Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640

By Peter Walls | Go to book overview

7

Masques away from
Whitehall

The Jacobean masque was an invention specifically tailored to the tastes, aspirations, propaganda goals, and -- not least -- the resources of the court at Whitehall. But a great number of masques were in fact devised for performance elsewhere. All of these were inevitably adaptations of the Whitehall form -- but they are so various (some grandiose, some technically modest yet intellectually sophisticated, some naüve) that they seem at first to form a confusingly miscellaneous group. Much of the interest (and especially the musical interest) of these productions lies in their varying responses to conditions very different from those at Whitehall. With private masques this was most obviously a matter of scaling down the requirements to fit smaller budgets, smaller musical establishments, and smaller rooms. Inventors of widely varying imagination and skill had to adapt the court masque to all kinds of performance conditions.

We cannot simply divide masques into court and private. On the one hand, some court productions which took place away from Whitehall ( The Entertainment at Richmond, for example) seem to have more in common with masques in provincial private houses than they do with the parent forms. On the other hand, a number of masques which took place under the auspices of the nobility were extravagantly produced and honed to serve regional political interests as complex as those which preoccupied the court (the Earl of Newcastle's entertainments are an obvious case). For this reason, I have organized the following survey into categories designed to move -- albeit haphazardly, given the diversity of the material -- from types which are virtually indistinguishable from masques sponsored by the court at Whitehall to entertainments which are manifestly domestic. Hence we begin with Inns of Court masques (which on occasions were so much in line with what went on in the Banqueting House that they were simply transferred there for a second performance), and then consider masques presented to royalty away from Whitehall, and finally 'private' masques -- non-royal occasions in the houses of the nobility. A Maske at Ludlow Castle is left until last, not because it belongs at the more homely end of this spectrum (indeed, it was virtually a state occasion) but because it is illuminating to come to it with a sense, not just of its court models, but of other provincial masques and family entertainments.

-260-

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