So I LOVE finding songs to fit the mood of #Shakespeare plays. Basically every time I hear a song I love on the radio, I think about how I could fit it into a production. I can’t help it. My brain just does that, which is funny, because I’ve only directed one production (my own one-act) and questioned myself and my abilities the entire time, so I don’t necessarily see myself directing anything else any time soon, but I just like to dream about the music anyway.
I’ve decided to play with this habit of mine more and make full-fledged Spotify and Youtube playlists for each play by Shakespeare, under the umbrella name and hashtag #ShakespearesPlaylist .
So Twelfth Night has long been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays (like, since age 10) and I’ve performed in it twice myself, so the summary and song list in this post are longer than any I’ve written so far in this series! I just can’t help myself, I really love this play, hah.
Quick Wikipedia Summary: Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria. Believing that her twin brother Sebastian is dead, she disguises herself as a young man under the name Cesario and enters the service of Duke Orsino. Duke Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with the noble lady Olivia, who is mourning the recent deaths of her father and brother and refuses to see any men or entertainments. Duke Orsino then uses 'Cesario' as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia. Olivia, however, falls in love with 'Cesario', setting her at odds with her professed duty. In the meantime, Viola has fallen in love with Duke Orsino, creating a love triangle: Viola loves Duke Orsino, Duke Orsino loves Olivia, and Olivia loves Viola disguised as Cesario.
In the comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia's pompous steward, Malvolio, believe that Olivia has fallen for him. This involves Olivia's riotous uncle, Sir Toby Belch; another would-be suitor, a silly squire named Sir Andrew Aguecheek; her servants Maria and Fabian; and her melancholy fool, Feste. Through a fake love letter, Malvolio is encouraged to make a fool of himself in front of Olivia, who is convinced that he is mad and leaves him to be cared for by his tormentors. Pretending that Malvolio is insane, they lock him up in a dark chamber. Feste visits him to mock his insanity, both disguised as a priest and as himself. Sir Toby later marries Maria for this jest. When Malvolio is finally released, he swears revenge on all who conspired against him.
Meanwhile, Viola's twin, Sebastian, has been rescued by Antonio, a sea captain who previously fought against Orsino, yet who accompanies Sebastian to Illyria, despite the danger, because of his admiration for Sebastian. Sebastian's appearance adds the confusion of mistaken identities to the comedy. Taking Sebastian for 'Cesario', Olivia asks him to marry her, and they are secretly married in a church. Finally, when 'Cesario' and Sebastian appear in the presence of both Olivia and Orsino, there is more wonder and confusion at their physical similarity. At this point, Viola reveals her identity and is reunited with her twin brother. The play ends in a declaration of marriage between Duke Orsino and Viola.
I chose “Hey Brother” by Avcii to demonstrate the familial love between Viola and Sebastian. Both of them believe the other has drowned in the crash and are pretty devastated about it. The chorus in particular fits this storyline:
What if I'm far from home?
Oh brother, I will hear you call!
What if I lose it all?
Oh sister, I will help you out!
Oh, if the sky comes falling down, for you
There's nothing in this world I wouldn't do
Amy Winehouse’s cover of “To Know Him is to Love Him” is a perfect illustration of Viola’s love for Duke Orsino.
To know know know him
Is to love love love him
Just to see that smile
Makes my life worthwhile
Why can't he see?
How blind here he be?
Someday he'll see
That he was meant just for me, oh oh oh oh
Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me” also represents Viola’s situation, simultaneously in love with Orsino but pretending to be his male friend, having to woo another lady on his behalf. It’s so bubblegum pop that I really resisted including it in this list, but honestly, the lyrics are so ridiculously perfect for this plotline that it had to happen.
If you can see I'm the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can't you see
You belong with me
You belong with me
Walkin' the streets with you and your worn-out jeans
I can't help thinking this is how it ought to be
Laughing on a park bench, thinking to myself
Hey isn't this easy
And you've got a smile that could light up this whole town
I haven't seen it in a while since she brought you down
You say your fine
I know you better then that
Hey what you doing with a girl like that
…I'm the one who makes you laugh
When you know you're about to cry
And I know your favorite songs
And you tell me about your dreams
I think I know where you belong
I think I know it's with me
I’ve chosen Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” to represent Malvolio, who is so overproud that he willingly believes his mistress Olivia is in love with him, despite the ludicrousness of the fake love letter and the situation as a whole. He literally thinks the letter is about him!
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain,
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?
I chose Mad World by Gary Jules to represent Sebastian’s massive confusion about arriving in Illyria. Everyone seems to know him and have strong opinions about him, but he just got there! What the heck is going on. (I’m not so certain on this choice, as I think the overall mood of the song is too melancholy for Twelfth Night, but I really want something in here about Sebastian’s POV. I may replace this one later if anyone has any good suggestions!)
The Lumineers’ “Hey Ho “is a great song to represent Feste, as Feste’s song in the show literally includes the words “Hey Ho, the wind and the rain.” Plus, the laid-back troubador style of Hey Ho works really well for Feste’s casual and humorous approach to life.
Finally, here’s a video of an actual production of Twelfth Night which I actually was in. It’s the final song in the show, The Rain it Raineth, with music by Dave Seidman-Joria. Feste in this version is played by Sam Stenecker! Then from left to right in the back is: Lauren Sutton, Leandra Lyn, Megan Fraedrich, Rachael Dickson (my non-writing superhero alter ego), and Dan Clark.