Admit me Chorus to this history : Shakespeare’s M.C.s and Choric Commentators—How Medieval, How Early Modern?

Michael INGHAM*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


My paper discusses the relationship between typical medieval and Tudor prologues and epilogues, in which a moralistic and didactic tone is common, and Shakespeare’s more nuanced early modern use of framing devices. The latter’s approach, I argue, is driven more by a heightened sense of poetics and dramatic functionality than by didacticism or homiletic sentiment. Nevertheless, a distinctly medieval ethos is palpable in his framing speeches, and my paper will explore the balance between such medieval elements and an early modern dramatic application. This begs the question why Shakespeare avails himself of the choric device in some plays but not in others. I make the case for the history and romance genres being associated with choric devices in Shakespeare’s dramas, to a much greater degree than comedy and tragedy. Through textual analysis of language, such as the use of archaism, as well as diction and versification choices in his framing speeches, this article charts Shakespeare’s skilful creation and deployment of a medieval and early modern hybrid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-271
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Early online date1 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019



  • Choric devices
  • Early modern
  • Generative narrator
  • Liminality
  • Medieval
  • Shakespeare

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