US$50.00




Full image




It was a lover and his Lass


It was a lover and his lass,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,

That o'er the green corn-field did pass,

In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;

Sweet lovers love the spring.


Between the acres of the rye,

These pretty country folks would lie.


This carol they began that hour,

How that life was but a flower:


And, therefore, take the present time

With a hey, and a ho, and hey nonino;

For love is crown and graved with the prime

In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:

Sweet lovers love the spring.




Detail (for reference)



Reproduction on 10x15" sheet

Code: PW SPS M2 (10x15)
Price: US$50.00



Full image




Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more


Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, -

Men were deceivers ever,

One foot in sea and one on shore,

To on thing constant never:

- Then sigh not so, but let them go,

And be you blithe and bonny;

Converting all yours sounds of woe

Into, Hey nonny, nonny.


Sing no more ditties, sing no more,

Or dumps so dull and heavy;

The fraud of men was ever so,

Since summer first was leafy.

- Then sigh not so, but let them go,

And be you blithe and bonny,

Converting all yours sounds of woe

Into, Hey, nonny, nonny.

Detail (for reference)



Reproduction on 10x15" sheet

Code: PW SPS M3 (10x15)
Price: US$50.00



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Rhys' Introduction to Songs from the Plays of Shakespeare


The lovely introduction provided by Rhys to the collection - and the images by Woodroffe - follows.


Ariel, who is the essential sprite of song, has often been attempted, if never entirely captured,

in picture; and the same may be said of Shakespeare's Songs. They lure every generation in

turn to give them a pictorial and musical setting, after its own fashion. Fashions change; the

charm of these Songs, and their lyric fascination, are constant. The new presentment may not

be, is very unlikely to be, the final and perfect one. It is pretty certain to be very unlike

Shakespeare's idea, conceived in Elizabethan terms of music or colour, of his own Songs set

to a lyric of pictorial accompaniment. Still, if it is good, in its kind, the setting serves to make

us turn to the original Songs with a new sense of their delightfulness; and that is enough.


The wonderful thing about the Songs is, that separated from their context in the plays - where

their extreme felicity, dramatically considered, made one dwell mainly upon their stage merit -

they should still strike one as so perfect in themselves. This sets aside the cavil of the Scottish

critic who maintained that Shakespeare's Songs would not bear mention in the same breath

with Burns - save for the lustre of their dramatic framework. Better to consider how both

wrote songs so inimitably, and both purely as song-writers, not as lyric poets in our later sense.

As for Shakespeare, we may be sure that, though the names of his tunes are not given, he had

a tune in his head for every song her wrote. The ballads heard at Stratford fairs, or the songs

caught from the mouths of the "beggar-men of Chepe," or the folk-tunes sung by some

Warwickshire Autolycus, served him well. Tunes like "Lady Greensleeves," "Crimson Velvet,"

"Light o' Love," "Three Merry Boys," and "The Bailiff's Daughter," and the familiar melodies of

many a carol, and many an old country dance and fiddler's jig, waited to prompt his fancy at

the exigent moment. The Duke in "Twelfth Night" may show you how good a prompter

Shakespeare's memory was in these things, when he calls again for "the song we had last night,"

a song which happens to be one of the most tender and finely cadenced of them all, "Come

away, come away, Death!" The little prelude and commentary the Duke offers upon it is in the

true connoisseur's view, idiomatic as the lines that follow:


"Mark it, Cesario, it is ole and plain:

The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,

And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,

Do us to chaunt it: it is silly sooth,

And dallies with the innocence of love

Like the old age."


Those plays in which Shakespeare makes the most use of the lyric leaven, using it not only for

songs, but for passages of a sort of free recitative, or again of an unusual overflow of rhyme,

such as "Love's Labour's Lost," "The Midsummer Night's Dream," and "The Tempest," are

divided in point of time by such long intervals that the critic who would base any theory upon

the chronology of the songs would be bold indeed. In any case, the reader here, looking at

them through the agreeably uncritical medium of delightful illustration, would be likely to

resent any attempt to bring the rules of the great Shakespearean critics into the question. Other

poets than he, when the ebullience and heat of youth, and all its gay or sorrowful impulsiveness,

were gone, may have lost their lyric grace and power. Shakespeare remembered his tune,

whether of last night, or thirty years ago, and wrote his song, whether to fit the earthly

humours of a grave-digger or the airy spirit of an Ariel, in just as well and beseeming a vein

apparently at the last as at the first. The rhymer in him may a little have decayed; the lyric poet

and the song-writer never - so far at least as we can judge.


For Ariel, the last consummate creature of his lyric imagination, comes at the last. He is the

spirit of all the airy harmonies and all the fugitive half-recollected tunes, one has ever heard or

dreamt. Everything he utters has something of the inevitable lyric essence in it. "I drink the air

before me" is his promise of good speed. The same sense of airy movement, and free passage,

such as a song itself may win on the clear airs of sea-shore or hill-tip, is in all his fluent exits and

entrances; as where we find him described, when leading Ferdinand by the sea-shore, as

"invisible, playing and singing." What elusive harp-strain, flying on from one ripple of silver

strings to another, such as he may have heard from some Welsh triple-harp in the West Midlands,

had Shakespeare in his mind as he wrote the lines that the scene ushers in?


"Come unto these yellow sands,

And then take hands:


Foot it featly here and there,

And sweet sprites the burden bear."


So far as the stage could possibly suggest such things, the appearance of Ferdinand, sitting and

listening there, suggests the loneliest of lonely sea-places. But one hardly bears to read "The

Tempest" as a stage-conditioned piece of art. It is a poem, that one recollects rather with the

poetry that is, like the best of Shelley and Wordsworth, to be felt under quite another range of

association than even the most ideal theatre can furnish. And so with Ferdinand's speech, sequent

to the "Yellow Sands" melody:


"Where should this music be? i' the air or th' earth?


This music crept by me upon the waters,

Allaying both their fury and my passion

With its sweet air; thence I have followed it,

Or it hath drawn me rather: but 'tis gone -

No, it begins again."


Then come the famous "Full fathom five" lines - "the ditty" which, says Ferdinand so imaginatively,

"does remember my drown'd father." In all this there is an art almost transcending art. It is like

something struck out of nature, in a radiant changing imagery. And it is the sense of such

unforgettable melody, caught in a dramatic pause, like a fragrance of distant hay-fields caught at

a town window by night, that makes these songs, like Ariel himself, so elusive - at once so

tempting and so tantalising. Art, pictorial or music, may succeed in interpreting them; it is certain

that criticism, however, ardent, can do little with them.