The Top 10: Top 10 Songs Inspired By William Shakespeare

The Top 10: Top 10 Songs Inspired By William Shakespeare

Good Afternoon Everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful, wonderful week and that this weekend will be filled with relaxation, laughs, and if you are like me, homework. Sorry I  have been so late on the blogposts, the weeks have been so hectic and as I type I am in England!

So, two weekends ago on The Top 10, I explored Shakespeare, his influence and culture and The Top 10 Songs Inspired By Shakespeare. It was fascinating venturing into such a fascinating topic because it really becomes clear through researching this topic both the explicit and implicit ways Shakespeare has influenced modern day culture.

The songs I chose, were songs that took either passages, messages or character names from Shakespeare.

Here is the countdown of The Top 10: 

10) Ophelia-The Band

  • “Ashes of laughter, the ghost is clear. Why do the best things always disappear? Like Ophelia, please darken my door.”…Hamlet anyone? Ophelia, being one of the main female characters in Hamlet, along with the ghost, shows how this song may be inspired by Hamlet.

9) Romeo & Juliet-Dire Straits 

  • The lyrics of this hugely popular song of the 80s describe the story of the classic ‘star-crossed lovers’ which was made popular by Shakespeare’s play of the same title–Romeo & Juliet.

8) Cordelia-The Tragically Hip

  • “It takes all your power
To prove that you don’t care
I’m not Cordelia, I will not be there”
  • Cordelia is a character who is from King Lear and essentially she would do anything for her father the king. This song is saying that the male character will not be there unconditionally like Shakespeare’s character Cordelia

7) Miss Macbeth-Elvis Costello

  • This quirky Elvis Costello song is essentially attempting to humanize one of the most villianized female antagonist in history…Lady Macbeth. He is painting this hated character in a lighter kinder way.

6) The King Must Die-Elton John

  • “In a song that discusses a person falling out of power, Elton John eloquently references plenty of Shakespeare’s works including Julius Caesar (Caesar’s had your troubles) and Hamlet (Widows had to cry). And Bernie Taupin isn’t toying with the audience with the reference—John name checks Shakespeare in the first line “No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare ‘round your throne room floor” after playing some menacing, low piano chords.”

5) Exit Music (For A Film)-Radiohead

  • “The song was written to play over the end credits of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (although it didn’t make it onto the soundtrack), but Thom Yorke says it was also inspired by Shakespeare’s play itself and Zeffirelli’s ’60s ‘Romeo And Juliet’ film. A song about “two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts.”

4) Don’t Fear The Reaper-Blue Oyster Cult

  • Once again, this legendary classic rock song was inspired by, none other than,  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  This song essentially is using the characters Romeo and Juliet as an example of two characters who did not fear death. Essentially this song uses this two characters to show that we neither should fear death.

3) TItus Andronicus Forever-Titus Andronicus

  • “Although it isn’t immediately clear from the lyrics in “Titus Andronicus Forever” that the words are based off of works of the playwright, the band’s name, song title and lyric selection showcase the influence. Drawing on one of Shakespeare’s least-loved plays Titus Andronicus, the band uses simple language to show war’s lasting presence across centuries, chanting “the enemy is everywhere” over and over again. And whether it’s set during Roman times (as the play is), The Civil War era (as the album is) or in modern day, the song’s abrasive approach and message is universal.”

2) Limelight-Rush

  • “All the world’s a stage” is taken from Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It . 

1) Sigh No More-Mumford & Sons

  • Sigh No More is the title of Mumford and Sons hugely popularly first album as well as the first song on that album. However, what many do not know is that this like is taken from a Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. 
  • Other lines from Shakespeare pop up both in this song as well as on this album:
  • Sigh No More: Serve God love me and mend, For man is a giddy thing, and One foot in sea and one on shore. (Much Ado About Nothing)
  • Roll Away Your Stone: Stars hide your fires/And these here are my desire VS Stars, hide your fires,/Let not light see my black and deep desires. (Macbeth) 

Facts on Shakespeare & His Societal Influence:

  • During his life, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets! This means an average 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589.
  • But rather than explaining his true influence, read this quote and you will see how truly influential Shakespeare was:

Bernard Levin:

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare “It’s Greek to me”, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise – why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then – to give the devil his due – if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then – by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness’ sake! what the dickens! but me no buts – it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare. (The Story of English, 145)


Tune in next week when I will be back on Canadian soil! 




Robin (The Top 10)

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