What Does Music Soothes the Savage Beast Mean?

Music Soothes the Savage Beast Meaning

Definition: Music can calm one who is being aggressive.

Two variations of this phrase are music calms the savage beast and music tames the savage beast.

Origin of Music Soothes the Savage Beast

This idiom is actually a misquote of a line from the play The Mourning Bride from the year 1697. The British poet William Congreve wrote this originally as music hath charms to sooth a savage breast.

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,

To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,

And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,

By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.

What then am I? Am I more senseless grown

Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!

‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.

Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night

The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;

He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d

Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.

Why am not I at Peace?

In the original poem, the author is clearly referring to a person with a wild or angry heart.

Nowadays, it is more common to find the usage with beast instead of the original breast.

Many people think of beast metaphorically, as an angry person. However, some people may confuse the meaning to be about animals.

Examples of Music Soothes the Savage Beast

music hath charms to soothe the savage beast The dialogue below shows two friends talking about how to break up with someone.

Giuseppe: May, why do you look so worried?

May: I have to break up with my boyfriend. He has such a bad temper.

Giuseppe: Are you worried he’ll hurt you?

May: No, but I am worried he’ll hurt himself. I’m trying to think of the kindest way to end this relationship.

Giuseppe: One thing that has worked for me in the past is to have relaxing music playing during the breakup. They say that music soothes the savage beast.

May: I’ll try it, but I doubt it will be much use in this instance.

music soothes even the savage beast In the dialogue below, a father is talking to his daughter about some ideas for babysitting.

Rafal: Are you ready to babysit your young cousins tomorrow?

Vesna: I don’t know. They are so energetic that they are out of control! I’m not sure how I’m going to get them to listen to me.

Rafal: One thing that helped me when I took care of young children was to have them listen to and sing lots of songs. Kids love music, and it keeps them occupied on something constructive. It’s true that music soothes the savage beast.

Vesna: That’s a good idea. I’ll try it!

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression as it appeared originally, to discuss the powers of music.

  • It’s no wonder we love music, when it has so many virtues. Music “soothes the savage breast”, as William Congreve said, and it exercises hand, heart and brain all at once. –Telegraph

The second excerpt is from a review of a musical. The author uses the expression to describe the premise of the play.

  • Music soothes the savage beast and — apparently — shell shocked servicemen. That’s the prevailing wisdom of “Bandstand,” the well-meaning mishmash of a musical at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. –New York Daily News


The expression music soothes the savage beast describes how music can affect people’s moods.