Event—Adult Education

Music in Shakespeare's Plays, Theaters, and Society


Dive into the music within and surrounding Shakespeare’s enduring plays.

A collection of the vocal music in Shakespeare's plays, 1864. John Caulfield. Call number: VM 1619.5 .S52c

Class Description

Rediscover Shakespeare's plays by exploring the ballads, fanfares, marches, dances, and ingenious musical imagery that abound in his texts. From Ophelia's ill-timed musical outbursts in Hamlet to actor Will Kempe's raucous jigs, music resounded in Shakespeare's theater, developing characters, nuancing dramatic situations, and enthralling spectators.

We will conclude with classical compositions by Henry Purcell (1692), Felix Mendelssohn (1842), and Benjamin Britten (1960), all reimagining Shakespeare's otherworldly masterpiece, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Brian Oberlander holds a PhD in Musicology. He is co-editor of the book Music and Encounter at the Mediterranean Crossroads (Routledge, 2022) and has offered music history courses at the Newberry, Northwestern University, and Columbia College Chicago.

Materials List


  • Instructor-Distributed Materials

First Reading

  • For the first session, please listen to following podcast episode and read the online article:
    • Rebecca Sheir, “Music in Shakespeare.” Shakespeare Unlimited. September 24, 2014. Podcast, 20:56. Produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library.
    • Joseph Ortiz, “Shakespeare and Music,” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Cost and Registration

Six sessions, $247 ($220.5 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


Support the Newberry

Your generosity is vital in keeping the library’s programs, exhibitions, and reading rooms free and accessible to everyone.

Make a Gift


Call us at (312) 255-3700 or send us an email.

Email Us

More Classes at the Newberry