Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

A Writer's Inspiration

Write Your Own Song

Shakespeare for Kids

John Dowland. The First Booke of Songes or Ayres of fowre partes with Tableture for the Lute. London, 1597

Inspiration is something that stimulates the mind and emotions to a higher level of creativity. We’re not sure what inspired Shakespeare; it was probably a variety of things including other plays, political conflict and everyday life. He may have been inspired by songs like this ballad from Titus Andronicus. Click here to view an image of the ballad, "Titus Andonicus' Complaint" or click on the link to the right. Historians and scholars have yet to determine whether the song came before or after the play. Can you write a song using a Shakespeare play as your inspiration?  The following activity will show you how.


First, select a Shakespearean play that you know or would like to know better. 


Next, familiarize yourself with the main plot and central characters of the story. Take notes as you go through the play about the central characters. Make a list of what the play and its characters mean to you. Remember: at this point, do not edit your thoughts and don't think about rhyming or making sense. Just write what comes to you. This will help you determine who and what you want to write the song about.


Now, if you have never written a song, you may need a little help getting started with the form and structure of the song. Click here to read about Song Form and Structure or click the link to the right.


Next, come up with a title for your song, based on the notes that you've taken about the play. The title will help determine the mood and feel of what you are writing.


As you start writing your song, think about the story of the play and the situation the characters find themselves in:


What are they feeling?

Who are they feeling it about?

What is the problem?

How did it begin?

How will they solve it? 

How do you think it will end?

Now that you have lyrics, start thinking about the melody. If you don't play an instrument, one way to solve this problem is to select a song that already exists and write new words to it. This is called using a ghost melody. You can also collaborate with a friend who plays an instrument.


Best of luck to you and don't forget to send us your songs!


Click here submit your songs to Puck's Place, or use the link to the right.

John Dowland. Collection of songs and dances for the lute. Manuscript, ca. 1594-ca. 1600

John Playford. John Playford collection of music to The Tempest. Manuscript, ca. 1650-1667

Related Items

The Ballad of Titus Andronicus

Song Form and Structure

Share Your Work

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623