Graduation Year

1991

Abstract

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has been described as "poetry, ritual, ballet, and circus rolled into one" (Bryden 17). Encompassing so many different mediums of performance and human experience, these various levels incorporated the realms of words, music, movement, and spectacle as integral parts of Shakespeare's production. Music was, of course, by the sixteenth century an accepted addition to the spoken language of the plays. Louis Elson, for example, writes that "[a]11 performances of [Shakespeare's] epoch were preceded by three flourishes of the trumpets," and it was only after the third flourish that the curtain was drawn and the prologue spoken (318). In addition to boasting the inclusion of such incidental music which, admittedly, played a decidedly subservient role to the action on stage, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream dignified the role of music by incorporating it directly within the drama. Where incidental music occurred as background effects (i.e., fanfares or dance music), as entertainment between scenes, or as a postlude to the play itself, stage directions within Shakespeare's play specified the need for music to be performed in conjunction with the action on stage, to reflect the actual text.

Disciplines

English Language and Literature | Music