QUIZ: Shakespeare’s Songs

How well do you know Shakespeare’s songs? Test your musical memory by filling in the blanks!


A group of actors smile and sing as they play a variety of instruments, including an accordian, a banjo, a guitar, a cello, and a violin
The cast in Lantern Theater Company’s 2016 production of AS YOU LIKE IT (Photo by Mark Garvin)

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

Onstage at Lantern Theater Company now through June 18, 2023, Twelfth Night begins with this famous exhortation. And “play on” it does — the comedy is one of William Shakespeare’s most musical scripts, featuring both the ambient music of Orsino’s court and several songs sung outside its walls.

Shakespeare often turned to music in his plays, whether instrumental songs or those sung by and to characters in the story. They appear in comedies, tragedies, romances, and problem plays, often underscoring the play’s themes, anxieties, or plot points. There are songs for love, mourning, trickery, dancing, betrayal, and more. And in the case of Twelfth Night, they are sometimes sung by Feste the fool as a way to speak — or sing — truth to power. As the fool in both Olivia and Orsino’s houses, Feste is perhaps the only character able to be honest with his powerful employers. As such, his songs are often there to remind the characters and the audience of the reality of the world. Everyone ages, everyone dies, and things don’t always work out. But if hurt is inevitable, he sings, then we should do our best to enjoy happiness while we have it.

A group of actors sits about a stage in blue and purple light while another actor plays guitar and sings into a microphone.
The cast of the Lantern’s TWELFTH NIGHT (Photo by Mark Garvin)

While the lyrics for these songs are included in the scripts, the tunes they were set to have not survived to the present day. According to Ross Duffin, that is likely because Shakespeare’s performers would improvise the tunes or set the lyrics to popular songs of the day. This gives the productions that have followed over the last four centuries the opportunity to create music that suits the world they’ve built.

Before you join us for Twelfth Night, test your knowledge on a few of Shakespeare’s most famous songs, and hear how different composers have treated them!

More reading: Shipwrecks and Strangers — In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare returns to some of his favorite plot devices: storms, shipwrecks, and new worlds

Lantern Theater Company’s production of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is onstage May 18 through June 18, 2023, at St. Stephen’s Theater. Visit our website for tickets and information.