The Complete Shakespeare Experience
The first known use of music in English drama came in Gorboduc (1561, Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton), a five-
Choirboy dramas staged at the royal court during the latter 16th Century were acted and sung by the Gentlemen and Children of the Royal Chapel and the Children of Paul’s. These plays often included a lament sung by a treble voice accompanied by viols. Shakespeare parodied the genre in the interlude performed by the rustics in Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Public acting companies, having fewer resources, used a boy actor to sing and play an instrument or relied on one of the adult actors, often the clowns, to sing. The jigg, a musical-
ll but the most tragic of plays during the Tudor and Stuart eras typically included at least one
song or some music; the darkest tragedies limited music to the sounds of trumpets
or drums. Toward the later stage of his tregedies, Shakespeare deviated from this protocol, using songs in Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet.
Dramatic works produced by private companies used music less often than those produced at the royal court where casts were larger and ensembles could provide musical backgrounds.