TCS: Lend Me Your EARS – Part One – Shakespeare’s Songs and Poetry

Good Morning!


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

“If music be the food of love, play on . . . ”

– William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night – Act I, scene 1


Drawing of what the Globe Theatre probably looked like in Shakespeare’s time


When someone tells me they don’t like poetry, or they don’t like Shakespeare, I’ll ask them what kind of songs they like. When we’ve talked about their favorite music for a few minutes, I’ll remark “You know, the words to songs are poetry.” Or if it’s Shakespeare they think they don’t like, I’ll say, “Did you know Shakespeare wrote songs?”

People who’ve only encountered Shakespeare and poetry as reading assignments in high school are very likely to think they don’t like them, because they really haven’t met them yet — they’ve just been exposed to them in the worst possible way. Before the printing press, and for some time after the printed word, poetry was meant for the ear, not the eye. There are still a great many contemporary poets who are best read aloud to understand them. And plays have always been meant to be heard and seen on stage, not in print. Poetry and Plays are entwined arts — theatre is the child of epic poetry.

The music for Shakespeare’s songs wasn’t written down and included in the First Folio, so what they sounded like in the original performances is mostly guesswork. But a number of musicians since then have to put his songs to music. And some of them have tackled his sonnets as well.

These days, Rappers are taking a crack at Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. All that rhymed iambic pentameter is irresistible!

Music composed by Roger Quilter

The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company? — gotta love it!

Sonnet 18 “Shall I compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” — two very different takes:


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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