Elizabethan Era- Music and Musical Instruments

The Elizabethan Era was from 1550-1650. It was named after Queen Elizabeth I, although she did not live during that time period. This time period is most well known for William Shakespeare, who lived from April 23, 1564 to April 23, 1616. William Shakespeare wrote a lot of well known plays, including Romeo and Juliet. In these plays, he used music, which was a very big part of everyday life in this time period. Music during the Elizabethan Era included instruments, musicians, and the types of music during every day life.



The Elizabethan Era included a wide variety of instruments. These ranged from woodwinds, like flutes and fifis, to different types of drums (Andrews 122).Instruments included: recorders, cornets, lutes, bandora, sackbut, harpsichord, violins, trumpets, virginals, horns, and orginals (Andrews 122)(Weatherly 96). Even Queen Elizabeth played instruments, the lute and the virginal (Weatherly 95). Also, there was a special kind of English string quartet, consisting of the violin, flute, viol, and the lute. It was called the "English Consort", and it was the first English string quartet (Alchin).


The majority of people during the Elizabethan Era were musicians, because most of them played an instrument, and if they didn't play an instrument, they were expected to be able to sing (Olsen 482). The professional musicians, however, were used for many things. Some houses kept a permanent staff of musicians on hand to play for the family, especially during the long Elizabethan dinners (Elgin 25). Other musicians were used at theaters, including the Globe Theater. They played in a room above the stage, called a gallery, during the plays, so the audience could hear the music (Morley 122-123). However, even though musicians were very popular, they also had a very low reputation (Olsen 482).

Music in Everyday Life

Music was one of the most common forms of entertainment during the Elizabethan Era. It was used during everyday life, and also in court life, festivals, royal processions, weddings, and in the theater (Olsen 482). Shakespeare used a lot of music in his plays, as a diversion from the main action (Morley 122). In everyday life, people enjoyed singing and playing instruments, and some people even wrote sonnets in their free time (Elgin 24). The printing press, during this time, allowed people to print more music, which made it cheaper, and more easily available (Weatherly 22). Between 1588 and 1630, over eighty collections of songs were printed, which was a lot for that time (22).

Conclusion BrokenConsort.jpg

Although music has evolved a lot since the Elizabethan Era, it's plain to see the similarities. It was used in many different ways, including in the theater, at dinners, and in everyday life. The majority of people could sing and/or play an instrument. Music gave a lot of people a career as musicians. All in all, music was a very main part of the Elizabethan Era.

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