Literary References to Citterns, Orpharions & Bandoras

Last updated Sunday, April 02, 2023.
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This is a collection of references to the cittern from contemporary literary works such as poems, plays and so forth. Entries are listed roughly chronologically.


Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost (1588), V.ii.
HolofernesI will not be put out of countenance
1st LordBecause thou hast no face.
HolWhat is this?
2nd LordA cittern-head.

Massinger, Old Law (1599), IV.i.
GnothoCome, come, let's have some agility; is there no musick in the house?
DrawerYes, sir, here are sweet wire-drawers in the house.
CookOh! that makes them and you seldom part; you are wine-drawers and they wire-drawers.
TailorAnd both govern by the pegs, too.
GnothoAnd you have pipes in your consort too.
DrawerAnd sack-buts too, sir.
ButlerBut the heads of your instruments differ; yours are hogsheads, theirs are cittern and gittern-heads.
BailiffAll wooden heads; there they meet again.
CookBid them strike up, we'll have a dance, Gnotho; come, thou shalt foot it too.

Dekker, Old Fortunatus (1600), III.i.
ShadowMusicke? O delicious strings:
these heavenly wyre-drawers . . .

Fletcher, Love's Cure (1625)
ClaraYou dog-skin-fac'd rogue, you poor John,
Which I will beat to Stock-fish.
ClaraYou cittern-head, who have you talked to, ha?
You nasty, stinking, and ill-countenanced Cur.

Forde, The Lover's Melancholy (1629)
CuculusI hope the chronicles will rear me one day for a headpiece --
RhetiasOf woodcock, without brain in't! Barbers shall wear thee on their citterns and hucksters set thee out in gingerbread.

Dekker, Match Mee in London (1631)
BilboFidling at least half an houre, on a Citterne with a mans broken head at it, so that I think 'twas a Barber Surgion

William Prynne, Historio-Mastix, The Player's Scourge, or Actors Tragedy (1633)
[spelling modernized]
"We therefore oft times find a way to be fenced to incontinency, and fomentations to adulteries to be from hence administered, whiles this man plays on the sound cithren with a nimble quill, and another with a skilfull finger composeth the melodious enticements of the roaring organ."



Drayton, Endimion and Phoebe (1595)
In Musickes sweet delight shee shewes her skill,
Quavering the Cithron nimbly with her quill . . .

Other works


Nashe, The Anatomy of Absurditie (1589)
. . . to tickle a Citterne, or have a sweete stroke on the Lute.

Marston, The Scourge of Villanie (1598)
Shall brainless Cyterne heads, each iubernole
Pocket the very Genius of thy soule

Forde, Francies (1638)
. . . a cittern-headed gew-gaw . . .

How to cite this page: Hartig, Andrew. "Literary References to Citterns, Orpharions & Bandoras." Renovata Cythara: The Renaissance Cittern Site. Ed. Andrew Hartig. 02 April 2023. 16 July 2024. <>.

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