Songs Inspired by Shakespeare

It’s a topic we speak of often, and everybody seems to love it, but nobody to my knowledge has ever made a definitive list of “songs inspired by Shakespeare” because, quite frankly, how do you define that? Do you need lyrics from the text? Character names? Plots?
365 Days of Shakespeare doesn’t attempt to answer these questions, she just offers her top 10. I link because there’s a couple in there I’d not heard of!
No Rufus Wainwright in the mix, by the way, but that may go back to “how are you defining this”. Putting an entire sonnet to music isn’t really the same thing as rewriting a Romeo and Juliet story. I have both the Dire Straits and Indigo Girls’ versions of Romeo and Juliet in my playlist, and she’s right, the Indigo Girls version is much better.

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4 thoughts on “Songs Inspired by Shakespeare

  1. The Folger has a playlist ( with some of the same as 365 (Elvis Costello, Hair, and Indigo Girls pop out) as well as Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, the Eagles, Metallica – the list goes on. I, personally, only snagged a few from the list and was a little disappointed with the songs, but maybe more will come of it?

  2. Every time I read Hamlet, I get showtunes stuck in my head. If it's not 'What a Piece of Work is Man' from Hair, it's 'It's a Hit!' from Merrily We Roll Along. In fact, it's both, in that order. EVERY TIME. XD

  3. I think it's very much a taste thing. People have often sent me that Ariel song, but I just don't love it. On the other hand, I could fill up a whole playlist with the likes of Rufus Wainwright and David Gilmour doing nothing more than putting the sonnets directly to music. I do like that she included the What A Piece of Work is Man song from HAIR. The existence of that song is why my 4yr old will often ask me to sing Hamlet before he goes to sleep. 🙂

  4. The British folk band Mumford and Sons loves their Shakespeare references. They're also a completely amazing band. Their debut album is called "Sigh No More," and the title track makes it clear the Much Ado reference is intentional. I've posited (half-seriously) the whole thing is a cleverly disguised Shakespeare concept album. Certainly, most of the songs sound like they correspond to one or more plays ("White Blank Page"-Othello, "I Gave You All"-Lear, "Little Lion Man"-Coriolanus.)

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