Montagues and Capulets  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Montagues and Capulets, known by its proper title as Dance of the Knights, is a work of classical music written by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev for his 1935 ballet Romeo and Juliet. He later wrote versions for both orchestra and piano.



The work is in loose ternary form, with an abridged da capo section. The introduction has no thematic content and is only intended to create a dark atmosphere. It begins very loud, then drops to pianissimo, which is played by the strings. The horns and woodwinds then layer on top of the strings and the dynamics return to fortissimo. It then drops to piano again. Prokofiev creates the dark and foreboding mood through the extreme dynamic range and very dissonant harmonies.

The A section begins with a strong pulsating beat from the brass section. This shows motoric rhythm, one of Prokofiev's signatures. The texture of this opening is almost metronomic, and provides a strong foundation for the dramatic string theme that comes out on top of it. Later on, the brass also takes up a soaring counter theme, and also punctuates the original string theme. In the ballet, this section would show the Capulets dancing in a very slow and dignified way, as this is the music for the Capulet Ball.

The B section provides a stark contrast, as it is in the pianissimo dynamic range and is played by the flutes. It is marked adagio, and is very calm and serene. Prokofiev also utilizes touches of celesta in this section, which was highly unusual in orchestral works. In the middle of this section, there is an oboe solo accompanied by pizzicato strings. This section is meant to represent Juliet's entrance to the ball, as she flits about and meets various people. She eventually dances with the Count Paris until the close of this section.

When the A section comes back, it is when Juliet has laid eyes on Romeo. It is much abridged, and the first re-presentation of the theme is done as a tenor saxophone solo, which was highly unusual for the time period. Eventually, the strings join in, and the piece ends with a very strong cadence.

Other uses and adaptations


Bands such as The Smiths, Muse, Iron Maiden, Tears for Fears, and Deep Purple have all used it as walk on music, and on the intro to Muse's album HAARP. In songs it has been sampled by American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest in "Can I Kick It?", quoted in German metal band Necrophagist's "Only Ash Remains", Austrian metal band Hollenthon's "Lords of Bedlam", American neofolk group Blood Axis's "Reign I Forever", sampled by British rapper Life MC on "Time Crisis" & British drum & bass group The Qemists on "Got One Life". It features heavily in the song Taken for Granted by Sia. It has also been used in Norwegian metal band Satyricon's video for "Mother North" and as the intro to electronic group VNV Nation's live concert DVD Pastperfect. It has been performed with an orchestra by metal band Epica at the Miskolc Opera Festival, included on their live album The Classical Conspiracy.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer created their own arrangement of the piece on the 1992 album Black Moon, and performed the song on the subsequent tour.

Film and television

This work has been used in television as the theme of the British and Irish versions of the reality series The Apprentice, in the opening of BBC children's drama God's Wonderful Railway, in the Canadian comedy reality series Kenny vs. Spenny, and as the title theme for Channel 4's 1980s National Football League American Football coverage in the UK. It has been used for the 1990s French commercial for Chanel's Egoiste fragrance, and in a 2009 series of ads for Japanese telecoms company SoftBank featuring Quentin Tarantino. It has also been used in film as the title music for Caligula, and during the ballet theatre sequences of Exotica.

Montagues and Capulets has reached popular association in the UK as the theme to The Apprentice, with The Times’ reviewer Caitlin Moran writing that this sense of recognition went "round the room like a Mexican wave." after its inclusion in the 2008 Doctor Who Prom in the Royal Albert Hall.

A passage from Dance of the Knights was used in an episode of The Simpsons, "The Falcon and the D'ohman", during multiple otherwise silent scenes depicting battles between rival organized-crime factions; the closed captioning referred to the piece by the correct "Dance of the Knights" title.

It featured in BBC Television's children's television programme Melody as the first piece to inspire Melody's imagination.

It was also featured in the 2009 clay-mation film Mary and Max.

It is heard repeatedly in Leos Carax' film "Mauvais Sang".


In art, it has been used as the opening for the travelling exhibition Van Gogh Alive. For sport, it has used as a walk on theme by football clubs, most notably Sunderland Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, of England and Porto of Portugal. In video games it has been used as the menu music for the Commodore 64 game Sanxion, the intro music for the Atari ST/Amiga 500 version of Horror Zombies from the Crypt, in Sid Meier's Civilization V as Catherine the Great of Russia's theme, in Supreme Ruler Cold War when playing as the Soviet Union, in the visual novel Monster Girl Quest as the theme of Amira. It was also used in European Astra Satellite TV test transmissions to promote the future of Satellite Television, and in Grand Theft Auto V, in which short sections of the piece are used as Classical Horns 4 through 7.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Montagues and Capulets" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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