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What were some of the purposes of song and music in Shakespeare's plays?
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Surprisingly, more than half of Shakespeare’s plays call for a song somewhere in the action. Because play performance was a public affair, the appeal of live music turned the performances into variety shows; troubadors were street performers and Shakespeare used them as characters. Usually the songs were part of the entertainment in the mise-en-scene—at court or at a wedding or festival occasion. Other times, Shakespeare inserted songs, especially lyrics, as clues in the plot. A famous example is in Merchant of Venice (III, ii) when Portia sings as Bassanio decides which casket to choose: “Tell where is fashion bred, / Or in the heart or in the head?” Portia is giving Bassanio a hint, because the lead casket (rhymes with “bred” and “head”) is the right pick. While the music is seldom preserved, Shakespeare used common folk song tunes, inserting his own lyrics.
Posted by wordprof on June 6, 2012 at 4:40 PM (Answer #1)
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