Shakespeare's Use of Music


It is the purpose of this study to present the results of an examination of the use of music, both instrumental and vocal, as a dramatic device in seven comedies by Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night. (The Taming of the Shrew is omitted because its position in sequence is uncertain.) By the term "dramatic device" is meant the use of music as an aid not only to the intensification of the impact of the language, but also to the forwarding of the action, the portrayal of character, the delineation of settings, and the creation of an appropriate atmosphere, such as a mood of mystery or awe. Also included in the term "dramatic device" is the use of music in solving problems of stage production in instances where music covers the sound of stage machinery, denotes a lapse of time, or indicates off-stage action.

This study includes only those performances of the plays given before the publication of the First Folio. I have used as texts the Folio of 1623 and contemporary quartos, on the assumption that a greater degree of eclecticism is justifiable in this study than in the establishment of a severe and completely defensible verbal text. Hence, I have taken my evidence wherever I could find it clear. However, I have tried to assess the authority for each shred of evidence and to avoid combining data, except with the justification of a sound textual theory. For instance, I have never used as the basis for any piece of evidence a text arrived at by a modern editor.

In view of the admitted importance of music in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, it is surprising that the subject has received slight attention from scholars. Several books have . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Gainesville, FL
Publication year:
  • 1955


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