In my presentation, I will discuss music in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and how it reflects the classical tradition. Although music is a constant motif throughout Twelfth Night, allusions to
music in the play almost exclusively refer to vocals or wind instruments; stringed instruments are conspicuously absent. This pattern resonates with the portrayal of musical instruments in Greek mythology. To the Greeks, stringed instruments were associated with reason, order, civilization, and the god Apollo; wind instruments were conversely associated with passion, chaos, and the god Dionysos.
This presentation will discuss the roles of these two kinds of music in the classical tradition and in Renaissance society, then go over specific references to music in Twelfth Night. I will then show how the plot of Twelfth Night reflects many elements associated with the worship of Dionysos, and discuss how this fact can help illuminate otherwise confusing facets of the play – in particular, the thread of darkness that runs throughout this apparently lighthearted comedy.
Ashley Flanagan, ’06 Carencro, LA
Sponsor: John Gruber-Miller