THE ENGLISH MASQUE
HAD Ben Jonson never lived, the English masque would scarcely need to be chronicled among dramatic forms. For despite the fact that mumming, disguising, and dancing in character and costume were pastime's in England quite as old, if not older, than the drama itself, it is to Jonson that we owe the infusion of dramatic spirit into these productions, together with the crystallization of their discordant elements into artistic unity and form. Generically, the masque is one of a numerous progeny, of more or less certain dramatic affiliation. Specifically, a masque is a, setting, a lyric, scenic, and dramatic framework, so to speak, for a ball.1It is made up of "a combination, in variable proportions, of speech, dance, and song;" and its "essential and invariable feature is the presence of a group of dancers . . . called masquers."2. These dancers -- who range in number from eight to sixteen -- are commonly noble and titled people of the court. They neither speak nor sing, nor is it usual to exact of them any difficult or unusual figures, poses, or dances. Their function is the creation of "an imposing show" by their gorgeous costumes and fine presence, enhanced by artistic grouping, and by the aids which decoration and
The masque defined.