This paper will provide a brief exploration into: the different types, styles and musical conventions that were utilized in Shakespeare's plays; the different ways that music was used as a dramatic force in the plays; and finally, Shakespeare's influence on the development of modern-day soundtracks for films, stage and television productions and his impact the evolution of classical ballet. However, it must be noted than an exploration of this type can only be a mock-exploration. American avant garde composer John Cage said that, The only valid statement or criticism of a piece of music is another piece of music. This statement strikes a responsive chord with this author as he starts to explain the myriad and complex uses of music in Shakespeare.
[...] The eventual death of Desdemona by Othello's hand is the event alluded to in the singing of the song. Also in Othello, Act II, Sc. iii, the “Iago Song” exhibits the lowbrow nature of the villain, Iago, and has been described by one Shakespearean scholar as akin to the singing of a television commercial in modern times. In As You Like It, Amiens, like Desdemona, sings as a character in the play from the stage. His “Under the greenwood tree song from Act II, Sc. v. [...]
[...] In the Arden Shakespeare edition of As You Like It, Agnes Latham says, songs evoke a carefree mood and conjure up the woodland on the stage.” Perhaps Shakespeare's most telling evocation of this concept of the transformational power of music comes from Act Sc. of The Merchant of Venice, where Lorenzo again speaks of Orpheus, and of the power of music: Here will we sit and let the sounds of music Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night Become the touches of sweet harmony And a little further in this speech: Such harmony is in immortal souls, But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. [...]
[...] How Shakespeare's use of music relates to all that comes after it: From a chronological distance, we are able to see the emergence of music as an increasingly important element in drama in Shakespearean times, and also how the use of music in Shakespeare has set the pace for Broadway playwrights, television producers and filmmakers ever since. Although music had been used in dramatic presentations as far back into history as the age of ancient Greeks, Shakespeare facilitated a paradigm shift in the way that music was used. [...]
[...] In conclusion, Shakespeare intended for music in his plays to encompass a larger role than simply an interruption or distraction; he carefully inserted the music in support of his overall dramatic goals for the work. This is a testimony to the innovative nature of Shakespeare's creative genius. His use of music represents a departure from the norm, as well as a bold, and eminently successful step in the furtherance of artistic achievement, which, like many aspects of Shakespeare's work, has been instrumental in the development of dramatic productions ever since. Works Cited: 1. Long, John H.: “Shakespeare's Use of Music: A Study of the Music and Its Performance in the Original Production of [...]
[...] Shakespeare and his collaborator, Fletcher, exhibited mastery in choosing musical genres, songs and styles that would further audiences' understanding of the characters in each work, and also allow them to experience the works on a more visceral level. The types of musical conventions which appeared in the plays represent a cross-section of Elizabethan musicology and include: serenades; drinking songs; work songs; odes and laments; lullabies; sea shanties; and rounds, all used very much in imitation of real life in Renaissance England, or of one of the different locales that make up the settings for each of the respective plays. [...]
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