Shakespeare’s Way of Healing With Music

Categories: Merchant of Venice

Intuitively, music is appreciated by most people, which proves why and how it has been used as a medium of therapy for many centuries amongst numerous cultures for its healing and curative properties, especially in mental health (Wigram, 2002). However, Shakespeare during the Renaissance also understood its healing characteristics, compelling him to portray many characters in his plays as devout, musical individuals. Many used musicality for sanity, relief, and an outlet for strife. Additionally, according to Tony Wigram an expert musicologist, humans are essentially “musical instruments,” who are either “out of tune,” or “finely tuned,” implying that music must affect us to a psychological depth, particularly demonstrated in The Merchant of Venice (Wigram, 2002).

As eloquently put by Shakespeare in said work, “Such harmony is in immortal souls…By the sweet power of music…Since naught so stockish, hard, and full of rage,” humans can have the perfect harmony that the celestial bodies do, but since we are on earth, there is too much noise (Merchant of Venice, Act 5 Scene 1).

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Evidently, many understood this in the past, but the issue lies in the methods in which Shakespeare, an influential playwright to this day, presents music as a form of therapy in his works, specifically, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cymbeline, King Lair, and The Tempest [I will modify this list as I find more sources and/or plays]. The significance of this revelation applies to science as well as the humanities, as it can provide further implications regarding music’s role in therapy and general well-being among people of all walks of life.

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Through several depictions of music’s strength in assisting characters through their unique predicaments, Shakespeare utilizes music as an outlet for health, revealing its relevance to our lives from the medical perspective. As we are captivated by the immense power of music, we see that not even the cruelest individuals can resist music because if one has a soul, then they are drawn to music. This philosophy shows us how Shakespeare knew that music is very important to society and its universality applies to all people, even the problematic [I need to add a “background” source here].

However, in order to understand the solution to mental health issues, we need to look into the actual issue, which in Shakespeare’s case tends to focus on madness. As madness and music often go together, the concept of the harmony of spheres studies the highest force overlooking humanity and controlling its behaviors (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). The overarching spheres monitoring the earth as a whole also applied to each individual and their own music of the spheres within their bodies because everyone has a stable “internal harmony” (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). Just as perfectly tuned notes would allow for unity and stability among everyone’s psyche, discord would drive individuals practically mad, as in loss of sense (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). This implies that sublime music as a form of art could be the remedy for not only madness, but figurative discord, for example, among Shakespeare’s characters in his works.

For example, throughout one of his early plays, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, music exposes the disharmony and problematic relationships amongst characters, particularly incest, but also affects many characters personally, to the point of regeneration. Nearing the end of the play, “heavenly music… of the spheres” surrounds Pericles, indicating the unity of family, and healing between him and Marina (Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Act 5 Scene 1). Music treats the protagonist through heartbreak, in the event of his wife’s passing and the loss of his child. However, music therapy allows Pericles to see his lost relations and find closure. Furthermore, Shakespeare included musics regenerative properties, when, “…to the sound of the viol, the Queen is restored to conscious life,” (Scholes, 1916). Similarly, the character of Autolycus has the level of sophistication and wit, so much so that his songs are relaxing and healing. For example, when he contrasts “daffodils” to “winter’s pale,” interestingly provide the audience with relief from the tragic events that occured in the play prior, exemplifying the power of music as a healing force that pertains to nature (Rajakumar & Premkumar, 2017) [Add more quotes and possibly an outside source regarding music of the spheres – harmony and discord].

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Shakespeare’s Way of Healing With Music. (2022, Apr 09). Retrieved from

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