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date: 11 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the place of song within Shakespeare’s plays. It also considers Shakespeare’s songs as texts, because their ontological oddity—the way they raise questions about what they are doing in their dramatic setting—is bound up with various kinds of textual oddity. Songs in As You Like It, Othello, Measure for Measure, and Twelfth Night are examined closely and related to the classical rhetorical theory of prosopopoeia or personation. Song is used by Shakespeare to explore the ways we understand and perform identity. The characters in a song, the characters in a play, the actors who played them, the writers and musicians, the scribes and printers, the oral and literary traditions that produced the plays as written, as variously performed in Shakespeare’s day, and as printed—all determine and inflect the words of Shakespeare’s songs. We must situate the personae that speak or sing in his songs between all these various agencies.

Keywords: Shakespeare, song, music, lyric, rhetoric, prosopopoeia, text, As You Like It, Othello, willow song

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