In this paper, the design, modelling and performance characteristics of electrostatically driven vacuum-encapsulated polysilicon resonators are addressed. A one-port configuration is preferably employed for excitation and detection of the vibration. Mechanical instability (pull-in) is discussed on the basis of the energy minimum principle. An expression for the pull-in voltage of a beam is given. The electromechanical behaviour in a limited frequency regime around the fundamental resonance is accurately modelled by an electric circuit consisting of a (static) capacitor shunted by a series (dynamic) RLC branch. The d.c. bias dependence of the circuit components and of the series resonance frequency has been experimentally investigated and is compared with the theory. The large-amplitude behaviour is discussed as well. The plate modulus and residual strain of boron-doped polysilicon are estimated from the resonance frequencies of microbridges of varying lengths. The feasibility of their application as resonant strain gauges is investigated. The 210 m long beams typically have an unloaded fundamental frequency of 324 kHz, a gauge factor of 2400 and an uncompensated temperature coefficient of -135 ppm 0C-1.