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Shakespeare, Music, and Memory

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Colloquium and Concert: April 29, 2016

To celebrate the life of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death in April 1616, this conference explores the connection of music and memory in the plays of Shakespeare. As scholars have shown, well-known songs, instrumental tunes, and ballads were an essential part of the fabric of Shakespeare’s plays; even a brief textual reference prompted audiences to remember a ballad’s tune and full text, a process of remembering that we are learning to recreate through scholarship and performance.

This colloquium and concert explore the ways that Shakespeare’s plays created themes that would become part of future centuries of culture, with a particular focus on the ways that musical cues evoke memory: not only conjuring the memory of tunes, but also recalling memories of emotion and of events. Shakespeare created this effect by both referring to known songs and by including actual songs in his plays.

Colloquium speakers investigate such intersections among music, performance, and memory as played out in the dramas of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The evening concert presents the music that was mentioned and performed in his plays, songs that go back to the reign of Henry VIII and forward in the centuries following the life of Shakespeare. Speakers include Linda Phyllis Austern (Northwestern University), Stephen Orgel (Stanford University), and Amanda Eubanks Winkler (Syracuse University).

Other events in Seattle also will commemorate this anniversary, particularly the exhibition of one of the rare First Folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays at the Seattle Public Library, on loan from the Folger Shakespeare Library March 21-April 17, 2016. Other arts organizations will present plays of Shakespeare and music related to Shakespeare; their links will be added as their seasons are announced.

WebsiteShakespeare, Music, and Memory

Full Schedule


Falstaff: “Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves! (Merry Wives of Windsor, V/5)

Audio of a transformation of the tune “Greensleeves,” from a solo lute of Shakespeare’s era, to a New Year song of 1642. Sung by the UW Collegium Musicum in Mary Gates Hall, December 2014:

Primary Contact

JoAnn Taricani (Music History)


Related Performance

“Shakespeare and Music,” music from Shakespeare’s plays and the Tudor courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, performed by the UW Collegium Musicum, April 29, 2016, 8 pm, Mary Gates Hall, University of Washington.


Related Shakespeare & Music News

The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare
First Folio at The Seattle Public Library
Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2015-16 Season
Seattle Symphony: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet