11 Popular Songs That Reference Shakespeare

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."

6. "Sister Moon" – Sting

"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun," Sting sings in this torchy ballad. The phrase is borrowed from Shakespeare's sonnet #130. Sting liked it so much that he even used it for the title of his 1987 solo album, Nothing Like The Sun.

7. "Limelight" – Rush

Rush made one of Shakespeare's most oft-quoted lines (from As You Like It) into a centerpiece of this 1981 song about the difficulty of balancing our private and public selves: "All the world's indeed a stage, and we are merely players..." Five years before, Rush used the phrase All The World's A Stage for a title of a double live album.

8. "Bye and Bye" – Bob Dylan

Dylan winks at Shakespeare in several songs, from "Highway 61 Revisited" (there's a nod to Twelfth Night) to "Desolation Row" (Romeo and Ophelia are both name checked) to "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" (the striking image of "dragon clouds" is borrowed from Antony and Cleopatra). In "Bye and Bye," the line "I'm not even acquainted with my own desires" is lifted from As You Like It.

9. "Ariel" – October Project

Sung from the perspective of the spirit Ariel in The Tempest, the song is a farewell to his magician master Prospero: "And I want to be free / It is your sorrow / That has made a slave of me."

10. "Sigh No More" – Mumford & Sons

The title comes from Much Ado About Nothing, and many of the lines in this eerie folk song refer to dialogue between Benedict and Beatrice from the play.

11. "Hey There Ophelia" – MC Lars

Even rappers find inspiration in Shakespeare. This fast-paced retelling of Hamlet references the Prince, Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, but centers on the play's tragic heroine. Sample line: "This girl's got more issues than Amy Winehouse."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
iStock
iStock

There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
PlayNJ
nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer
iStock
iStock

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios