Shirley is perhaps best noted for his comedic elegance, yet it was a tragedy, The Cardinal, which the author himself deemed ‘the best of my flock’.1 In the course of his long career, Shirley wrote five tragedies-The Maid’s Revenge (1626), Love’s Cruelty (1631), The Traitor (1631), The Politician (c. 1639), and The Cardinal (1641)—and revised substantially a further one by George Chapman, Chabot, Admiral of France (licensed 1635). This essay traces Shirley’s evolving, multifaceted skill in the tragic mode. I will consider performance dynamics and the spoken voice, drawing on surviving prompt-books and recorded recitals of tragic scenes by Shirley and some of his contemporaries.2 I will conclude with an in-depth analysis of passages by Shirley and Chapman. A relatively small group of plays of the same genre is particularly well suited to carve out Shirley’s style, which emerges very clearly when compared to Chapman. Altogether, these considerations will allow us to understand the vision of tragedy entertained by a quintessentially Caroline writer.