What Is "Pomp and Circumstance"?

"Pomp and Circumstance" commonly refers to the military march composed by Sir Edward Elgar that has been played a graduation ceremonies in the United States for more than 100 years.

History of the Title

Elgar took the phrase "pomp and circumstance" from Shakespeare's "Othello." In Act III, Scene III, the title character refers to the "pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war."

About the Composer

Elgar is considered one of Britain's best composers. His works have been used to celebrate the royal family and have become symbolic of British national identity.

March No. 1

The first march of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches debuted in 1901, played by the Liverpool Orchestral Society. The march was well-received and helped propel Elgar to fame.

Graduation at Yale 1905

Elgar was invited to attend Yale's graduation ceremony in 1905 to receive an honorary degree. Musicians played the "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1" as the faculty and graduates left the stage.


Featuring Elgar's music at Yale's 1905 graduation started a lasting graduation tradition in the United States, with the song being played a most high school and college graduations for the past century. Though originally written as a military march, most Americans now associate the tune with graduations.

About the Author

Karen Browning is a freelancer who provides content writing, grant writing, editing and research services to a variety of clients. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in American Studies. She loves to research and write about history, yoga, education, travel, technology and food. She has been writing for more than 15 years.