The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music

The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music

The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music

The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music

Synopsis

The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music studies the complex impact of movements, costumes, words, scenes, music, and special effects in English illusionistic theatre of the Renaissance. Drawing on a massive amount of documentary evidence relating to English productions as well as spectacle in France, Italy, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire, the book elucidates professional ballet, theatre management, and dramatic performance at the early Stuart court. Individual studies take a fresh look at works by Ben Jonson, Samuel Daniel, Thomas Carew, John Milton, William Davenant, and others, showing how court poets collaborated with tailors, designers, technicians, choreographers, and aristocratic as well as professional performers to create a dazzling event. Based on extensive archival research on the households of Queen Anne and Queen Henrietta Maria, special chapters highlight the artistic and financial control of Stuart queens over their masques and pastorals. Many plates and figures from German, Austrian, French, and English archives illustrate accessibly-written introductions to costume conventions, early dance styles, male and female performers, the dramatic symbolism of colors, and stage design in performance. With splendid costumes and choreographies, masques once appealed to the five senses. A tribute to their colorful brilliance, this book seeks to recover a lost dimension of performance culture in early modern England.

Excerpt

On the evening of 26 December 1613, Giovanni Battista Gabaleoni, a Savoy diplomat, pushed his way into the packed Banqueting House at Whitehall, where the court celebrated the wedding of the Earl of Somerset and Frances Howard. the high-profile occasion demanded a lavish spectacle, and the poet-musician Thomas Campion had risen to the challenge. Grounded upon ‘inchauntments and severall transformations’, his masque started one hour before midnight and lasted until two o’clock in the morning. a magnificent triumphal arch disclosed a view of a seascape in perspective. Golden pillars turned into richly dressed dancers. Queen Anne herself graciously plucked a golden bough from a stage tree and honoured the king’s favourite and his beautiful bride to the sounds of lutes and viols. Only the Tuscan stage designer Constantino de’ Servi, ‘being too much of him selfe’ (in Campion’s opinion), had not lived up to his credentials, as his flawed machinery punctured the solemnities with creaking noises, and pulleys and ropes protruded into the exquisitely contrived illusionistic scenery Gabaleoni, a jaded observer, present for official reasons rather than by aesthetic inclination, attentively followed the course of events. What the agent reported back to Turin is one of the most intriguing eyewitness accounts of a courtly spectacle. It reveals how a masque went down with a spectator who did not understand a word of it. So as not to distort the way Gabaleoni emphasized certain elements of the masque, the report has been represented here almost unabridged.

In the cloud there were twelve niches all in a group, where the twelve masquers sat, and
when it came down one could see the ropes that supported it and hear the pulleys, or
rather wheels, making the same noise as when they raise or lower the mast of a ship. The
show was begun with a speech made by four men dressed poorly, which, to judge by the
tenor of their voices, would have been more suitable to a funeral than to the joys of a
wedding. When that was over a masque of twelve devils was begun. They made a
decent sight because of the expressions of the men, but they made the spectators sad.
After that came a band of musicians to present themselves before their Majesties’ State;
they sang several verses in English, and a tree was presented to the queen, signifying the
olive, which was placed in front of her…. the lords came down without any music,

Thomas Campion, The Description of a Maske: Presented in the Banqueting Roome at Whitehall, on Saint Stephens Night Last (London, 1614), sig. A2 , A2 .

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