Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640

By Peter Walls | Go to book overview

3

Dance and Instrumental Music

Interpreting Masque Dances

Aurelia: We have forgot the brawle.

Guerino: Why? 'Tis but two singles on the left, two on the right,three doubles forward, a traverse of six round: do this twice, three singlesside, galliard trick of twentie, curranto pace: a figure of eight, three singles brokendown, come up, meete, two doubles fall backe, and then honour.

Aurelia: O Dedalus! thy maze, I have quite forgot it.

( John Marston, The Malcontent, iv. i. 65)

Guerino's complicated directions and Aurelia's bemused reactionsuggest that an onlooker might have had great difficulty in seeing thisparticular dance as a model of celestial order. Yet in the songs of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue Jonson takes up the very image used by the bewildered Aurelia to communicate a sense of the beautiful orderliness of set masque dances and the revels. Daedalus describes the the intricate choreography of the dance as being like his maze, an artefact with the potential to instruct and delight:

Then, as all actions of mankind are but a Laborinth, or maze, so let your Daunces be entwin'd, yet not perplex men, vnto gaze. But measur'd, and so numerous too, as men may read each act you doo. And when they see ye' Graces meet, admire ye wisdom of your feet. For Dauncing is an exercise not only shews ye mouers wit, but maketh ye beholder wise, as he hath powre to rise to it.(ll. 261-72)

We may interpret -- or 'read' -- the complex and subtle figures of the dance as emblems of alert and virtuous social action. Regrettably, the setting is lost, but the accomplishment of the verse itself gives a kind of authority to the singer's statements about intelligent artifice. This fine poem is typical of the largest and most important group of masque songs -- songs which introduce the dances.

-104-

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Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Plates xiii
  • List of Tables xiv
  • List of Music Examples xv
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Texts, Scores, and Musicians 7
  • 2 - Masque Song 43
  • 3 - Dance and Instrumental Music 104
  • 4 - The William Lawes Masques 159
  • 5 - Music for the Eyes 206
  • 6 - French Influence in the Caroline Masque 221
  • 7 - Masques Away from Whitehall 260
  • 8 - Realizations 304
  • Epilogue 333
  • Appendix - A Calendar of Masque Texts 341
  • Bibliography 349
  • Index 361
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