Shakespeare the Songwriter

I listened on YouTube to various attempts at turning Shakespeare’s sonnets into songs, but I don’t think these straight translations work very well. However Shakespeare is so clever that if you read the lines of his sonnets out of sequence as rhyming couplets – e.g. line 1 then 3 then 2 then 4 etc. – the sonnets usually still work well, without losing the meaning. So I picked up a guitar, strummed some rhythms and improvised some vocal melodies to the rejigged lines, and it all works great!

A key for translating Shakespeare’s sonnets into a standard song format:

VERSE 1:

Line 1

Line 3

Line 2

Line 4

CHORUS:

Line 13

Line 14

VERSE 2:

Line 5

Line 7

Line 6

Line 8

CHORUS:

Line 13

Line 14

BRIDGE:

Line 9

Line 11

Line 10

Line 12

CHORUS:

Line 13

Line 14

Line 13

Line 14

Shakespearean Style

It is so important with the poetic flow of Shakespeare that every word means something real to the actor, otherwise the viewer will get lost in the density of content coming at them. Watching performances of Shakespeare, it is so obvious when an actor is merely ploughing through the rhythms in a conventional Shakespearean style, rather than really living the powerful words given to them. Thankfully there are lots of good actors and performances out there.

Journal 2020-07-30

Wasn’t Shakespeare amazing. It would be so interesting to find out how his genius developed – what he saw and experienced in his life that helped him write such beautiful words and comprehend so deeply the human condition in all its different aspects. I can think of other notable geniuses in history – Mozart in music, Newton in science etc. – but Shakespeare is a sort of mythical other, shrouded in mystery, whose breadth of insight has the greatest impact on me.