Music & Dance In Elizabethan Era

Join Shakespeare in his time of dance and music!

Theatre Music

Music had been used to accompany poems during the medieval era. The Elizabethans taste for the Theatre was soon enhanced by the accompaniment of music. It was only a short step to combine the accustomed music with its accompanying verse with the exciting pageantry of the Elizabethan theatre. The importance of music to the Elizabethans was reflected in the plays of William Shakespeare who makes more than five hundred references to music in his plays and poems! The plays of William Shakespeare were divided into three categories - Comedies, Tragedies and Histories. Each genre required a different emotions to be reflected in the music. Elizabethan Theatre musicians were usually situated in a section of the 'Lords Rooms'. The 'Lords Rooms' were situated in a gallery immediately above stage wall and facing the backs of the actors. A perfect position for the musicians to accompany the plays. The theatre musicians also took strategic places on the theatre stage and were even known to play under the theatre stage giving the impression of distance or providing an eerie atmosphere.

Elizabethan Music

Court Music

Queen Elizabeth employed at least 70 musicians and singers. The singers included those from the Chapel Royal. Her favorite court composers included Thomas Campion (1567-1620), Robert Johnson (1500-1560) and William Byrd (1543-1623). The range of Elizabethan music played at court varied enormously from traditional, simple English ballads to solemn church music to lively dance music. The court musicians played to the courtiers from the Minstrels Gallery. The Minstrels Galleries were situated on a raised gallery overlooking the Great Hall of the castles and palaces used during the Elizabethan era. The musicians were seated on a narrow balcony, usually having a railing or balustrade.

Examples of Court Music

Music Was Apart Of Everything In The Elizabethan Era

Street Music

Street music is played at markets and fairs. The musicians carried fiddles, the lute, recorders, and small percussion instruments. The music is traditional favorites.

Church Music

Elizabethan Church music was beautiful. Many of the Elizabethan composers not only composed music for the court but also the church. Elizabethan composers for the voice made use of two distinct styles which were called the Madrigal and the Ayre. The early 1500's saw the high point of the unique English liturgical style. Church music included canzonets, balletts, madrigals and ‘sacred songs’. The style of Elizabethan church music is described as choral polyphony (polyphonic, counterpoint, contrapuntal), meaning more than one part. Thomas Tallis and William Byrd ( organist of the Chapel Royal ) were the chief Elizabethan composers of Elizabethan Church music providing the new Protestant Church of England with a wealth of Hymns that are still played today.


Instruments Used In this era

  • Stringed Musical Instruments - instruments which were played with a bow or plucked
  • Wind Musical Instruments - instruments which were blown like trumpets or bagpipes
  • Percussion Musical Instruments - various forms of drums and bells
  • Keyboard Musical instruments - the organ, spinet, harpsichord and virginals

Elizabethan Clothing

Elizabethan clothes provided information about the status of the person wearing them. This was not just dictated by the wealth of the person, it also reflected their social standing. Only Royalty were permitted to wear clothes trimmed with ermine. Lesser Nobles were allowed to wear clothing trimmed with fox and otter and so on and so forth! Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws dictated what colors and type of clothing individuals were allowed to own and wear, an easy and immediate way to identify rank and privilege. The materials and even the colors of Elizabethan clothing were therefore very important and sections have been dedicated to these subjects in relation to dyes, fabrics and the type of clothes that men were allowed to wear and the type of clothing that Elizabethan women were allowed to wear! As you read through the restrictions placed on Elizabethan clothing the subject becomes more and more fascinating. The importance and significance of costumes used in the Elizabethan theatres also becomes very clear!

Women's clothing


Underclothes!

A Roll or Rowle

Partlet

Cloak

Smock or shift, also called
a chemise made of linen

Stomacher

Over Clothes!

Shoes

Stockings or hose

Petticoat

Gown

Hat

Corset or bodice

Kirtle

Separate sleeves

Farthingale - a hooped skirt

Forepart

Ruff

Men's Clothing

Underclothes!

Separate sleeves

Shirt

Breeches

Stockings or hose

Belt

Codpiece

Ruff

Corset

Cloak

Over Clothes!

Shoes

Doublet

Hat

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