11 Popular Songs That Reference Shakespeare

From Mental Floss:

1. “Romeo and Juliet” – Dire Straits
Dolly Parton, Steve Forbert, Elvis Costello, Michael Penn… These are just a few of many artists who’ve referenced the name Romeo in their songs. But this beautiful tune from Mark Knopfler stands out for its streetwise retelling of the tragic love story. Sample couplet: “Juliet the dice were loaded from the start / And I bet, and you exploded in my heart.”

2. “You’ve Got Everything Now” – The Smiths
Morrissey has flirted with the Bard in several songs, most notably “Cemet’ry Gates” and this one, which opens with a slight variation on a line from Much Ado About Nothing: “As merry as the days were long.”

3. “I Am the Walrus” – The Beatles
With their all-encompassing cultural reach, you might think that the Fab Four would’ve had more Shakespeare references in their songs. But there was only this one, and it was a happy accident. While making a sound collage for “Walrus”‘s fadeout, they switched on a radio in the studio and caught a broadcast of King Lear. “Oh untimely death…” is one of the lines that pokes out, from Oswald’s death scene.

4. “The Milkman of Human Kindness” – Billy Bragg
“Yet do I fear thy nature, it is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way,” says Lady Macbeth. “I am the milkman of human kindness, I will leave an extra pint,” sings the ever-inventive British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.

5. “Get Over It” – The Eagles
Lawyer jokes go back a lot further than contemporary times. In this song about confession culture and victimization, Don Henley nods to Shakespeare with a nickname, then quotes from Dick The Butcher in Henry VI: “Old Billy was right / Let’s kill all the lawyers tonight.”

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