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Songs Inspired by Shakespeare


Numerous musicians in genres ranging from classic rock to country have drawn inspiration from Shakespeare. Some quote directly from the playwright, while others use his work to highlight the drama in their own stories or to further investigate an iconic character's point of view.

Check out our iTunes playlist to get in the groove.

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About the Songs

“Love Story” – Taylor Swift
The reigning teen queen of country music takes inspiration from Romeo and Juliet for her latest chart topper.


“Romeo and Juliet” – Indigo Girls
Originally written and recorded by Dire Straits, this song has become a staple in live performances by folk-rockers the Indigo Girls.


“Macbeth” – John Cale
Underground rocker and former The Velvet Underground member pairs dark lyrics with a danceable, percussion-driven tune.


“Miss Macbeth” – Elvis Costello
The legendary songwriter paints the fictitious Miss Macbeth as a sympathetic character – until she works a little voodoo. 

“Ariel” – October Project
Inspired by a character in The Tempest, this song is written as a farewell to Prospero (although his name is never directly mentioned). Ariel explains, “My name is Ariel / And I want to be free / It is your sorrow / That has made a slave of me.”


“Sister Moon” – Sting
The lyric “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” is taken from "Sonnet 130," which also gives Sting’s album—Nothing Like the Sun—its name.


“(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet” – The Reflections
Young love is a common theme in pop music—especially in the early days of rock and roll. This song was a top ten hit on the pop charts in 1964.

Next Page

Readers have suggested the following additions to the playlist:


"Talk Show Host" - Radiohead
It sets the stage for Romeo in Baz Luhrman's William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet with the haunting refrain "I'm ready."


"No Myth" - Chris Penn
Its lyrics include "Like Romeo in black jeans."

"When Mr. Shakespeare Comes to Town" - Arthur Collins
An oldie but a goodie from 1906.


"Romeo and Juliet" by British rockers Dire Straits.


Nino Rota's soundtrack from the 1968 Franco Zefferelli film, Romeo and Juliet.


"Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford & Sons (quotes Macbeth: "Stars, hide your fires" etc.)


"Wide Eyes" by Local Natives (Macbeth: "Oh some evil spirit, oh some evil this way comes.")


 “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” by Bob Dylan, from Blonde on Blonde, 1966 ("Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley / With his pointed shoes and his bells / Speaking to some French girl / Who says she knows me well.")


Got a song we should add? Want to share comments on the list? Email us at press@folger.edu.

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