Reinstating Shakespeare's Instrumental Music

  • David Mann Retired
Keywords: Shakespeare's Music, Music in the Jacobean Children's Theatre, Ages of Child Performers, Consort Music Performance in the Amphitheatres, Theatre Acoustics, John Marston, Elizabethan Professional Musicians,


The current orthodoxy is that before 1609, music in Shakespeare was largely restricted to songs, trumpets, and drums; instrumental music, i.e. consort music with strings and woodwinds, if it existed at all, was very rare and generally performed by professional musicians brought in for the purpose. Not until after the King’s Men regained the use of Blackfriars, we are told, with a supposedly permanent consort of musicians, was instrumental music introduced into the Globe, together with the installation of a music room over the stage. This paper questions this theory, arguing that the difference between the two theatres was not as distinct as it suggests and presenting evidence that Shakespeare exploited the full range of musical resources available to him throughout his career. This argument has implications for the current replica theatre in London where musicians currently labour under the illusion their efforts are not ‘authentic’.