The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music

By Barbara Ravelhofer | Go to book overview

6
Colours and Lights: The Costume
in Motion

This habit was beautiful, rich, and light for dancing, and proper for the
subject of this masque.

William Davenant, Britannia Triumphans (1638)

If we tried to restage a court masque based on literary scholarship we would end up with a black-and-white performance. The subject of colour has eluded even groundbreaking studies of Jonesian festival iconography. It was not so in the seventeenth century, when eyewitnesses loved to dwell on colours and fabrics far more than on the literary contents of a performance. For Bulstrode Whitelocke, the colours of his masquers in The Triumph of Peace (1634) embodied the event itself. Twenty years later, he still kept their silver and blue for his own embassy to Sweden.1 Is colour simply not serious enough to merit critical attention?

When Goethe composed his Theory of Colours (1810) he joked that he was up against a long tradition of Western thought (‘a bull will get angry at the sight of a red scarf; but the philosopher will start to rave if you just mention the topic of colour’).2 In ancient Greek philosophy, colour was seen to affect the human body physically. Plato called it pharmakon; in his Republic he denounced scene painting as ‘witchcraft’.3 In Latin, color meant ‘exterior, shell, colour, make-up, beauty, complexion. It is related to celare, to hide. Colour was regarded as an

1The Diary of Bulstrode Whitelocke, 1605–1675, ed. Ruth Spalding (Oxford, 1990), 75.

2 ‘Hält man dem Stier ein rotes Tuch vor, so wird er wütend; aber der Philosoph, wenn man nur überhaupt von Farbe spricht, fängt an zu rasen.’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Zur Farbenlehre: Das gesamte Hauptwerk von 1810, ed. Manfred Wenzel (Frankfurt am Main, 1991), ‘Einleitung’, 25.

3 Jacqueline Lichtenstein, La Couleur éloquente: Rhétorique et peinture à l’âge classique (Paris, 1989), ch. ‘De la toilette platonicienne’. Jacques Derrida, ‘La Pharmacie de Platon’, in La Dissémination (Paris, 1972), 69–197. David Batchelor, Chromophobia (London, 2000), 31, 52. Republic, X, 602d, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato Including the Letters, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton, 2nd printing, 1963), 827.

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The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • Abbreviations and Conventions xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Dance 13
  • 1 - Methodology 15
  • 2 - English and Continental Sources 27
  • 3 - Theatre Dances 67
  • 4 - Discipline or Pleasure? 97
  • Part II - Costume 121
  • 5 - Masque Costumes 123
  • 6 - Colours and Lights: the Costume in Motion 157
  • 7 - Costume Conventions for Male and Female Masquers 170
  • Part III - Case Studies 185
  • 8 - Two Jonsonian Court Masques 187
  • 9 - Historical Costume, Historical Dancing: Coelum Britannicum 207
  • 10 - Global Spectacle: An English Masque at Constantinople 230
  • Conclusion 263
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index 309
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