Could you put on a production of The Masque of Blackness by Ben Jonson anywhere in the world today?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This play was written by Ben Jonson after being asked to write a play by Anne of Denmark, who was the queen consort of James I. She wanted a play to be written where the main characters would be Africans. Apparently Anne herself performed in this masque along with some of her court ladies, and they all painted their faces black for the show. The basic storyline of the play is that the African ladies come to the English Court because they desire to be "cleansed" of their skin colour by the power of King James.

Given the nature of this play and what is specifically involves, it would be very difficult to perform this play anywhere today given the massive changes that have occurred since the beginning of the 17th century and today's world. The key issue that would be problematic is the idea of Africans willingly desiring to be "cleansed" of their blackness, which would be extremely offensive to audiences everywhere today. We need to remember that this was a play that was thought up by white Europeans at a time when their skin colour was taken as a sign of racial superiority and Christian beliefs. There is no way in which this could be performed nowadays.

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