MUS267 – Reading Guide Week 8: Brown, “Women Singers and Women’s Songs

MUS267 – Reading Guide Week 8: Brown, “Women Singers and Women’s Songs in 15th-Century Italy,” Bembo, Doni, Stampa, Casulana, Isabella d’Este



GE and section:________________________________

To receive full credit on your reading guide you need only provide a thorough answer to the bolded questions. Other questions are meant to help you navigate the reading(s). If you struggle with readings, I highly suggest using the reading guides to help with comprehension.

Questions to consider:

Brown, “Women Singers and Women’s Songs in 15th-Century Italy”

Begin by reading page 79, Brown’s summary of the article, then read the article from beginning to end and consider the following:

How does Brown support the conclusions he outlines on page 79?

Overall, what is the picture Brown paints of women’s participation in musical culture in fifteenth-century Italy?

Brown omits a very important subgroup of women from his study. Who is he missing? In what way do you think a survey of these women’s musical activities might alter the tone of Brown’s chapter?


Summarize briefly who Pietro Bembo was, who he was writing to, and what was the purpose of his letter.

What request did Bembo’s daughter make of him?

What is Bembo’s response to her request?

Based on the introduction, why do you think Bembo gave the response that he did?


Who was Doni, and what is his dedication describing? Whose music does Doni say he heard performed?

How does Doni describe Polissena Pecorina? In what way does she engage in music making?

In a few short sentences, describe the differences between how Bembo and Doni seem to feel about women participating in music making.


Who was Gaspara Stampa and why are her activities of interest to scholars? Based on what you have read about Bembo’s and Doni’s perspectives of women participating in the arts, do you find Stampa’s successes notable? Why or why not?

In 2-3 sentences summarize for yourself one of Stampa’s poems.

He Sings With Sweetest Harmony

On the Same Theme


What is remarkable about Casulana’s publications?

To whom does Casulana dedicate her first book of madrigals?

Casulana boldly confronts accepted stigmas against women. What is her argument?

Isabella d’Este, Letters (no. 112, 183, 186-188, 270) NOTE: #186 includes a description of domestic violence. If needed, please skip this letter.

You have been given 7 short letters written by Isabella d’Este, marchesa of Mantua. Isabella was regarded as one of the leading drivers of fashion (in clothing, art, music, literature, etc.), a frequent patroness of the arts, and a political support to her husband, Francesco II Gonzaga. Based on her letters, how would you characterize Isabella d’Este? Who was she? What was important to her? How does she compare to the women that we have read about previously?