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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teaching and learning Shakespeare through song Mikulin, Michael


Shakespeare's plays are filled with music. Over 70 songs can be found in the Shakespeare canon, and no less than 32 of the plays make reference to music or musical matters in the text itself (Naylor, 1965, p. 3). In addition to songs that advance the action, known as mimetic music, performances of Shakespearean drama often make use of non-mimetic music - that is, the incidental music used at the start and end of the plays to entertain the audience (Duffin, 2004, p.11). While much innovative research has resulted in new and exciting ways to teach Shakespeare (i.e., O'Brien, 1993; Davis & Salomone, 1993; Gibson, 1998), the possibility of exploring musical settings in the context of teaching Shakespeare is often overlooked, possibly due to a lack of accessible information and resources. This thesis explores how understanding of Shakespearean drama might be enriched through attention to the song texts. It is comprised of three main sections: 1) an examination of the history of song in Shakespearean text; 2) a presentation of the author's original arrangements for five song texts accompanied by discussion of how the composition process required sophisticated engagement with the text; and 3) a reflection on the author's experiences inviting Grade 10 English students to compose original settings for Shakespearean songs employing a computer-based music making application. The print manuscript is accompanied by a hypermedia compilation for classroom use that features musical settings (both historical and original), song texts, and practical resources for teachers. Additional materials, including streamed music files of the author's original song settings, are available at www.shakesonqs.com.

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