Lawes, William, important English composer, brother of Henry Lawes; b. Salisbury (baptized), May 1, 1602; d. in battle at the siege of Chester, Sept. 24, 1645. He most likely commenced his musical studies with his father, then found a patron in Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, who enabled him to study with Coperario in London. He became active at the court, being made “musician in ordinary for the lutes and voices” to Charles I in 1635; he joined his monarch’s army in 1642, losing his life during the Civil War. He excelled as a composer of both vocal and instrumental music. Of historical significance is the music he wrote for the court masques, which owe much to his remarkable contributions to the genre. For modern editions of his works, see A. Sabol, ed., Songs and Dances for the Stuart Masque (Providence, R.I., 1959; second ed., rev. and aug., 1978), M. Lefkowitz, ed., William Lawes: Select Consort Music, Musica Britannica, XXI (1963; second ed., 1971), idem, ed., Trois masques à la cour de Charles ler d’Angleterre (Paris, 1970), I. Spink, ed., English Songs, 1625-1660, Musica Britannica, XXXIII (1971), and D. Pinto, ed., William Lawes: Consort Sets in Five and Six Parts (London, 1979).
Over 200 songs; also music to Jonson’s Entertainment at Welbeck (1633); Fletcher’s play The Faithful Shepherdess (1633); Shirley’s masque The Triumph of Peace (1634; in collaboration with S. Ives); Davenant’s play Love and Honour (1634); Davenant’s masque The Triumphs of the Prince d’Amour (1636; in collaboration with H. Lawes); Jonson’s play Epicoene, or The Silent Woman (1636); W. Cartwright’s play The Royal Slave (1636; in collaboration with H. Lawes); Shirley’s play The Duke’s Mistress (1636); W. Berkeley’s play The Lost Lady (1637); J. Mayne’s play The City Match (1637); J. Suckling’s play Aglaura (1637); Beaumont and Fletcher’s plav Cuvid’s Revenue (1637); Davenant’s masque Britannia triumphans (1638); Ford’s play The Lady’s Trial (1638); Davenant’s play The Unfortunate Lovers (1638); Suckling’s play The Goblins (1638); Suckling’s play The Tragedy of Brennoralt (1639); H. Glapthorne’s play Argalus and Parthenia (1639); Cavendish’s play The Country Captain (1640); Shirley’s play The Cardinal (1641); J. Denham’s play The Sophy (1641); R. Brome’s play The Jovial Crew (1641); etc.; sacred vocal music, including some 48 anthems and 10 canons; instrumental music, including consort suites; sonatas or fantasia-suites; numerous aires, almans, corants, sarabands, and other dances; various pieces for virginals or harpsichord; etc.
A. Ashbee, ed., W. L.: Essays on His Life, Times, and Work (Aldershot, 1998).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire