Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shakespeare and Sting

One of my favorite parts of learning and writing about Shakespeare is discovering music from the Elizabethan world in which Shakespeare lived.

It is one thing to read Shakespeare’s plays. It is great to see his plays live in a theatre.

But it is something entirely different to listen to music that was composed during his lifetime and which he would have heard himself.

When you listen to the music of John Dowland, the most famous of all Elizabethan composers, it seems to transport you back in time.

I will write more on this blog about the other albums and artists that I listen to, that are relevant to Shakespeare, but in the meantime I highly recommend Sting’s album ‘Songs from the Labyrinth.’

He performed and produced this album of the music of John Dowland, with the lutenist Edin Karamazov.

Edin Karamazov and Sting

You can learn more about the album here:

And you can learn more about John Dowland here:

This music was played and performed for the most important figures of the time, including Queen Elizabeth, and it is a great insight into that world.

The Queen’s Favourite, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, is one of the people who figures in my versions of Hamlet, Richard III and Merchant of Venice. He was Shakespeare's friend, patron and the inspiration for many of Shakespeare's characters, like Henry V and Hamlet.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

On this album there is a song whose lyrics are attributed to him, ‘Can She Excuse My Wrongs’ also known as ‘The Earl of Essex Galliard.’ It seems likely that Essex wrote the song for the Queen, and while we don’t know why he wrote the song, he is clearly in trouble with her — again.

Robert Cecil

Sting has even included spoken excerpts of a letter from Dowland to Robert Cecil, who was Queen Elizabeth’s right hand man, and her spymaster from 1590. Cecil was the most powerful person in England at that time. 

In my version of Hamlet, he is figured very prominently. If there was one man who was Shakespeare's nemesis, it was Cecil.

It even seems that Dowland even acted as a spy for Cecil!

Overall, Sting’s album is quite good. I do think he emphasizes the singing a little too much. But he has such a great voice, and it makes sense since he is trying to translate this music for today’s modern audience which is accustomed to music with an emphasis on the vocals. 

When I go to see a Shakespeare play, I am sometimes confused why the director and music director decided to compose new music. Often the music is very good and works with the play, while at other times the music doesn’t seem to fit. Why don’t they include more Elizabethan music? They could even make it more contemporary with modern instruments.

It was a treat to see the Shakespeare’s Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III, accompanied by several musicians playing 17th century instruments.

I hope that more productions look at the Renaissance music like Dowland’s, and help to continue to introduce new audiences to this fantastic art.



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