Monahin, Nona. "Decoding Dance in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing and Twelfth Night." In The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance, edited by Lynsey McCulloch and Brandon Shaw, 49-82. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press, 2019.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays contain verbal references to specific dances. Knowledge of early modern dance conventions can be of tremendous value in reading (and staging) these plays: “decoding” the dance references unveils layers of subtext that are relevant to an understanding of thematic issues and of the psychological makeup of characters, and it suggests visual ways in which scenes can be staged. This chapter examines dance references in Much Ado about Nothing and Twelfth Night, focusing on the following dances: measure, cinquepace, galliard, coranto, and passy-measures pavan. Each dance is introduced through a brief review of extant choreographic sources, after which the references are examined in the context of the scene and dramatic situation in which they occur. Finally, approaches to staging the scene are considered, with the aim of making the dance references meaningful to audiences today.