Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Dr. Kelly Quinn

Second Advisor

Dr. James Purkis


The chorus in classical tragedy was closely tied to the public: it represented the citizens of the polis and shaped the audience's response to the plays. As a result of classical influence, the chorus also appears in dramas of the Renaissance, in both dramas that were performed publicly and dramas that were read privately. In closet drama, drama that was read privately, the chorus was altered significantly from its classical model. This transformation was a result of social and political changes during the Renaissance. Beginning at the end of the medieval period and culminating in the 18th century, the split of the public and private spheres in Europe resulted in the public sphere increasingly becoming an object of question and critique. The chorus, as the voice of the public, became an object of suspicion. This thesis compares the classical chorus with the chorus in Renaissance English closet drama. It traces the transformation of the chorus from a trustworthy to a destabilized to a suspect public voice. The chorus is increasingly questioned and undermined in closet drama, a genre which brings the public voice of the chorus into the private sphere of solitary readers. The transformation of the chorus in closet drama thus reflects the nature of the genre, a genre largely defined by its relation to the public and private spheres, as well as significant cultural changes in Renaissance England.



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