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The Acoustic World of Early Modern England

Attending to the O-Factor

We know how a Shakespeare play sounds when performed today, but what would listeners have heard within the wooden "O" of the Globe Theater in 1599? What sounds would have filled the air in early modern England, and what would these sounds have meant to people in that largely oral culture?

In this ear-opening journey into the sound-worlds of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Bruce R. Smith explores both the physical aspects of human speech (ears, lungs, tongue) and the surrounding environment (buildings, landscape, climate), as well as social and political structures. Drawing on a staggeringly wide range of evidence, he crafts a historical phenomenology of sound, from reconstructions of the "soundscapes" of city, country, and court to detailed accounts of the acoustic properties of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters and how scripts designed for the two spaces exploited sound very differently.

Critical for anyone who wants to understand the world of early modern England, Smith’s pathbreaking "ecology" of voice and listening also has much to offer musicologists and acoustic ecologists.

400 pages | 32 halftones, 2 tables, 25 musical notations | 6 x 9 | © 1999

History: British and Irish History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Music: General Music

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Around
1. Opening
2. Mapping the Field
3. The Soundscapes of Early Modern England: City, Country, Court
4. Re: Membering
5. Some Propositions Concerning O
2. Within
6. Games, Gambols, Gests, Jests, Jibes, Jigs
7. Ballads Within, Around, Among, Of, Upon, Against, Within
8. Within the Wooden O
9. Circling the Subject
3. Beyond
10. Listen, Otherwise
Works Cited


Sixteenth Century Studies Conference: Roland H. Bainton Book Prize

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