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Shakespeare’s Songbook (W.W. Norton & Company), by Ross W. Duffin

May. 9, 2014
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Shakespeare loved music and his plays are loaded with snippets of lyrics and references to songs; in his day, theater productions were usually framed by fanfares and preceded by overtures. After Hamlet and Macbeth, the dead characters got up and danced to the tune called by the orchestra. Case Western Reserve University music professor Ross W. Duffin reconstructs the lost musical dimension of Shakespeare, including popular melodies woven into scenes (much like songs in Hollywood movies) and allusions to the Elizabethan pop music (yes, a nascent music industry existed). Of necessity, some of the connections are speculative, yet the gist of Shakespeare’s Songbook is a revelation into the methods of one of the world’s great dramatists (and comic writers). A CD accompanies the book. 

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