A Midspring’s Night Intertextuality

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A primer for the Shakespeare in Music philharmonic orchestra concert

On Friday April 26, 2024 at 7:30 pm at the McCready Concert Hall, the Pacific University Philharmonic Orchestra host a concert, devoted solely to three works of music that were based on the ever-pervasive William Shakespeare’s works. The three works are Romeo and Juliet by the cannon-master Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, An Elegy: A Cry from The Grave by the contemporary American composer Carlos Simon and A Little Night’s Music by every beginner classical musician’s worst nightmare Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

   The appreciation and performance of these works, isolated from their influences, brings up an interesting topic, that of intertextuality and whether or not works of art that are inspired by other works of art; like these pieces of music and Shakespeare’s texts, do they have their own individual identity or not? 

   Intertextuality, meaning the referential and constant influence of art either between or across mediums, is a pillar of art throughout time. Virgil’s Aeneid was inspired solely by Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Dante Divine Comedy was inspired by the Aenied (with Virgil literally guiding Dante). Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote was heavily inspired by Dante, and so on and so forth to the modern day. This is also seen in separate mediums, with all of these pieces and more having thousands of referential works outside of their medium, like Ludwig Minkus’ score for Don Quixote or Gustave Dore’s engravings for the Divine Comedy. 

   Shakespeare himself looms large in both English and world literature. Frankly, he is a fixture of global culture as can be attested through Shakespeare festivals across the globe, both English and foreign. Are these pieces capable of possessing their own identity? Perhaps. They’ll forever be tied to the texts that they were inspired from, through their meta-textual nature, but as is evident through their own, and other meta-texts lasting influences, through their artistic merit they have attained their own identities.


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