Famous writer William Shakespeare seems to have had a bad opinion of music, or at least he does in his classic theater work “Othello.” I have only begun to read the play and I can already see several instances of this.
First off, the antagonist of the work, Iago, uses a musical metaphor early on to represent the evil he plans to bring upon Othello and Desdemona. He says, after the two exchange loving words “O, you are well tuned now! But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music, as honest as I am.” The pegs he is referring to are tuning pegs on a musical instrument. He ominously alludes to the couple’s eventual demise at his evil hands, but it is interesting that he compares this to music.
In addition, Shakespeare also associates music with drunkenness and deceit. Iago uses music in order to coax Cassio into becoming intoxicated. This is all part of Iago’s plan to have Cassio relieved from duty. In a group of soldiers, Iago initiates some hearty drinking songs to encourage Cassio to drink. He then turns this against Cassio by having Roderigo incite Cassio to drunken violence. This behavior causes Othello to discharge Cassio from service, showing the potential mischief music can cause.
Finally, Cassio, in an attempt to regain favor with Othello, brings some musicians to Othello’s house to cheer him up. However, this backfires as the musicians are not very good and Othello turns them away without sympathy. This shows how Shakespeare views music as useless and unhelpful.
Let it be known, however, that I disagree with Shakespeare. Music can do all sorts of great things: entertain, inspire, energize, cause love, depress, etc. It’s simply up to the listener to decide which will happen for him or her.