The Shakespeare Music of Guy Woolfenden

black and white image of a man in a black coat leaning on a stick


Project Lead:

Leah Broad (Christ Church College, Music)

Partner Organisations:

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

What did twentieth-century Shakespeare sound like? Throughout the whole of the twentieth century, music was written for productions of Shakespeare plays in Stratford. The Royal Shakespeare Company archives are a wealth of treasures, containing the scores for Stratford productions stretching right back to the days of the Benson Company in the 1890s — a whole history of Shakespeare sounds that we never get to hear.


Composer Guy Woolfenden (1937-2016) was Head of Music at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from 1963-1998, and wrote scores for every single Shakespeare play – at least once. This music gives us a fascinating insight into the sounds of the RSC’s history but it is currently lying in the archives, unplayed and unrecorded. 


This project brings Woolfenden’s music to life by creating an online resource which aims to put Woolfenden’s music back in the context of the production it was originally intended for. The resource combines music, text, photographs, reviews, and designs, showing when the music was played, and how it shaped the overall design and atmosphere of the production.


The first production available on the resource will be the 1978 Tempest, starring Michael Hordern as Prospero, Ian Charleson as Ariel, David Suchet as Caliban, Alan Rickman as Ferdinand, and Sheridan Fitzgerald as Miranda.



Dr Leah Broad

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the

future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.