Research Stream


Kathryn Roberts Parker
The University of Sydney

Alan Maddox (2012-2016)
The University of Sydney


Words and Music: A Study of the Cultural Significance of Songs in Elizabethan and Jacobean Comedy

This project seeks to uncover the cultural significance of vocal music that was used in English playhouses during the period from 1587 to 1620. More specifically, it will focus on songs in the Comedies of William Shakespeare in comparison to songs sold out of public print houses in London.


Ross Duffin and William Chappell have demonstrated that the songs within Shakespeare’s plays share their melodies and even lyrics at times with songs printed as single sheet broadsides or in printed book collections during the early modern period.

‘Words and Music’aims to draw new conclusions about musical dramaturgy by conducting close readings of musical printed materials related to Shakespeare’s use of song in dramatic scenes in comedy. The study is considering these texts alongside prominent musical philosophies of the time, particularly Affect theory and philosophies of the senses for understanding the significance of instrumentation and singing in communicating meaning to audiences.


Professor Liam Semler
Dr Alan Maddox


Image: Anon, The Northern Lasses Lamentation, c. 1675. University of California English Ballad Archive. Accessible online at