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Masque, also spelled mask, festival or entertainment in which disguised participants offer gifts to their host and then join together for a ceremonial dance.
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Reconstructions of Stuart masques have been few and far between. Part of the problem is that only texts survive complete; there is no complete music, only fragments, so no authoritative performance can be made without interpretive invention. There is a detailed, humorous and malicious account by Sir John Harington of a masque of Solomon and Sheba: As far as we can ascertain the details of the masque, the Queen of Sheba was to bring gifts to the King, representing Solomon, and was to be followed by the spirits of Faith, Hope, Charity, Victory and Peace. Unfortunately, as Harington gleefully reported, the actress playing the Queen tripped over the steps of the throne, sending her gifts flying; Hope and Faith were too drunk to speak a word, while Peace, annoyed at finding her way to the throne blocked, made good use of her symbolic olive branches to slap anyone who was in her way.

Performed to celebrate the third birthday of Frederick's daughter Augusta , it remains among the best-known British patriotic songs up to the present, while the masque of which it was originally part is only remembered by specialist historians. The most outstanding humanists , poets and artists of the day, in the full intensity of their creative powers, devoted themselves to producing masques; and until the Puritans closed the English theatres in , the masque was the highest artform in England.

But because of its ephemeral nature, not a lot of documentation related to masques remains, and much of what is said about the production and enjoyment of masques is still part speculation. While the masque was no longer as popular as it was at its height in the 17th Century, there are many later examples of the masque.

During the late 17th century, English semi-operas by composers such as Henry Purcell had masque scenes inset between the acts of the play proper. In the 18th century, William Boyce and Thomas Arne , among other composers, continued to utilize the masque genre mostly as an occasional piece, and the genre became increasingly associated with patriotic topics. There are isolated examples throughout the first half of the 19th century.

With the renaissance of English musical composition during the late 19th and early 20th century the so-called English Musical Renaissance , English composers turned to the masque as a way of connecting to a genuinely English musical-dramatic form in their attempts to build a historically-informed national musical style for England. Masques also became common as scenes in operettas and musical theatre works set during the Elizabethan period. In the 20th century, Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote several masques, including his masterpiece in the genre, Job, a masque for dancing which premiered in , although the work is closer to a ballet than a masque as it was originally understood.

His designating it a masque was to indicate that the modern choreography typical when he wrote the piece would not be suitable. Constant Lambert also wrote a piece he called a masque, Summer's Last Will and Testament , for orchestra, chorus and baritone. His title he took from Thomas Nash , whose masque [3] was probably first presented before the Archbishop of Canterbury , perhaps at his London seat, Lambeth Palace , in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about 16th- and early 17th-century court entertainments. For other uses, see Masque disambiguation.

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Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history. This page was last edited on 18 September , at By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Wikisource has the text of the New International Encyclopedia article Masque. A typical masque consisted of a band of costumed and masked persons of the same sex who, accompanied by torchbearers, arrived at a social gathering to dance and converse with the guests. The masque could be simply a procession of such persons introduced by a presenter, or it could be an elaborately staged show in which a brief lyrical drama heralded the appearance of masquers, who, having descended from their pageant to perform figured dances, reveled with the guests until summoned back into their pageant by farewell speeches and song.

The theme of the drama presented during a masque was usually mythological, allegorical, or symbolic and was designed to be complimentary to the noble or royal host of the social gathering. Most likely originating in primitive religious rites and folk ceremonies known as disguising , or mummery, masques evolved into elaborate court spectacles that, under various names, entertained royalty throughout Europe.

In Renaissance Italy , under the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, the intermezzo became known for its emphasis on song, dance, scenery, and stage machinery. No matter how literary, the intermezzi invariably included a dance or masked ball where the guests mingled with the actors.

Masque - Wikipedia

A nondramatic form, the trionfo , or triumph, evolved from these Italian court masques and, arriving in France, gave rise to the ballet de cour and the more spectacular masquerade. During the 16th century the European continental masque traveled to Tudor England , where it became a court entertainment played before the king.

Gorgeous costumes, spectacular scenery with elaborate machinery to move it on- and offstage, and rich allegorical verse marked the English masque. During the reign of Elizabeth I the masque provided a vehicle for compliments paid to the queen at her palace and during her summer tours through England. Under James I and Charles I masques were usually presented at court. Under the Stuarts the masque reached its zenith when Ben Jonson became court poet. He endowed the form with great literary as well as social force. In Jonson and the scene designer Inigo Jones produced the first of many excellent masques, which they continued to collaborate on until Jonson invented the antimasque —also known as the antemasque, the false masque, and the antic masque—and produced the first in It took place before the main masque, concentrated on grotesque elements, and provided a direct contrast to the elegance of the masque that followed.

In later years the masque developed into opera , and the antimasque became primarily a farce or pantomime. Masque entertainments in England ceased with the beginning of the English Civil Wars , and later revivals never equaled the originals. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

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Definition of 'masque'

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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: The court masques served to introduce Italian staging to England. The masques were allegories designed to honour a particular person or occasion by comparing them favourably with mythological characters or situations. Inigo Jones, the foremost English architect of his time, produced masques and other entertainments at the….

As court poet, Ben Jonson collaborated with the architect and designer Inigo Jones to produce some of the finest examples of the masque. Having spent a few years in Italy, Jones was greatly….