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Hidden Music in Early Elizabethan Tragedy




In modern times, scholars have widely regarded early Elizabethan tragedy, like Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville’s Gorboduc (1561/62) and its successors at the Inns of Court, as verbose and unlyrical. Those criticisms may reflect an incomplete understanding of the original performance tradition, however. Like Senecan tragedies from this period, those plays include act-ending choruses, mostly in pentameter and in various stanza configurations. This study proposes that in the English tragedies, at least, those choruses were very likely sung, most probably to tunes from the emerging repertoire of metrical psalms. These findings would significantly affect the character of such plays and how they are perceived by scholars and audiences alike.

Author Biography

Ross W. Duffin, Case Western Reserve University

Ross W. Duffin ( is Fynette H. Kulas professor of music emeritus and Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at Case Western Reserve University.