masque, courtly form of dramatic spectacle, popular in England in the first half of the 17th cent. The masque developed from the early 16th-century disguising, or mummery, in which disguised guests bearing presents would break into a festival and then join with their hosts in a ceremonial dance. As the form evolved, the important elements retained were the use of the mask and the mingling of actors and spectators. Reaching its height in the early 17th cent., the masque became a magnificent and colorful spectacle, presented in public theaters and, with more splendor, in the royal courts. The actors personified pastoral and mythological figures, with great emphasis placed on music and dance. The foremost writer of the masque was Ben Jonson. However, it was his collaborator Inigo Jones, the theatrical architect, famous for his elaborate costume designs, settings, and scenic effects, who gave the masque its greatest popularity. Some of their more successful masques include The Masque of Blackness (1605) and Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue (1618).

See A. Nicoll, Stuart Masques and the Renaissance Stage (1937); E. Welsford, The Court Masque (1927, repr. 1962); S. K. Orgel, The Jonsonian Masque (1965); S. Sutherland, Masques in Jacobean Tragedy (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Masques: Selected full-text books and articles

Court Masques: Jacobean and Caroline Entertainments, 1605-1640
David Lindley.
Oxford University Press, 1995
FREE! Court Masques of James I: Their Influence on Shakespeare and the Public Theatres
Mary Sullivan.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913
Stuart Masques and the Renaissance Stage
Allardyce Nicoll.
Harcourt, Brace, 1938
Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640
Peter Walls.
Clarendon Press, 1996
Art and Magic in the Court of the Stuarts
Vaughan Hart.
Routledge, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "'By the Might, and Magic of His Arm': Masques, Sermons, and the Prophetic 'Albion and Jerusalem'"
Joint Enterprises: Collaborative Drama and the Institutionalization of the English Renaissance Theater
Heather Anne Hirschfeld.
University of Massachusetts Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "Beaumont, Fletcher, and Shakespeare: Collaborative Drama, the Stuart Masque, and the Politics of Identification"
Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvelous
Peter G. Platt.
University of Nebraska Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Masque and the Marvelous"
Ben Jonson
G. Gregory Smith.
MacMillan, 1919
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "The Masques"
The Irresistible Theatre
W. Bridges-Adams.
World Pub. Co., 1957
Librarian’s tip: "The Masque" begins on p. 226
An Introduction to Stuart Drama
Frederick S. Boas.
Oxford University Press, 1946
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XVI "Masques and University Plays"
Drama: Its Costume & Decor
James Laver.
Studio Publications, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "The English Court Masques"
Pre-Restoration Stage Studies
William J. Lawrence.
Harvard University Press, 1927
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XIV "The Origin of the Substantive Theatre Masque"
The Elizabethan Stage
E. K. Chambers.
Clarendon Press, vol.1, 1923
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "The Mask" and Chap. VI "The Mask (Continued)"
Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z
Jean-Charles Seigneuret.
Greenwood Press, vol.2, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "Masque or Mask" begins on p. 827
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