Hamlet: Voice, music, sound

Bruce Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The literary canonisation of Hamlet means that it is now most frequently encountered as a printed text. This crucially reconfigures its character, since Shakespeare wrote for sound, not print, and for an audience habituated to finely nuanced auditory semiotics. Hamlet generates its own soundscape as the major bearer of meanings. Apart from dialogue, its complex repertoire of auditory effects includes instrumental music and song. If we examine the play as an acoustic experience, we can situate it more 'soundly' in its epoch, and perhaps also reinterpret its puzzles, most notably Hamlet's procrastination, an issue that only began to be raised by later critics working in a more print-oriented era. If we reclaim the sonic dimensions of the play, his inexplicable indecisiveness may be seen as the point, not the puzzle, of the play, and a metaphor of the liminal epistemology of Shakespeare's age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-267
Number of pages11
JournalPopular Music
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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