As a literary type, the madrigal of the 16th century is a free imitation of the 14th century madrigal.  This literary movement was a great stimulus to musical activity. The musicians of the early 16th century , at first Netherlands composers working in Italy (Verdelot, Willaert, Aracdelt), cooperated with the poets in order to achieve a new style of artistic refinement and expression.  Naturally, they did not take their cue from 14th century music, which was entirely forgotten.  In fact, it was only the literary bond that justified the use of the sold name for the new compositions.  As a musical composition the madrigal of the 16th century is an outgrowth of the frottole, more specifically, the canzona.

The development of the madrigal in Italy is usually divided into three phases:

The transition is particularly apparent in the madrigals of Monteverdi.

The English madrigal - Outside Italy, the madrigal was cultivated chiefly in England. William Byrd seems to have been the first English composer to grasp fully the importance of the madrigal.  He, together with Thomas Morley, represents the earlier period of the English madrigal, whose style corresponds to a certain extent to that of the second Italian school.

Nevertheless, the English madrigal soon acquired native characteristics resulting from

The younger Englishmen, notably Thomas Weelkes, leaned further toward Italy and exploited the innovations of Marenzio and Gesualdo, though somewhat more conservatively.

Hans Leo Hassler is the outstanding German madrigalist, although many of his madrigals have Italian texts.

(see The Italian Madrigal)