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I’ve had requests from several teachers to share songs I’ve taught to my students while working with Shakespeare. So, while writing the Director’s Support piece to our new Script Kits, I compiled a list of appropriate songs. Some I’ve worked with personally, and others I chose because they accompany our four adaptations very well. Not every song is from the time of Shakespeare, but they are all very old and timeless folk songs. I’ve put each of these songs to simple guitar accompaniment in the efforts to make them easy to teach to young students. A CD (and electronic download) of these songs is available in our SHOP. The CD includes both vocal and guitar-only instrumental versions to each song. You can find a description of each song, as well as a sample, below.

DRUNKEN SAILOR is a sea shanty originating in Ireland. It is an example of a “stamp-and-go” shanty and was sung on ships with very large crews. Lyrics were first reproduced in printed form in 1824, but the song dates back to an earlier time. The song has several verses, some of which are not appropriate for children.

HAUL AWAY JOE is another sea shanty. It is said to have been used by early British sailors, and was known to be commonly used on American ships by the early 1800’s.

HOW HAPPY THE SOLDIER was very popular with British soldiers during the American Revolution. It eventually became popular in the states as well.

LOVE WILL FIND OUT THE WAY is an old song from England. It has appeared in many versions over the years, but was printed on a broadside that dates back to the 1620’s.

SEEDS OF LOVE is a more modern version of the old English song “Spring of Thyme.” The lyrics to this newer version were written by Mrs. Fleetwood Habergam in 1689. This is a wonderful song to use if you’d like to teach a mini-lesson on symbolism.

SOLDIER, SOLDIER WILL YOU MARRY ME? was very popular in Colonial American. It is believed that it was brought to the Americas by English settlers.


SUMMER IS A COMIN’ IN is a modern translation of a very old song, Sumer Is Icumen In, originally written in Middle English. It is estimated to date from 1260 and is one of the oldest know examples of counterpoint (the type of harmony found in rounds).


WALTER JUMPED A FOX is a fairly unknown song. It may have originated in the Americas, but it has a lovely old-world sound.


THE WATER IS WIDE is based on different songs form England, Ireland and Scotland. It is most significantly tied to and English song, “Waly, Waly,” that dates back to the 1600’s.



THE WIND & THE RAIN is written by Shakespeare himself! It was written to be sung by Feste at the conclusion of Twelfth Night. There are several different melodies, old and new, written to this beautiful piece of verse. I borrowed the melody sung by Ben Kingsly in the most recent movie version.



HEY-HO NOBODY HOME is only one part of the five part English round I feature below. It is probably the most well-known and dates back to the early 1600’s. Any of these can be sung alone, or in any combination. Have fun with composition, and if you really want a challenge, try all five!















Hear all five together!




A special thanks to the following websites. They are wonderful resources if you are looking for old folk-songs!

Beyond Row, Row, Row Your Boat

The Contemplator

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