Criticism: Development Of The Masque - Essay

Stephen Orgel (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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...

(The entire section is 6203 words.)

David Norbrook (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Reformation of the Masque,” in The Court Masque, edited by David Lindley, Manchester University Press, 1984, pp. 94-110.

[In the essay below, Norbrook outlines the efforts made to reform Jacobean and Caroline masques in light of Protestant beliefs.]

At the beginning of Shelley's unfinished tragedy Charles the First, some London citizens are watching a procession of masquers on their way to perform at court. The year is 1634; the masque is James Shirley's The Triumph of Peace, performed by the lawyers of the Inns of Court. A young spectator is dazzled by the sight:

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(The entire section is 7819 words.)

Carol Marsh-Lockett (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Ben Jonson's Haddington Masque and The Masque of Queenes: Stuart England and the Notion of Order,” in CLAJ: College Language Association Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3, March, 1987, pp. 362-78.

[In the following essay, Marsh-Lockett examines Jonson's efforts to educate King James on the tenets of successful monarchy through The Haddington Masque and The Masque of Queenes.]

In the canon of criticism of Ben Jonson's work, treatments of the masques and entertainments occupy relatively little space. For many years they were dismissed as subliterary types with little thematic significance, and only commentaries made by Jonson himself indicated a...

(The entire section is 5289 words.)

J. Andrew Hubbell (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Comus: Milton's Re-Formation of the Masque,” in Spokesperson Milton: Voices in Contemporary Criticism, edited by Charles W. Durham and Kristin Pruitt McColgan, Susquehanna University Press, 1994, pp. 193-205.

[In the essay below, Hubbell considers Milton's efforts to shift the nature and focus of the masque in his Comus.]

As Stephen Orgel demonstrates, the specific function of the masque is to represent the social order, making particular reference to the monarch as the regal head of both the masque and society. Since the masque proposes to create a political fiction that would glorify the establishment, the praise of the court is an inherent...

(The entire section is 5378 words.)

Lesley Mickel (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Introduction to Ben Jonson's Antimasques: A History of Growth and Decline, Ashgate Publishing, 1999, pp. 1-25.

[In the following excerpt from a larger study of Jonson's antimasques, Mickel provides an abstract of his argument that Jonson's antimasque is a complex, dialectical response to political and cultural events and thus helps to enforce the ideal of the masque.]

This book focuses on the court masques of Ben Jonson, but the sheer number of these masques (there are twenty-eight) makes a selective discussion of them necessary, although I have tried to pick out those masques that seem to be particularly significant for a study of the genre's development. My...

(The entire section is 11199 words.)