Stephen Orgel (essay date 1971)
SOURCE: “The Masque,” in English Drama to 1710, edited by Christopher Ricks, Barrie & Jenkins, 1971, pp. 354-69.
[In the following essay, Orgel, a noted scholar of the masque, places the genre in the context of the history of literature, outlining its distinctive characteristics and development.]
The masque is only in a very qualified sense a chapter in the history of English drama. Its origins are to be found in Christmas mummings, in courtly dances and in spectacular entertainments, but not until the seventeenth century is the composition of court masques regularly undertaken by a professional playwright. Ben Jonson gave the masque its most characteristic...
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