Judith Dundas (essay date 1982)

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SOURCE: “‘Those Beautiful Characters of Sense’: Classical Deities and Court Masque,” in Comparative Drama, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer, 1982, pp. 166-79.

[In the following essay, Dundas analyzes the use of figures of classical myth in masques, arguing that they added an aspect of beauty and enrichment to the performances.]

The flight into the imagination which was implicit in the whole production of court masques took courage from two sources, classical allusion and moral significance. However fantastic the thinly spun plots or however marvellous the stage machinery and costuming, these received some sort of anchoring to reality through recognizable myths and morally sound principles. The didactic no less than the political function of these myths has been stressed in recent criticism; in the words of Stephen Orgel, the masque fictions served to create “heroic roles for the leaders of society.”1 Such an interpretation tends to emphasize the political and ethical goals of the masque, its “Platonic Politics,” at the expense perhaps of the aesthetic purpose, the kind of enjoyment offered by an art that is above all ornamental—an art that, for the sake of pleasure, imposes a decorative form even upon the moral message and makes pattern an imperative. To this requirement, myth itself, without losing dignity, must conform; so Daedalus as dancing master instructs the court in the virtuous life, “And doth in sacred harmony comprise / His precepts.”2

Perhaps the true purpose of the masques lies not altogether in their political or Platonic significance but in the beauty with which they adorned the lives of king and court. To associate the King with Neptune or Jupiter is not only to supply him with a heroic mould for future action but to enrich the present moment for him and the rest of the audience by allusion to a world of delightful imagination. When Ben Jonson speaks of the “sound meats” and the “more remov'd mysteries” that his masques have to offer,3 he is, like any Renaissance writer, pointing to the meaning of his work. As artist, he sees himself as the servant of truth, but to limit this truth to either political or moral messages is to engage in an almost commercial literalizing of the value in a work of art. A survey of the classical mythology in the masques could reveal more poetry and less expediency than current criticism is in the habit of discovering. Even the sometimes complex allegories serve for delight; they are the aliquid salis, without which the masque would be vapid. We need, I believe, to redefine the seriousness of the genre, to place in perspective both political and moral goals instead of making them the sole justification for so much extravagance. In other words, we need to recover some of the playfulness involved in this particular type of play-acting, in which gorgeously attired courtiers move in an elaborately choreographed world of fantasy based on that classical past to which the Renaissance had given its heart.

We may not fully realize to what extent classical mythology was viewed as the subject matter of beauty, but rhetoricians and poets knew this, as did the great Renaissance painters. Fracastoro, for example, says that the only kind of writing that is absolutely beautiful is about gods and heroes.4 Once freed from the medieval necessity of posing as personifications of good and evil, the mythological figures could appear clothed in their own beauty of form. So it was that Rubens aspired to bring the classical gods to life in his painting, not merely by imitating the ancient statues but by seeing the...

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spirit imprisoned in the stone and depicting that. In a remarkable statement in hisDe imitatione statuarum, he notes that “many neophytes and even some experts do not distinguish stuff from form, stone from figure, nor the exigencies of the marble from its artistic use. … Whoever can make this distinction with wise discretion should indeed welcome the statues in a loving embrace; for what can we, decadent children of this erring century, accomplish? What vile spirit keeps us weaklings fettered to the ground, far away from that heroic stature and natural insight? We may still be afflicted by the darkness in which our forefathers lived; maybe the Gods have suffered us to fall from past errors into worse ones, or, to our irreparable loss, to be weakened by a decaying world. …”5 For Renaissance writers, as well as artists, the classical deities belong to a nobler, brighter, happier era, so that to invoke their presence is to illuminate a darkened world.

But within the slender proportions of the court masque, it is clearly impossible to bring the gods fully to life; for “the short bravery of the night,” they can scarcely appear in all their power. Instead of crushing or strangling his enemies, Hercules defeats them with a word and thereby also lives up to the calm dignity of Heroic Virtue. Venus is neither as voracious nor as petty—I almost said, as in real life—as in classical literature, but searches for her missing Cupid with no more than a feigned jealousy:

But he not yet returning, I'm in fear
Some gentle Grace or innocent beauty here
Be taken with him; or he hath surprised
A second Psyche, and lives here disguised.(6)

We cannot have the power of the gods displayed without a dramatic situation; where none exists, these deities can only appear in quotation marks. But what has been lost in strength and power has been gained in gracefulness. However tempting it may be to compare the allegorical paintings of Rubens with the mythologies of the masques,7 the differences are just as important. Iconographic similarities may suggest a commonalty of interest by telling us how readily seventeenth-century artists could mingle myth and history, but they do not dictate a common style. Even decoration, such as the Whitehall ceiling, has in Rubens' hands a grandeur which the aesthetics of the masque do not permit. It is only fitting that the performance of masques in the new Banqueting House should have ended once his paintings were put in place. The lesser had to give way to the greater.

Attenuated as the masque gods are, we shall not find their value by comparing them with the paintings of Rubens, but we may perhaps find it by considering these gods as the indoor inhabitants of a stately home, much as the nymphs and satyrs were the outdoor inhabitants of the surrounding parkland. Jonson himself draws the comparison in his poem “To Sir Robert Wroth”:

Thus Pan, and Sylvane, having had their rites,
                    Comus puts in,
for new delights;
And fills thy open hall with mirth, and cheere,
                    As if in Saturnes
raigne it were;
Apollo's harpe, and Hermes lyre resound,
                    Nor are the Muses
strangers found.(8)

As in Milton's “L'Allegro,” the virtuous mind need be no stranger to revelry, and in the state of innocence Comus himself can appear as the amiable youth that he once was, replete with wine and laughter. The idea of the Golden Age provides not only a context for the performance of masques but also supplies the motivating theme:

                                         … the golden vein
Of Saturn's age is here broke out again.(9)

Every masque celebrates the return of the Golden Age, when gods walked with mortals.

Of course, the gods are a conventional feature of the language of courtly society. Shakespeare gives a delightful parody of this notion in his Induction to The Taming of the Shrew, where the drunken Sly is offered all the perquisites of a lord:

Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee straight
Adonis painted by a running brook
And Cytherea all in sedges hid,
Which seem to move and wanton with her breath,
Even as the waving sedges play with wind.

(11. 49-53)

In this passage, where several of the most popular myths are alluded to, the classical gods play their part as a decorative subject matter, intrinsically beautiful and suitable to the tastes of a cultivated patron. As Jonson's poem to Wroth suggests, the gods are the companions of leisure: with them one can play as with so many rainbows, catching each gleam of fancy.

In the masques, too, classical mythology makes an appeal to aristocratic tastes, but now with a moral significance which links the use of myth to the tradition of pageant with its allegorical figures and right-thinking gods. For example, when Jonson wrote his early entertainment known as The Penates (1604), he had Mercury apologize to the king and queen for the rude antics of Pan and his earthy amours, which he calls “but the lightest escapes of our deities.” This is probably as close as we get in either masques or entertainments to the bawdier stories of the gods. Here the allusion to Pan is appropriate within the context of an Arcadian landscape: “This place, whereon you are now advanced (by the mighty power of poetry, and help of a faith that can remove mountains) is the Arcadian hill Cyllene. …”10 Only with the help of such a faith and the power of poetry, it seems, can the gods be made to inhabit a world now, alas, deprived of them. What more joyous experience, then, for courtiers than to engage in the bringing back of this most pleasurable aspect of classical antiquity, especially when it can be reconciled with the moral values of their own civilization?

And here, by the way, it should be noted that the compatibility of pleasure with virtue was asserted not only by humanist philosophers such as Ficino, but also by other moralizing poets besides Jonson. Spenser, for example, gives Pleasure a place in his earthly paradise, the Garden of Adonis:

Pleasure, that doth both gods and men aggrate,
Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche late.(11)

In the ideal union of love and the human soul, pleasure is born and mortals find themselves in the company of gods. It is under exactly the same conditions of blessedness that the court masques present an achieved vision, in which human beings can participate in divine celebrations.

In bringing back the gods with the help of faith and “the mighty power of poetry,” Jonson has as well the assistance of a nighttime setting for his masques, with candles, music, and rich costume to invite fancy:

From air, from cloud, from dreams, from toys,
                    To sounds, to sense, to love, to joys. …(12)

The invocation to Fancy in The Vision of Delight shows an awareness and acceptance of the licensed space granted to the dreaming mind “in such a night as this.” Not for nothing do the words of Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice come to mind: the mythological allusions crowd the page when the atmosphere is as right as it is for Jessica and Lorenzo in their playful mood of love.13 Jonson's figure of Delight, too, remarks on the festive moment: “our sports are of the humorous night.” Together night, dream, and fancy invite the gods.

It is not a combination that necessarily spells Platonic symmetries; indeed, “the humorous night” has its fill of absurdity. Supreme example of the comedy which links gods and men is love, the theme of so many masques and entertainments. The court, “circular, and perfect,” may become an academy of love; the king and queen, “the whole School-Divinitie of Love”;14 and for the moment, an idea of perfect felicity may be presented to the viewers. But the absurdity of love figures in a number of masques, where the illusions of men become linked with the illusions woven by the gods. The Challenge at Tilt shows the ridiculous sight of two cupids, Eros and Anteros, striving for the palm, when both are required for the mutual love celebrated by Hymen. Similarly, Lovers Made Men treats as literal the death-dealing blows of love, so that only the ghosts of former lovers appear until these are restored to life by reason. Yet the absurdity and the beauty are as close together as in A Mid-summer-Night's Dream, where imagination or fancy also governs men's actions to the wonder and amusement of the audience:

                                                                                They are the gentle forms
Of lovers tossed upon those frantic seas
Whence Venus sprung.(15)

Perhaps a courtly drama should not be too bound up with the grosser appetites but instead look at them through the same telescopic lens with which it views the nymphs and satyrs. One does not criticize what happens in the masque because it is too remote, but one is asked to enjoy the dance along the labyrinthine ways of the imagination into which the real world enters only by courtesy of the muses.

Yet Jonson's invocation to fancy, festive though it is, is not intended to be merely self-indulgent. To make more sense of man's dreams is to show how they may be brought down to earth through the practice of such virtues as temperance and love. He is constantly asserting that human imperfection need not stand in the way of a vision of perfection. Whether it is the “round, firm clasp of nature” or one of his many spherical images for the beauty of human life—“the court, which is circular / And perfect”—he testifies to his own joy in a vision of what is both natural and good. When his gods make their descent to earth, it is to bring order to the confusion of human life:

It is no dream; you all do wake and see.
Behold who comes! far-shooting Phoebus, he
That can both hurt and heal; and with his voice
Rear towns, and make societies rejoice;
That taught the muses all their harmony,
And men the tuneful art of augury.
Apollo stoops, and when a god descends,
May mortals think he hath no vulgar ends.(16)

Or the gods come

                                                  Regarding still what heaven should do,
And not what earth deserveth.(17)

What has been termed “Jonson's clever exploitation of the gods”18 denies him at least a portion of his true feelings about these gods, who have their own identity which must be respected even while they make their appearance within the limits of this particular earthly stage. As a philosophical justification for bringing the gods upon stage we could, of course, turn to the writings of Renaissance Neoplatonists, but for our purpose, we may find the question more immediately discussed in Samuel Daniel's masque The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses. The goddess Iris, “the daughter of wonder,” explains that the eternal ideas have been “cast in the imagination of piety,” that the divine Powers “clothed themselves with these appearances” in order that they might be better understood than “in that wide and incomprehensible volume of nature.”19 It is as if the classical deities, “those beautiful characters of sense,” were the natural language for the eternal ideas, supplemented by the personifications created by a later era and so authoritatively described in Ripa's Iconologia, on which Jonson in particular drew freely. His conservatism in grounding his inventions “upon antiquity and solid learning” is in keeping with the commonly held Renaissance view that not only the recognizability but also the power of allegorical figures somehow depended upon their correct depiction.20 In fact, his concern goes beyond pedantry to show profound respect, even piety, for the way in which the eternal ideas have been traditionally clothed. He will cite Philostratus on “the inducing of many Cupids” in his Haddington Masque, or Athenaeus on the overseeing role of Silenus in his Oberon, or explain his presentation of Apollo by saying that “Antiquity reported four extraordinary skills” for him. On the personification of vices in The Masque of Queens he says, “Now for the personal presentation of them, the authority in poetry is universal.” It is interesting that poetry itself becomes his authority for his own fictions. Thus, in justifying the bringing of persons of different eras on stage together in this same masque, he offers not only the defense that nothing is more proper or more natural, but “if I would fly to the all-daring power of poetry, where could I not take sanctuary?”21 His earlier reference to “the mighty power of poetry” in The Penates also linked the gods and poetry. The two belong to that higher sphere through which man is enabled to understand and order this earthly life.

Indeed Jonson does not use the gods merely to make the monarch or the masquers more important but to join heaven and earth in one joyful vision. The masquers may be “at the heart of the masque,”22 but they are so by the grace of the gods. They are released from the bondage of winter; they assist Love or play the part of lovers; they are, in short, the revelation of what the good and the beautiful have to offer in the happy union of gods and men. When Apollo speaks of the king as “the love and care of all the gods,”23 this is less a subordination of the gods than of the king to the ideal of kingship. Justice and religion, Jonson notes in his Discoveries, “are the only two Attributes make Kings a kinne to Gods.”24

To speak of the masques as political is almost to suggest that they are solely devoted to the propaganda of kingship, but the mythologizing of the monarch is precisely what removes the taint of adulation and renders a service to truth. How can a king take seriously such words as those which say that his subjects are rapt above the moon in contemplation of his virtues? The myths may be the standard language of courtly compliment—for example, in the poem to William, Earl of Newcastle, “You shew'd like Perseus upon Pegasus25—but the statuesque dignity and classical beauty of the analogy shape the subject into ornamental form. Similarly, the king, who may be compared to Neptune or Jupiter, is in effect cast in the ideal mould of art. And might one not say that for Jonson art is the goal of life? The shaping impulse begins with love and ends with beauty:

So love, emergent out of chaos, brought
                    The world to light!
And gently moving on the waters, wrought
                    All forms to sight!(26)

Commenting on his own line “It was for beauty that the world was made,” Jonson notes that it was “An agreeing opinion both with divines and philosophers that the great artificer, in love with his own Idea, did therefore frame the world.”27 The task of the earthly artist likewise can only be to follow beauty and to transform mortal weakness into an image of perfection, for which the gods supply the model.

But he was always careful to distinguish outer beauty and inner, show and matter. When he told the court in his preface to Cynthia's Revels that “no man can call that lovely which is not also venerable,” that it is only “a mind shining through any sute” that is the true beauty, we know that he could not settle merely for the appearance of perfection.28 The spectators of a masque may wish “their bodies all were eye,” but when he explains his conception of poetry, it is as affording “Words above action; matter, above words.”29 As D. J. Gordon has shown in his valuable article on Jones and Jonson, words are a clothing of invention no less than painting is, and Jonson was engaging in a traditional paragone—albeit strengthened by professional jealousy—rather than differing radically from Jones' own position.30 His various poems that deal with the rivalry of poet and painter put the emphasis on inward beauty as his true subject:

My mirror is more subtile, cleere, refin'd
                    And lookes, and gives the beauties of the mind.(31)

Yet as poet, he still needs the sensuous metaphor—“Those beautiful characters of sense”—to manifest “the beauties of the mind.”

Language, beautiful language is the softener, the way prepared for good images, in their turn, to enter the mind. Jonson states this himself in his passage on poetry in Discoveries: he calls it “a dulcet, and gentle Philosophy which leades on, and guides us by hand to Action, with a ravishing delight and incredible Sweetness.”32 His most immediate and famous predecessor in emphasizing the delightful teaching of poetry is, of course, Sir Philip Sidney, who, deferring to Plato and Cicero, says that “who could see virtue would be wonderfully ravished with the love of her beauty” and that it is the poet who “sets her out to make her more lovely in her holiday apparel.”33 Could there be more appropriate words to describe the court masques than “holiday apparel”? But both poets speak of “ravishing” the listener, and this word reminds us that mythological allusions were aids to enthrallment, not only through their intrinsic wonder but also through their beauty of association. Sidney used them freely in his Arcadia as a way of making his images more beautiful and delightful, but for an example from Ben Jonson, we may turn to a seemingly trivial passage addressed to the ladies of the court, urging them to join the revels. It illustrates how mythological allusions may enhance and make more wonderful even the most splendid costuming:

Proteus. Come, noble nymphs,
and do not hide
The joys for which you so provide.
Saron. If not to mingle with
the men,
What do you here? Go home again.
Portunus. Your dressings
do confess
By what we see, so curious parts
Of Pallas' and Arachne's art,
That you could mean no less.
Proteus. Why do you wear
the silkworm's toils,
Or glory in the shellfish spoils,
Or strive to show the grains of ore
That you have gathered on the shore
Whereof to make a stock
To graft the greener emerald on,
Or any better-watered stone?
Saron. Or ruby of the rock?
Proteus. Why do you smell
of ambergris,
Of which was formed Neptune's niece,
The queen of love, unless you can,
Like sea-born Venus, love a man?(34)

The experience of the moment, as in so much of Jonson's occasional poetry, is patterned through classical myth to become part of a transcendent order of existence.

But for such poets as Jonson, there is no patterning without increased moral significance. The emblematic eyes which are embroidered on the dress of Truth in his masque Hymenaei both decorate and signify “her sight in mysteries.” Just so, the delights of the masque are intended to adorn the courtly evening and also to reveal how beauty may become a reality in this world. There is no conflict between the charm of the spectacle and its didactic significance; after all, Elizabethan and Jacobean court life was shot through with its own emblematic language of decoration—in dress, in pageantry, in household furnishings.35 So widespread in fact was the use of significant pattern in these circles that they could scarcely conceive of entertainment without symbolic meaning. That, however, is no reason for us to emphasize the meaning at the expense of the playfulness.

Nor should we misinterpret Jonson's concern that his fanciful confections should be recognized as “sound meats.” In an era which favored “wit,” complexity of meaning was part of that complexity of pattern considered to be artistically desirable. Thus, for example, Juno as Unio, the patronness of marriage, possesses a beauty of significance which enhances her physical presence, like the mind shining through the body.36 But the play on Juno's name reminds us that masque writers in general felt the challenge of finding a witty device as the mainspring of their slender plot. It might be a classical saying such as Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus, which could be reinterpreted to show how love is in reality vindicated by temperance, as Lent is followed by spring.37 The search for wit is endless, and it is upon some small point of wit that most of these little dramas turn, if they have any point at all, not upon some epic or tragic or broadly comic theme. The slightness of the masque as a genre is matched by the epigrammatic quality of its message. What it says may be put into a sentence because no grandly human drama is enacted, but the puppet-gods make their appearance upon cue. Yet for Jonson, the witty device becomes an example of the labyrinth, which is not only an image for human error but for all art:

Then, as all actions of mankind
                    Are but a labyrinth or maze,
So let your dances be entwined,
                    Yet not perplex men unto gaze. …(38)

The labyrinth of art requires an intricate relationship of parts, a contrast between the roughness of the antimasque and the smooth sweetness of the main masque, in order that the variety of life may be fittingly mirrored. As nature moves into art—“her whole body set in art”—so we are shown that human life too can become art when “the lines of good and fair” are rightly drawn.

In the masques, art triumphs over life just as the figures of the main masque triumph over those of the antimasque. But the mythological figures also triumph over their earthly exemplars by turning these mortals into an idealized art form. Perhaps for the sake of both the dulce and the utile of the genre, “this night's ornament” has to leave the arena of human passions and choose instead a decorative, symbolic mode of expression. If Jonson's use of classical myth seems a little too much like Echo seeking “airy garments” to clothe her thoughts, that is simply part of the charm of these allusions. If we go to them expecting the fullness of life that we find in Rubens' paintings, we shall be disappointed; but if we go to them willing to see how the strength of Jonson's mind has disguised itself in an elegant calligraphy, we may yet find something rich and strange in these “court hieroglyphics.” Doubtless Jonson was hoping for a response to his masques not unlike Cynthia's when she remarked on the first masque and devices presented to her in Cynthia's Revels:

Not without wonder, nor without delight,
Mine eyes have viewed, in contemplation's depth
This work of wit, divine and excellent. …(39)

Art, in this familiar Neoplatonic language, becomes an immortal mirror into which the soul gazes and discovers itself. So the pleasures of the senses give way to the higher pleasures of the spirit; “those beautiful characters of sense” transform themselves once more into the eternal ideas and become even more beautiful. Despite all propagandistic motives, the aesthetic point of view prevails, and the conscience of the artist is at rest.


  1. Stephen Orgel, The Illusion of Power (Berkeley, 1975), p. 38. Cf. the discussion of “Platonic Politics” in Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong, Inigo Jones: The Theatre of the Stuart Court (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1973), I, 49-73.

  2. Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, 11. 219-20. All quotations from Jonson's masques are taken from Ben Jonson: The Complete Masques, ed. Stephen Orgel (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1969).

  3. Hymenaei, 11. 16-17 and 24.

  4. Girolamo Fracastoro, Naugerius, sive de Poetica Dialogus, trans. Ruth Kelso, (Urbana, Ill., 1924,), p. 64.

  5. Rubens, cited in Wolfgang Stechow, Rubens and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), p. 26.

  6. The Haddington Masque, 11. 56-59.

  7. The comparison is implicit, for example, in the first two essays of D. J. Gordon's Renaissance Imagination, ed. Stephen Orgel (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1975).

  8. The Forrest, III, 11. 47-52. Quotations from Jonson's poems are taken from The Complete Poetry of Ben Jonson, ed. William B. Hunter, (New York, 1963).

  9. Prince Henry's Barriers, 11. 333-34.

  10. The Penates, 1. 184 and 11. 60-63. Quotations from Jonson's Entertainments are taken from Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford, Percy and Evelyn Simpson (Oxford, 1925-52), Vol. VII.

  11. The Faerie Queene, III.vi.50. For further discussion of pleasure as a Renaissance value, see Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, 2nd ed. (London, 1968), especially the essays on Botticelli's Primavera and on “The Medal of Pico della Mirandola.”

  12. The Vision of Delight, 11. 9-10.

  13. That these are stories of tragic love and love betrayed prepares the way for Jessica's teasing remark: “In such a night / Did young Lorenzo swear he lov'd her well, / Stealing her soul with many vows of faith, / And ne'er a true one.” As Lorenzo forgives her “slanders,” so Jessica and Portia will forgive the mock infidelities of their newly wed husbands. Comic reconciliation prevails.

  14. Love's Welcome at Bolsover, 11. 136-37 and 11. 161-62.

  15. Lovers Made Men, 11. 28-30.

  16. The Masque of Augurs, 11. 251-59.

  17. The Golden Age Restored, 11. 21-22.

  18. John C. Meagher, Method and Meaning in Jonson's Masques (Notre Dame, Ind., 1966), pp. 48-49.

  19. The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, ed. Joan Rees, in A Book of Masques (Cambridge, 1967), 11. 260-65 and 400-03.

  20. See E. H. Gombrich, “Icones Symbolicae,” in Symbolic Images (London: Phaidon, 1972), p. 176. For the sources of Jonson's allegorical figures, see Allan H. Gilbert, The Symbolic Persons in the Masques of Ben Jonson (Durham, N. C., 1948).

  21. See Jonson's marginal glosses, reprinted in the Appendix to Orgel's edition of the Masques. For The Masque of Beauty, see note to 1. 200 (p. 513); for Oberon, see note to 1. 33 (p. 548); for The Masque of Queens, see note to 1. 104 (p. 530), and to 1. 499 (p. 547).

  22. Meagher, p. 55.

  23. The Masque of Augurs, 1. 275.

  24. Discoveries, in Herford and Simpson edition of Ben Jonson, VIII, 603.

  25. Under-wood, 55, 1. 7. There is an obvious parallel between such descriptions and allegorical portraiture. See Edgar Wind, “Studies in Allegorical Portraiture, I,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1 (1937-38), 138-62.

  26. Love's Triumph through Callipolis, 11. 135-38.

  27. The Masque of Beauty, 1. 243; for Jonson's note on this line, see p. 513 in Orgel edition.

  28. Address to the Court, prefixed to Cynthia's Revels.

  29. Prologue to Cynthia's Revels, 1. 20.

  30. D. J. Gordon, “Poet and Architect: The Intellectual Setting of the Quarrel between Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 12 (1949), 152-78; reprinted in Gordon, The Renaissance Imagination, pp. 77-101.

  31. The Forrest, XIII, 43-44.

  32. Discoveries, p. 636.

  33. Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry (1595), ed. Forrest G. Robinson (Indianapolis, 1970), p. 49.

  34. Neptune's Triumph, 11. 316-35.

  35. See, for example, Rosemary Freeman, English Emblem Books (London, 1948), and Frances Yates, “Elizabethan Chivalry: The Romance of the Accession Day Tilts,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 20 (1957), 4-25.

  36. Hymenaei, 11. 208-09. For a discussion, see D. J. Gordon, “Hymenaei: Jonson's Masque of Union,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 8 (1945), 107-45; reprinted in The Renaissance Imagination, pp. 157-184.

  37. Thomas Nabbes, The Spring's Glory, ed. John Russell Brown, in A Book of Masques, pp. 317-36.

  38. Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, 11. 232-35.

  39. Cynthia's Revels, V.viii.1-3.

Eugene M. Waith (essay date 1982)

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SOURCE: “The English Masque and the Functions of Comedy,” in The Elizabethan Theatre VIII, P. D. Meany Company, 1982, pp. 144-63.

[In the essay below, Waith compares late sixteenth and early seventeenth century masques to earlier comedies, arguing that the masque assumed many characteristics of the comedy.]

Thanks to a number of distinguished critics, it has become a staple of comment on masques to note the crucial importance of the occasions on which they were performed. They are, in fact, perfect examples of occasional art, not intended to endure, but praiseworthy in so far as their creators found or devised suitable forms. This is not to say that when a masque was performed it was appreciated in exact proportion to what we would recognize as its degree of formal coherence. We know how often the very opposite was the case. But now that the applause for the unique performance has long since died down, or the lack of applause has been largely forgotten, there is still some interest in appraising the ingenuity of those early creators in adapting various kinds of available material to their uses. If the results were sometimes a rather haphazard sequence of numbers, as in many a twentieth-century revue, they were sometimes remarkably shapely and strikingly apt.

My aim is to call attention to some of these successes and to suggest they they were due, at least in part, to the appropriation of some of the functions traditionally assigned to comedy. Two of these have for centuries been taken as distinguishing features of the genre: first, to ridicule the defects of ordinary people (to “sport with human follies, not with crimes,” as Jonson put it); and secondly, to enact the ultimate surmounting of obstacles by the sympathetic characters. The first of these functions is part of the classical distinction from tragedy, in that the characters of comedy are assumed to be less than illustrious and their misdeeds less than criminal. This function thus establishes certain expectations not only about the characters but about the plot. The second function could be described as a structure or, in Frye's terms, a mythos: the movement from a society dominated by blocking characters to a new and freer society, favourable to the desires of the hero and heroine.1 Sometimes the change is the result of successful trickery; sometimes it is closer to transcendence. With each function is associated a repertory of forms, some of which closely resemble the forms of other genres. Some ways of ridiculing folly bring comedy close to satire, while some happy endings resemble those of romance. One of the virtues of Frye's scheme is the clarity with which it shows these generic relationships, in which the masque also became involved when it borrowed from comedy.

The usual occasion for a masque, as for the diverse entertainments out of which it grew, was a feast day, a bethrothal or marriage, an important event in the life of the ruler, or the visit of a distinguished guest, and the inevitable function was to celebrate the occasion. So it was natural that the comic mythos and laughter at the expense of fools should have been found appropriate; but we know that the devisers of these shows experimented with many other forms, some inherited from the Middle Ages, some derived from the newly rediscovered classics. Banquets, dances, jousts and processions (sometimes presented as trionfi) were all suitably festive, as was the performance of a play. Best of all, in any case, was an entertainment explicitly tied to the occasion or to the distinguished person or to both. Hence borrowed forms must be adapted to serve not only their original functions but this new one as well. The discovery of the great usefulness of comedy did not take place immediately.

Since the history of courtly entertainment has been so well covered by D'Ancona, Reyher, Prunières, Welsford, Orgel2 and others, we are free to choose examples arbitrarily here and there with no attempt at representing the development as a whole or even the mainstream. We can concentrate, instead, on a number of solutions to the problem of suiting form to function. Among the earliest Renaissance court entertainments none has been more frequently discussed than Poliziano's Orfeo, and rightly so, since it can claim to be the first serious secular play in the Italian vernacular, the first pastoral drama, and the first step toward opera. For my special purposes it makes an unusually good point of departure.

Poliziano, temporarily at odds with his patron, Lorenzo de' Medici, wrote Orfeo in 1480 at the request of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga to be performed at Mantua, probably as an entertainment to celebrate two Gonzaga betrothals.3 Like the sacre rappresentazioni which it resembles in so many ways, it opens with a messenger announcing the subject of the play. Instead of an angel it is Mercury, described as “annunziatore della festa,” and the action concerns a pagan, not a Christian, martyr: when Eurydice dies fleeing from Aristaeus, Orpheus visits the underworld to rescue her; he loses her and meets death and dismemberment at the hands of the maenads. The enactment begins with a brief pastoral dialogue in which Aristaeus reveals to two other shepherds his love for Eurydice and then leaves to pursue her. It may be that the spectators were to see her cross the stage from the side where the country landscape was presumably represented in part of a simultaneous set.4 No sooner have Eurydice and Aristaeus disappeared than Orpheus appears with his lyre on a mountain (that conventional piece of medieval scenery put to different use), and descends singing some Latin verses, not for the edification of the flora and fauna, but in praise of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. He is interrupted by the news of Eurydice's death brought by a shepherd, moves to the other side of the stage, where the underworld was represented (shades of the hellmouth), charms Pluto and Proserpina, and begins the trip back. In the space of only a few lines he makes his fatal turn, laments his fate, and after inveighing against the disastrous consequences of love for a woman, meets the Bacchae. Most of the remainder of this brief drama is given over to their festive song as, holding the head of their victim, they honour Bacchus.

At first sight the murder of Orpheus by a rout of drunken women might not seem to be the ideal fable for a double betrothal, but there is a broader view, much broader. For Richard Cody “The Orfeo is a love rite, composed by the Laureate of Ficino's academy, in which the passion of the founder of poetic theology is celebrated.”5 This is part of the author's argument that Platonism opens up a prospect on “the landscape of the mind” in pastoral poetry, and even though Ida Maïer is probably right in denying that Poliziano loads his playlet with the full weight of humanist interpretation of the myth (p. 395), Orfeo could hardly have failed to suggest to some of the audience at the Gonzaga court the relationship between an ideal love and the power of music and poetry, or perhaps even the power and perils of the contemplative life. As Cody says, “an Orpheus poem should be hermetic,” and he may not be extravagant in suggesting that “with the scene of his playing the lyre, Orfeo enters upon a ministry which reveals him as Apolline prophet and Bacchic man of sorrows” (p. 40).

The scene of Orpheus's first appearance, singing his Latin eulogy of the cardinal, troubles many critics, as does most encomiastic poetry in an age which often brands such writing as purely venal and relegates it to the same category as television commercials. Yet here the evidence of a kind of Platonizing is the clearest. Here, if anywhere, the audience is invited to see into or through the visible manifestation to an ideal form. The mythic Orpheus addresses the patron of the feast as a prince who cares for poets and poetry with the exemplary generosity of Maecenas and the imagination of Virgil.6 It is the longest of Orpheus's speeches, and serves the vital function of relating the entertainment to its host as well as, more generally, to the court where it is being given. If it is, in a sense, Platonic, it is also essentially courtly—a combination that Daniel Javitch has fruitfully treated in his Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England.7 In Poliziano's Orfeo the connection is cemented by the assignment of the role of Orpheus to a Florentine gentleman, Bartolomeo (or “Baccio”) Ugolini, an associate of Lorenzo de' Medici's. As Orpheus descended the mountain the audience was to see the mythic dimension of its host as it also recognized an eminent Florentine visitor in the guise of the mythic hero. We customarily praise an actor for totally becoming the character he impersonates, but in a courtly entertainment there is a special interest in detecting the person beneath the mask. It is important that both the actor and the princely object of the encomium should be perceived with double vision, losing neither the contemporary man nor the mythic figure for whom he stands.

If Poliziano related poetry and courtliness in the choice of his principal actor and in his compliment to the cardinal, he did so too in the tone of his comments on the play in a prefatory letter published with the first edition. There he says that he wrote Orfeo in two days in the midst of continuous tumult, and professes to wish that his illformed little entertainment might have been exposed, like a defective Spartan baby, and left to die instead of being preserved in print (Poesie, p. 19). Surely Castiglione would have found this a superb example of sprezzatura, very proper for a courtier-playwright.

It is peculiarly ironical that we cannot be sure whether or not the feast for which Orfeo was so knowingly tailored ever took place (Maïer, p. 390), but the description by DeSanctis of the hypothetical occasion shows a keen appreciation of the way the play might have been received. Comparing it to a medieval joust he says:

Just as the burghers, dressed up as knights, reproduced the world of chivalry, these new Athenians reproduced the world of the ancients, and certainly must have thoroughly enjoyed watching each other parade in the costumes of the older days. There was enormous enthusiasm when Baccio Ugolini, dressed as Orfeo and holding a zither in his hand, came down the mountainside singing the praises of the Cardinal in magnificent Latin verses, “Redeunt saturnia regna.” The ancient days of Athens and Rome seemed to have come back again.8

An attitude similar to this becomes a defining characteristic of the entertainments we are considering.

Generically Orfeo is an anomaly. Originally called a favola or fabula, in the neutral sense of “dramatic poem,” it was later somewhat altered, divided into five acts, and called Orphei Tragoedia in certain manuscripts discovered in the eighteenth century.9 Although students of Poliziano do not now attribute this reworking to him, it provides for a useful comparison. Destined for a later occasion at Ferrara, it properly omits the eulogy of Cardinal Gonzaga, the prominent centre-piece of the favola. But it ends, even in this “tragic” form, on the festive note of the ecstatic chorus of Bacchantes. To call it comic would be excessive, but in neither version is there the emphasis on loss found in even so celebrative a tragedy as Tamburlaine:

My body feels, my soul doth weep to see
Your sweet desires deprived my company,
For Tamburlaine, the scourge of God, must die.(10)

There is none of this in Orfeo. The end, however ironic it may seem, is dance, intoxication and song, with the repeated “Bacchus, Bacchus, evoe.” Perhaps we should think of the final destination of the head and of the transcendent survival of the Orphic voice. In any case, the requirements of the occasion seem to have exerted a shaping influence on the material.

Given the nature of the desired response to courtly entertainment, classical mythology was an obvious source of inspiration. Suggesting not only the return of a great period in western history but also an ideal world beyond this one, it conferred upon the courtier-actor and upon his audience the very qualities to which they aspired. Nothing is less surprising than the large number of intermezzi, ballets de cour and masques which revived or refashioned Greek and Roman myths. The gods and godlets of mountains, woods, fields and streams had the special appeal that both underlay and then was reinforced by pastoral poetry. Bacchus, his foster-father Silenus, Pan, and their attendant fauns, satyrs, nymphs, oreads, and dryads were all, at one level of interpretation, expressions of the natural forces which any courtier extravagantly admired as the antithesis of the effete court, while doing his best to avoid them. Cinthio chose precisely this mythological milieu for his pastoral drama Egle in 1545, performed at the author's house in Ferrara twice in the presence of Duke Hercules II and his brother Cardinal Ippolito d'Este. Paid for by the university law students, the entertainment celebrated no happy event other than Cinthio's attempt to revivify the satyr-play, but like more precisely courtly entertainments, it was presented to the best people, had music specially written for it and scenery specially designed. A gentleman named Sebastiano Clarignano da Montefalco, whom Cinthio considered the Roscius of their time, was the principal actor.11 But the most compelling reason for mentioning Egle in a study of the forms adapted for masques is that Cinthio, taking the Cyclops of Euripides as his model, produced in fact a predecessor of pastoral tragicomedy, and in so doing devised a kind of action which would be most useful to the authors of masques. In a brief essay on the satyr-play he says that it differs from comedy and tragedy, “partaking of the pleasantness of the one and the gravity of the other.”12 Here he comes close to anticipating Guarini, who wrote that “He who composes tragicomedy takes from tragedy its great persons but not its great action …; from comedy laughter that is not excessive, modest amusement, feigned difficulty, and above all the comic order.”13 The combination of great persons and a comic order was just right also for the masque.

The comic action was very simple: Egle, the mistress of Silenus, undertakes to help the sylvan deities prevent the Olympian gods from taking away the nymphs with whom they are all in love. After an unsuccessful attempt to reason with the nymphs, Egle devises a trick which goes disastrously wrong for the sylvan deities. When they rush unexpectedly on the nymphs, who have been lured into dancing with seemingly harmless little satyrs, Diana frustrates the would-be rapists by transforming her followers into fountains, rivers and trees; Pan's Syrinx becomes a reed. Instead of fooling a wicked Polyphemus, as in the Cyclops, Silenus and his merry men are routed by the superior power of chaste Diana. Only for her nymphs can the ending be considered happy, and only then if total identification with the landscape is seen as desirable. Still, salvation by transformation has its own Ovidian attraction, which was not lost on later court entertainers. Equally ripe for future exploitation were the incidental laughs provided by the drunken satyrs.

Silenus, satyrs, nymphs and also Bacchantes had already appeared in some intermezzi performed for the wedding of Cosimo i in Florence in 1539. The similarity of the source material makes all the clearer the very different plan which underlay this sort of entertainment. Orfeo and Egle were little plays; the Florentine intermezzi of 1539 were spectacular divertissements performed before and after a play and between its acts. What Guarini called “the comic order” was unmistakably present in the play by Antonio Landi, which was modelled on Roman comedy, but the design of the evening's entertainment as a whole was a baroque elaboration of comic design. The intermezzi served in part to emphasize the play's temporal unity: before the first act dawn was presented by a rising sun and an impersonation of Aurora; after the third act, when it was noon, a drunken Silenus was shown drowsing in a grotto; aroused, and asked to sing, he complied with praise of the Golden Age; after the fourth act eight nymphs in hunting costume appeared as if returning from the hunt “to show that evening was coming,”14 and after the last act Night, dressed in black silk, sang to the accompaniment of four trombones; finally ten satyrs in hairy breechclouts danced with ten Bacchantes and chanted “Evoe” like the Bacchantes of Orfeo, though to very different effect.

The intermezzo following Act i was related to this scheme in that it contained a hymn to the sun, but more important than the sun were the singers, who were twelve shepherds. More obviously pastoral than the other intermezzi, this one was characteristic of them all in presenting a sharp contrast with the urban setting of the comedy. The stage represented the town of Pisa with its famous tower and baptistry, various “bizarre and capricious” palace façades, and street perspectives (Nagler, p. 9). Apparently these remained in view all evening, even when country shepherds, nymphs or gods appeared in the intermezzi. In the shepherds' scene, as Alois Nagler points out, “Closeness to nature was stressed in their rustic costumes: two shepherds wore costumes of bark, another pair appeared in red goatskins, and a third wore a bird's costume” (p. 10). He speculates that for the intermezzo with Silenus “a grotto set piece … was simply rolled into the Pisa decor” (p. 11), and we know from Pier Francesco Giambullari, who described the festivities, that the huntress nymphs walked across the urban set (p. 143). Thus an implied or very simply suggested mythic landscape was periodically imposed on the comic world of neighbouring Pisa. The contrast foreshadowed one often used in the masque.

The intermezzo after the second act brought the contrasting worlds of court and country together in a significant way. Scantily dressed sirens and nymphs emerged from a canal at the front of the stage, seeking the bride, Eleonora of Toledo, who had left Naples to become Duchess of Florence. The sirens, lamenting her desertion of the sea for the Arno, made her seem for the moment a kind of sea-goddess, out of her native element. It was the only instance in that evening's entertainment of outright courtly compliment.

With its classical time-scheme and divisions into five acts, Landi's comedy provided a logical structure for a sequence of spectacularly mounted “numbers” which had little to do with each other and which, in theory, were there to embellish the play. From the attention given to them by Giambullari, however, we may guess that the guests were at least as interested in the elaborate ornaments as in the edifice which they adorned.

That the intermezzi, important precedents for the masque, often swamped the plays with which they were performed is well known. A striking instance was a seventeenth-century performance of Tasso's Aminta, a pastoral play only tangentially related to the development of the masque, but so generally influential that it must be mentioned, if only briefly. It was first performed for the court of Ferrara in 1573 by the Gelosi, the famous company who acted plays and commedie dell' arte in both Italy and France.15 The story is one of misfortune avoided. Silvia, saved by Aminta from the brutal advances of a satyr, refuses to reward her faithful lover. In his despair he gets a false report that she has been killed by a wolf (for the wolf, too, is in Arcadia). By the time that Silvia's friend Dafne has found out that Silvia is alive, Aminta has gone to commit suicide. Silvia now repents of her cruelty, and after supposing her lover dead, finds that he too is alive. The end is reconciliation. It is, of course, the kind of plot that became a pattern for tragicomedy.

Highly regarded as the Aminta was and still is, it did not hold the attention of the audience at a gala performance in Parma in 1628 honouring a Medici-Farnese wedding. What everyone commented on, as Nagler remarks (pp. 143, 152), was the intermezzi, or, more truly, the spectacular staging of the intermezzi. Had Tasso been alive he might have complained as Jonson did of Inigo Jones. The intermezzi were not even related to the Aminta except in the very general way that many of them dealt with love. They presented Bradamante and Ruggiero, Dido and Aeneas, a dispute between the Olympians over love and chastity, the story of the Argonauts, and a joust between the gods led by Pluto and Jupiter respectively. A high point was the moment when Jupiter's knights, mounted on their horses, were lowered in a machine to the stage—equi et equites ex machina.

If the 1628 Aminta represents a centrifugal extreme to which such entertainments might fly, the famous Ballet Comique de la Reine of 1581 is a counter-example of a varied entertainment which incorporated in a coherent action some of the most successful features of its predecessors. More spectacular than Orfeo or Egle, and having more of a story than the intermezzi, it was more thoroughly integrated into the occasion than any of these by presenting the Queen, some of her ladies, and several courtiers as performers. Thus it also absorbed the tradition of the masquerade, in which not only disguising but declamation, song, and dance were expected features.16 The result was dramatic ballet, and the dramatic model was comedy of a rather special sort, closely related to mythological plays, satyr-plays, pastoral drama, and tragicomedy.

To celebrate the marriage of his sister-in-law to the Duc de Joyeuse, Henry iii of France arranged a number of festivities. The Queen, seeing all that was planned in her sister's honour, asked an Italian violinist and valet de chambre at the court, Baltasar de Beaujoyeulx (or Belgiojoso), to devise a further entertainment to outdo them all. He was in touch with the activities of the new Académie de Musique et de Poésie and apparently familiar with what had recently been written at the Italian courts. Prunières speculates (p. 80) that he may have seen a performance of the Aminta by the Gelosi in Paris, since the gallant tone of the dialogue in the ballet recalls Tasso's pastoral. Beaujoyeulx responded to the Queen's request with plans so elaborate that they could not be executed until three weeks after the other festivities, but his ballet was none the less their high point and was recorded in a profusely illustrated little book published the next year.

In an address to the reader Beaujoyeulx explains the combination of forms which constitutes his brilliant invention.17 He says that he called it a “ballet comique” to do honour to the dance with the first word and to indicate by the second more “the beautiful, tranquil, and happy ending” than the rank of the characters, who are almost all gods, goddesses or other heroic personages (rather than the everyday folk of classical comedy). Having mixed comedy and ballet, he could not call the hybrid “ballet” without wronging comedy “distinctly represented in acts and scenes,” nor call it “comedy” without prejudice to the ballet, which he says “honors, enlivens, and fills out with harmonious speeches the fine idea of the comedy.”

The ingenious structure that Beaujoyeulx devised is made up of alternating “acts” and what he refers to as “intermèdes,” the equivalents of intermezzi, already familiar in French entertainments. But here the mixing of comedy and ballet is such that although the “acts” present the major developments of the story, the “intermèdes” are progressively drawn into it.

Since both the comic action and the related intermèdes were precisely calculated to fill the space in which they were performed, I must remind you of the often-reproduced illustration showing the hall of the Petit Bourbon on the night of the performance. You will recall that at one end of the long room one sees the backs of the King, his mother, Catherine de' Medici, and their entourage. At the opposite end is the garden of Circe beneath an over-arching trellis, with two smaller trellises to the right and left. In the garden, behind a parade of animals headed by a stag and an elephant, is the enchantress herself, holding her magic wand, and behind her a castle gate, over which can be seen a tower, part of what Beaujoyeulx describes as a “town in perspective” (fol. 6v). It is not entirely fanciful to see in the royal dais and Circe's garden polar opposites comparable to heaven and hell in a medieval religious play, for despite the Renaissance perspective, the staging of this ballet owes much to the old simultaneous set. To the right and left of the hall, half-way between the two ends, are two more localities: a wooded grotto where Pan sits (actually veiled by a curtain at the beginning of the ballet) and a golden vault concealing many musicians.

The action begins with a rapid movement from Circe's end of the hall toward the King, as a fugitive gentleman (played by a courtier in the service of the Queen Mother) escapes from the garden and asks King Henry for help against the enchantress. Circe then rushes out of her garden in pursuit, but is unable to see her victim, kneeling at the King's feet. After uttering an angry complaint she goes back through her garden and leaves the room. Beaujoyeulx says that the spectators marvelled at these two “acts” (fol. 10). They must have marvelled far more at the ensuing intermède, which seems at first to be as unrelated to the story of Circe as any Italian intermezzo. It is essentially a spectacular parade of marine creatures, followed by a magnificent fountain-chariot, on which are seated, amongst sculptured nereids, tritons and dolphins, Glaucus and Tethys, impersonated by the composer and his wife, and twelve naiads, impersonated by the Queen and other distinguished ladies of the court. To the accompaniment of instrumental and vocal music the procession approaches the royal dais, and Glaucus and Tethys sing a song in which he asks her help against Circe, who has transformed his beloved Scylla. But Tethys replies that she has given her power to the chief naiad, Queen Louise. So the parade is, after all, tied to the story and to the courtly audience. Once the procession has made the circuit of the hall and disappeared, the naiads leave the chariot and reappear to dance the first entry of the ballet.

Circe brings the intermède to an abrupt end when she again comes out of her garden in a fury, and with her wand turns the dancers into statues as she silences the music. Her attack not only involves the characters of the intermède more thoroughly in the main action, but introduces the chief complication of that simple plot. All the rest of the ballet consists in moves and countermoves by Circe and her enemies.

It is not necessary to tell all the rest of the story once again, but only to comment on certain distinctive moments. The low point in the fortunes of the naiads comes when Mercury, who has freed them from the spell, is himself overcome, and Circe leads them all captive into her garden. The naiads disappear, Mercury lies helpless on his back, and Circe diverts herself with a procession of animals into which she has transformed her previous victims. The space at the King's end of the hall is empty while the magic garden seems to be the sole locus of power.

The second intermède begins a renewal of the forces opposed to Circe, as various rustic divinities enter the action. A song by satyrs, a moving wood, and an address to the King by dryads from the wood precede the unveiling of the remaining fixed location, Pan's wooded grotto. Responding to the appeal of one of the dryads, he agrees to fight against the enchantress.

The third intermède joins the four virtues and Minerva to the woodland gods, and leads to another adress to the King, in which Minerva says that the castle of Circe is the only one in France still unconquered by the King, the wielder of Jupiter's sceptre. She claims to have responded to the King's call for help, and promises to overwhelm Circe. Though she now prays to her father Jupiter, it is clear that both of them are acting as a favour to the King of France. The inevitable end is the humbling of Circe, who is led to the heavenly end of the hall and made to sit at the King's feet. Finally the disenchanted naiads come out of the garden, left empty at last, and dance the main ballet before the King.

Although the final episodes recall earlier entertainments in which a castle was besieged and finally captured, Beaujoyeulx was not wrong to call his design comic. Circe, enemy of the dance, is a blocking character par excellence, if that is not a paradox. Sometimes, like Medusa, paralysing, sometimes transforming, she always demeans and reduces her victims. The society which triumphs over her is one in which human beings mysteriously partake of the nature and power of the divinities who rule the sea, the woods and the heavens. For the privileged persons who inhabit this special world the ending will always be happy. Or so, at least, the ballet leads one to suppose.

A comic action of this sort, concerning illustrious rather than ordinary characters, became an invaluable, though by no means the sole, resource of the English masque, giving its poetry, dance, and spectacle a clear and simple shape. As the catastrophe of classical comedy, which, as Donatus says, “is the change of the situation to a pleasant outcome,”18 came to be rendered in the masque mainly by means of spectacle and dance, the function of the comic mythos was subordinated to the principal function of the masque, to honour the occasion and its participants. The moment of comic triumph became a kind of apotheosis of the masquers.

We may note more than one kind of comic action. In one of Jonson's earliest masques, The Masque of Blackness of 1605, the plot falls in that part of the comic gamut closest to romance. It is the long quest of the Daughters of Niger for a land where their complexions may be miraculously blanched. The masquers, in black face and elegantly exotic gowns, were Queen Anne and her ladies. Of their quest we see only the moderately happy ending—their arrival in Britannia, described as “a world divided from the world,”19 where they receive the promise of transformation the following year. The Masque of Beauty, in which the promise is carried out, was delayed for two years, by which time four more fugitives had joined the expedition, and all sixteen had been transformed by the power of Albion, or James I. The brief but spectacular masque shows the arrival of these beauties on a floating island, their thankful dances, and their greeting by Albion's deputy January, lord of the Twelfth Night feast, enthroned in the middle of the hall. Notice that if Jupiter did favours for Henry III of France, England's king was a sufficient deity in himself on these occasions to perform the necessary miracles.

A quest again provides the structure for Davenant's Temple of Love, written for Queen Henrietta Maria, who impersonates Indamora, Queen of Narsinga, and reinstates the Temple of Chaste Love on her Indian island. Hearing of it, noble Persian youths set out to find it. Despite the efforts of certain magicians to sidetrack them, the Persians, played by courtiers, arrive and dance their dance, but the true climax is the arrival of the Queen of Narsinga and England with her ladies in a chariot drawn by sea-monsters. When they have finished their dances, the Queen is seated on the state with the King as, for the first time, the Temple of Chaste Love to which she has come is fully revealed on the stage facing the royal dais. In earlier sets it has been seen at a distance or in clouds, but now it is in the foreground of a space which is India and Whitehall. The temple is a reflection of the throne, as we see when Chaste Love and the priest and priestess of the temple move out to the state to sing the closing apostrophe to Charles and Henrietta. For the quest must end in the banqueting house, whether it be called Britannia or Narsinga.20

Jonson's Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly (1611) has a more standard comic action, in which Love, at first frustrated, manages to outwit his captor, the Sphinx, release the Daughters of the Morn, and bring about the marriage of the eldest to Phoebus, enthroned in the west. Love, appropriately enough, is here the clever trickster, who guesses the sphinx's riddle, assisted, to be sure, by the priests of the muses. He has been told “to find a world the world without” (1. 147). If he had seen The Masque of Blackness he would not have needed anyone to tell him that Britain was this special world. Once he knows this he is freed from ignorance and folly and able to carry out his mission. Queen Anne is again reunited, for the moment at least, with her James.

Anyone familiar with English masques will readily think of other scenarios that constitute comic actions; Reason and the Powers of Juno end the strife of humours and affections to bring about reconciliation and wedding; Love is rescued from the wiles of Pluto; Mercury is vindicated from the alchemists at court; Juno puts an end to the jealous Cupid's interruption of the rites to Chloris. Again and again obstacles are overcome and society renews itself; again and again the ending not only fulfills the aims of the protagonists but becomes a celebration of the forces they represent. The Platonizing which Cody sees in pastoral operates here to push comedy in the direction of ritual.

The world in which these comic actions take place is more remote than familiar—a world of gods and heroes, “a world the world without”—and yet in certain ways familiar to the select audience of the court both because the masquers themselves are known and because of the devices which involve the King in the action. In fact the ambiguity about the world of the masque is part of what makes it effective panegyric. Orgel speaks of every masque “transforming the courtly audience into the idealized world of the poet's vision” (Complete Masques, p. 2), and one might add that this transformation, which affects both the masquers and the audience, is an analogue of the comic action, in which a superior power transforms a bad situation into a good one.

In all these comic actions there are opposing forces, blocking characters, to whom we must finally give some attention. They come in varying degrees of effectuality. While Circe in Beaujoyeulx's ballet is relatively formidable and active, the only opposition in The Masque of Beauty is Night, whose attempt to delay the Daughters of Niger has already failed by the time that we are told of it. In The Temple of Love the magicians have several threatening speeches, but give up with very little struggle. The Sphinx of Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly is more troublesome, but even she is more foolish than criminal, as befits a comic antagonist. Thanks mainly to Ben Jonson, the opposing forces in the English masque came to be treated as the objects of satire and presented to be laughed at in an antimasque. Before this development there had been lighter moments and bits of grotesquerie in courtly entertainments in England and on the continent. Where the setting was pastoral the satyrs and Silenus were natural choices for this sort of diverson, as in Egle or the Florentine intermezzi of 1539, but other “antics” also appeared, and hence the term “antic-masque” enters confusingly into the history of the antimasque. Jonson describes the dancers of his “antimasque of boys” in The Haddington Masque as “twelve boys most anticly attired.” They do “a subtle capricious dance to as odd a music, … nodding with their antic faces, with other variety of ridiculous gesture, which gave much occasion of mirth and delight to the spectators” (Complete Masques, pp. 112, 123). The famous antimasque of witches in The Masque of Queens is similarly antic. The achievement of these early antimasques, however, was not the introduction of laughter or of new material but the establishment of a clear function for this sort of comic moment and of a firm structure into which it could be placed. I could even suggest that when the popularity of antimasques led to their notorious multiplication their function was not lost and the structure was not destroyed.

The nature and function of the antimasque appear with great clarity if we compare Beaujoyeulx's Circe with its refashioning by Aurelian Townshend and Inigo Jones as Tempe Restored. The Ballet Comique was not funny unless Circe herself made her tantrums so, as some of Beaujoyeulx's descriptions may suggest. He describes her on one occasion, for instance, as returning to her garden like a victorious captain (fol. 23), which might have been made into an amusing moment. It is also possible that the parade of her victims transformed into animals was played for laughs, though nothing in the text tells us that it was. Here Townshend and Jones elaborate by turning her brief self-entertainment into a series of antimasques “consisting,” we are told, “of Indians and Barbarians, who naturally are bestiall, and others which are voluntaries, and but halfe transformed into beastes.”21 Perhaps this does not sound hilarious, but the satirical intention of the antimasques is unmistakable, especially in the fourth, consisting of “3 Apes. An Asse like a Pedante, teaching them Prick-song” (Townshend, p. 88). These are presumably some of the “voluntaries,” the willing victims of the enchantress, who are thus held up to ridicule. At the same time Circe becomes somewhat less sinister and more of a humour character, when Townshend's chorus sings about “the distemper'd Heart, / Of sullen Circe, stung with Cupids dart” (p. 87). The blatant racism of his comment on the antimasques suggests a standard comic point of view which is turned to a special use in the masque; the point of view from which we seem to see a total difference between “us” and “them.” If Indians and Barbarians hardly share a common humanity with the spectators in Whitehall, it is equally evident that the willing victims of an enchantress share none of the spectators' wisdom and self-discipline. Thus the distance, or refusal of sympathy, which we know to be a precondition for satirical laughter becomes another means of glorifying the participants in one of these great occasions.

It is entirely characteristic of Jonson that he often defines this distance as a contrast between folly and wisdom. In addition to the Sphinx, who represents ignorance and folly, one thinks of Merefool in The Fortunate Isles or the “Curious” in Time Vindicated, “ignorant admirers” of the unprincipled poet Chronomastix. Sometimes the demonstration of folly constitutes what Orgel calls “a tiny comic drama” (Jonsonian Masque, p. 73), very similar to a scene in one of the comedies, and he rightly says that for Jonson the antimasque “served to give meaning to the masque,” to explain it, to make the audience understand (p. 93). These last comments are part of Orgel's discussion of the poetic Cook of Neptune's Triumph, who defends antimasques against the disapproving Poet. The Cook insists that the understanding must be approached by way of the senses, and forces the Poet to grant that “even a Triumph likes fun” (11. 40-47, 220-23). Yet even here, where the Cook is allowed to score against the purism of the Poet, the fun of the antimasque, like the fun of Jonsonian comedy, is at the expense of the foolish. If Jonson delights in their portrayal he leaves no doubt about the judgment he passes on them, and in the masques the distance between ridiculed and sympathetic characters is more absolute. The Cook's olla podrida of foolish court characters helps us to understand the noble masquers only by being totally different.

In The Temple of Love Davenant goes a step further by allowing one character in the antimasque to make fun of some of the masquers. A “Persian page” leaps on the stage after the preceding entry of the antimasque, warning the ladies of Narsinga (and England) that they may be disappointed in the noble Persian youths who are just arriving,

For I must tell you that about them all
There's not one grain but what's Platonical.

(ll. 319-20)

As in his play The Platonic Lovers, Davenant dares to laugh at the cult made fashionable by the Queen and honoured in this masque. For this irreverence he has precedents in the anti-Petrarchan moments of Petrarchan poetry and the anti-Platonic jibes of other works devoted to Platonic love, but the device is exceptional in the masque. And even here no real adjustment of point of view is demanded. There is nothing laughable about the noble Persian youths when they arrive, and chaste love is an easy victor onstage and in the Whitehall of that evening.

The pastoral masque Pan's Anniversary, performed at Greenwich for King Jame's birthday, June 19, 1620, shows how the comic action itself may be little more than the acting out of a contrast between the foolish and the admirable—the aristoi. The scene in Arcadia, where nymphs, encouraged by an old shepherd, are strewing flowers for the “yearly rites” of Pan, as his alter ego King James looks on from the state in the midst of the hall. Then the scene opens to reveal a “fountain of light,” around which are seated the masquers (Prince Charles and certain lords), accompanied by musicians in the guise of priests of Pan. Here the celebration is interrupted by the arrival of a foolish Fencer, ushering in “certain bold boys of Boeotia … to challenge the Arcadians at their own sports.” The Boeotians, whom the Fencer describes before they dance the antimasque, are a Tinker of Thebes, a tooth-drawer, a juggler, a corn-cutter, a maker of mousetraps, a tailor, and a clerk. If it were not for the mention of Thebes, one might well think this motley crew belonged in London. Several, indeed, seem to have come from Bartholomew Fair. In the presence of “the best and bravest spirits of Arcadia” they offer their rival entertainment, for which, according to the old shepherd, the best they can expect is forgiveness. Their diversion belongs to everyday Smithfield (or Thebes); the solemn hymns and dances that follow are appropriate to the Arcadian holy day of Pan's annniversary and the birthday of King James. The contrast is between the trivial and the significant, between the world of city comedy and that of courtly entertainment, between a band of self-deceived fools and what the old shepherd calls a “true society.” The distinction between “them” and “us” could not be more plain—except to the fools, who “perceive no such wonder in all that is done here,” and return to offer another rival show. This time they appear as sheep, but what looks at first like a successful adaptation to environment turns out to be a different sort of proof of folly. They have only the stupidity of sheep, which they are told to take back to Boeotia. “This is too pure an air for so gross brains.” The masque then concludes with a prayer to Pan, addressed, one may suppose, to the throne. The happy ending is quite simply the expulsion of folly from the true society headed by the king.

Pan's Anniversary is a slight and unpretentious masque in comparison with many that were mounted at this time, but it was well suited to Greenwich in the summer—a more pastoral location in 1620 than now—and in it Jonson and Jones made very adroit use of the traditions we have been considering. It is not only a pastoral, but a comical-satirical-mythical-pastoral masque.


  1. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, N.J., 1952), p. 163.

  2. Alessandro D'Ancona, Origini del teatro italiano, (Turin 1891); Paul Reyher, Les Masques anglais (Paris, 1909); Henry Prunières, Le Ballet de cour avant Benserade et Lully (Paris, 1914); Enid Welsford, The Court Masque (1927; rpt, New York, 1962); Stephen Orgel, The Jonsonian Masque (Cambridge, Mass., 1965).

  3. See Ida Maïer, Ange Politien; la formation d'un poète humaniste (Geneva, 1966), pp. 387-90.

  4. See Maïer, pp. 403-4.

  5. The Landscape of the Mind: Pastoralism and Platonic Theory in Tasso's Aminta and Shakespeare's Early Comedies, (Oxford, 1969), p. 31.

  6. Angelo Poliziano, Poesie italiane, ed. S. Orlando (Milan, 1976), pp. 116-18.

  7. Princeton, N.J., 1978.

  8. Francesco De Sanctis, History of Italian Literature, tr. Joan Redfern (1931: rpt. N.Y., [1960]), i, 383.

  9. See Maïer, p. 392; Poliziano, Le Stanze, l'Orfeo e le rime, ed. G. Carducci (Bologna, 1912), pp. 393-507.

  10. Complete Plays of Christopher Marlowe, ed. I. Ribner (N.Y., 1963), p. 174.

  11. Egle, Satira di M. Giovanbattista Giraldi Cinthio (s.l.n.d.), fol. 5, and see D'Ancona, ii, p. 414.

  12. “Discorso sulle satire atte alle scene,” Scritti estetici di G. B. Giraldi Cintio, in Biblioteca rara, liii (Milan, 1864), p. 135; see also Marvin T. Herrick, Tragicomedy (Urbana, III., 1955), p. 10.

  13. Il Pastor fido e compendio della poesia tragicomica, ed. B. Brognoligo (Bari, 1914), p. 231; translation altered from Allen H. Gilbert's in Literary Criticism: Plato to Dryden (New York, 1940), p. 511.

  14. Pier Francesco Giambullari, Apparato et feste nelle noze dello illustrissimo Signor Duco di Firenze … (Florence, 1539), p. 143; and see Alois Nagler, Theatre Festivals of the Medici 1539-1637 (New Haven, 1964), pp. 10-12.

  15. See Giosuè Carducci, Su l'Aminta di T. Tasso (Florence 1896), p. 80; Prunières, p. 80.

  16. See Prunières, pp. 58-94.

  17. Balet comique de la royne (Paris, 1582), sigs, e3v & e4; see facsimile, ed. G. A. Caula (Turin, 1962).

  18. “A Fragment on Comedy and Tragedy,” in Theories of Comedy, ed. Paul Lauter (New York, 1964), p. 30.

  19. Masque of Blackness, l. 218 in Ben Jonson, The Complete Masques, ed. Stephen Orgel (New Haven, 1969), from which all quotations from the masques are taken. See Orgel's note on this line, p. 473.

  20. The text of The Temple of Love will be found in editions of Davenant's dramatic works and in Inigo Jones: The Theatre of the Stuart Court (London, 1973), ii, pp. 600-4.

  21. Aurelian Townshend's Poems and Masks, ed. E. K. Chambers (Oxford, 1912), p. 87.

Judith Dundas (essay date 1995)

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SOURCE: “The Masks of Cupid and Death,” in Comparative Drama, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring, 1995, pp. 38-60.

[In the following essay, Dundas discusses James Shirley's masque Cupid and Death in relation to other Renaissance variations on the theme of love and death.]


The repetition of the same syllable in the Latin words amor and mors could, in the Renaissance, seem to confirm with lightning speed an essential relationship between these two apparent opposites, love and death. Amor, in short, contains mors.1 But whatever language was used in poems and the poetic drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, “love” often called for its opposite, “death.” One fable in particular epitomized and dramatized the truth of this relationship. In a widely influential version, Alciati turned the story of the interchange of the arrows of Love and Death into an emblem.2 If its moral is somewhat ambiguous, or at least subject to a variety of possible interpretations, it captured in graphic terms a topos to which both masque and drama were drawn, whether as central theme or as metaphor. But the variations on the theme also provide an instructive instance of the generic difference between masque and drama.

The fable seems to offer an explanation for at least two phenomena—the one, a literary fashion; the other, a historical fact. Certainly the popularity of the fable coincides with the Petrarchan propensity to treat love as a sickness unto death. At the same time, according to early commentators, the fable reflects the actual experience of sudden death brought to young people by the epidemics of plague that swept Western Europe in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance.3 The fable thus seems to provide a mythologized explanation for either imaginary or real tragic events; it does so, however, in a somewhat humorous form. Geffrey Whitney actually labels his emblem on the subject “Jocosum.4 This playfulness also enters into Renaissance drama and masque whenever love and death are personified. Recognizing this feature of love, Plutarch, in his essay “Of Love,” notes: “True it is that Poets seeme to write the most part of that which they deliver as touching this god of Love, by way of merriment, and they sing of him as it were in a maske.”5 As we shall see, the same applies to personifications of death.

But let us consider a briefer English version than Whitney's or Alciati's emblem. Henry Peacham both recounts the story and makes a plea to Nature to restore the arrows that rightly belong to each deity (fig. 1):

DEATH meeting once, with CUPID
in an Inne,
Where roome was scant, togeither both they lay.
Both wearie, (for they roving both had beene,)
Now on the morrow when they should away,
                    CUPID Death's
quiver at his back had throwne,
                    And DEATH tooke CUPIDS, thinking it his
By this o're-sight, it shortly came to passe,
That young men died, who readie were to wed:
And age did revell with his bonny-lasse,
Composing girlonds for his hoarie head:
                    Invert not Nature, oh ye Power twaine,
                    Give CUPID'S
dartes, and DEATH take thine

The simple narrative is treated as an inversion of nature's law that young people should fall in love and old people should die. Here the Petrarchan note is not sounded; rather, it is the plague that implicitly forms the background against which this travesty occurs. No moral is to be derived, except perhaps that everyone should be ready to face death because it is so unpredictable, so much the tool of Fortune.

The complaint that nature has, by Fortune, been violated is voiced by Shakespeare's Venus in his Venus and Adonis:

“If he be dead—O no, it cannot be,
Seeing his beauty, thou shouldst strike at it:
O yes, it may, thou hast no eyes to see,
But hatefuly at randon dost thou hit.
                    Thy mark is feeble age, but thy false dart
                    Mistakes that aim, and cleaves an infant's heart.
                    “Love's golden arrow at him should
have fled,
                    And not Death's ebon dart to strike him dead.”

(ll. 937-42, 947-48)7

The parallel between the two deities, seemingly so opposite, is underlined by the fact that both bear bow and arrows, and that both shoot at random.

It is but a step, as Venus perhaps realized, from her complaint against Death to the view that Death too is a lover—a lover of beauty. Shakespeare uses this idea when he has Venus say that perhaps the boar that killed Adonis loved him too hard, and she adds: “Had I been tooth'd like him, I must confess, / With kissing him I should have kill'd him first” (ll. 1117-18). Personifying death naturally attributes human motives to him. In the case of Venus, who sees love as the only response to beauty, Death could do no other than love.8 Her unconscious humor, far from detracting from the pathos of her remark, strengthens her lament.

A related emblem by Alciati treats Death as maliciously exchanging his own arrows with those of the sleeping Cupid, thereby causing the death of a beautiful young girl. This emblem, “In formosam fato praereptam” (fig. 2),9 has obvious affinities with, first, the supposed death of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and then her actual death. Old Capulet, on the morning when his daughter was to have wed the young man Paris, finding her apparently dead, exclaims to Paris:

O son, the night before thy wedding-day
Hath Death lain with thy wife. There she lies,
Flower as she was, deflowered by him.
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir,
My daughter he hath wedded. I will die,
And leave him all; life, living, all is Death's.


Romeo, finding Juliet in the Capulet tomb, takes up the same interpretation of Death's action:

                                                            Shall I believe
That unsubstantial Death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee,
And never from this [palace] of dim night
Depart again.


Fittingly, these words express more passionate grief than Capulet's conventional lament. Death is now characterized not simply as a son-in-law but as “the lean abhorred monster”; his proper sphere of darkness is alluded to; and, finally, the emotive word “paramour” is used to make him seem a rival to Romeo as husband. To prevent that from happening, Romeo too must die to claim his bride.

In considering the relationship between Alciati's “In formosam praereptam fato” and Shakespeare's use of a similar topos, the question may be asked: what is the relevance of the emblem to Shakespeare? There is no need to make any assumptions about influence or sources, given the widespread theme of Death and the Maiden in paintings of the Renaissance,10 not to mention the Greek Anthology with its laments for the young who have died an untimely death. Such poems as the following express a mourning similar to old Capulet's:

The very torch that laughing Hymen bore
To light the virgin to the bridegroom's door,
With that same torch the bridegroom lights the fire
That dimly glimmers on her funeral pyre.
Thou, too, O Hymen! bid'st the nuptial lay
In elegiac moanings die away.(11)

There are a number of other epitaphs on the cutting short of young life, and they remind us that behind Alciati's emblems often lie the epigrams of the Greek Anthology.

Death as lover, a topos in both “De morte et amore” and in “In formosam praereptam fato,” puts one kind of interpretation on the relationship between love and death. Death is now personified, not solely as a figure that represents destruction but as desire, in competition with an earthly lover. It seems that this view is more comprehensible to Shakespeare's Venus, the embodiment of love, than any other view of death. For his Cleopatra, a Venus figure, “The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch, / Which hurts, and is desir'd” (V.ii.295-96). Charmian also views death as a lover when she says, after her mistress's suicide, “Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies / A lass unparallel'd” (V.ii.315-16). We have moved from the idea of the young girl who is carried off by death to a much older woman who, nevertheless, remains perpetually desirable. In a sense, she too is carried off before her time by the god who covets her for his own.

All these allusions to Death as a lover of course mirror or in some sense reflect the myth of Proserpina, carried away by Pluto to the underworld to be his wife. One lament from the Greek Anthology asks: “Why, Pluto, thus our loved companion seize? / Had Venus maddened even thy gloomy soul?”12 An allusion to the myth in the pastoral scene of the fourth act of The Winter's Tale mingles melancholy with the sweetness of Perdita's famous flower speech:

                                                                                                                        O Proserpina,
For the flow'rs now, that, frighted, thou let'st fall
From Dis's wagon!


The dialogue between Perdita and Florizel that follows this speech continues the note of et in Arcadia ego:

Perdita: O, these I lack,
To make you garlands of; and my sweet friend,
To strew him o'er and o'er!
Florizel: What? like a corse?
Perdita: No, like a bank, for love
to lie and play on,
Not like a corse; or if—not to be buried,
But quick and in mine arms.


Beautiful as the language is, we almost overlook both the link to the actual death of Antigonus that introduces the pastoral episode and the more dramatically crucial supposed death of Hermione. But studying the language of Shakespeare's plays, we become aware of the broader context in which the Cupid and Death fable had a role to play. The popularity of the emblem in the literature of the Renaissance suggests the extent to which it captured something latent in the minds of people. From the emblematic point of view, Love and Death have no business using each other's arrows; it is an overturning of nature. The English emblem writers Whitney and Peacham interpret the exchange of arrows in just this way. From Shakespeare's more profound perspective, nature implies both love and death. Mention of the one almost inevitably evokes the other. The range of treatment may vary—from the supposed death of Hero in the comedy Much Ado About Nothing to the tragic real death of Desdemona in Othello—but all serve as reminders that the most intense emotions are destructive as well as creative. John Donne in his Nocturnall upon St. Lucy's Day uses alchemical imagery to bring love and death together:

                    For I am every dead thing,
                    In whom love wrought new Alchimie.
                                        For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptinesse;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.

(ll. 12-18)

This poem, like a soliloquy from a drama, meditates on this central mystery of human life.

But the fear of death also finds other expressions in poetry and drama, including some that are less obviously related to love. Richard II, hearing of Bolingbroke's triumphal return to England, prepares for his own demise by contemplating the death of kings:

                                                            for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and humor'd thus,
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores thorough his castle wall, and farewell king!

(Richard II III.ii.160-70)

But even this notion of Death as a clown finds an echo in the Cupid and Death emblem. Whitney calls it a humorous tale—jocosum—humorous, no doubt, because of the accidental meeting of Cupid and Death at an inn and the havoc that results. Some versions of the fable even show the two deities getting drunk together.13 In any case, they sleep side by side—hence, the confusion of their arrows when they wake up in the morning.

Not only can Death play the fool but he makes fools of others, as the Duke of Measure for Measure, disguised as a friar, informs Claudio, who is lying in prison awaiting death: “Merely, thou art death's fool, / For him thou labor'st by thy flight to shun, / And yet run'st toward him still” (III.i.11-13). There is, in fact, a long tradition of Death as a fool or an employer of fools.

The danse macabre, or the Dance of Death, includes all ranks and classes of society, even the fool.14 Hamlet makes this discovery when, in the last act of the play, he finds the skull of Yorick the jester: “Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning—quite chop-fall'n” (V.i.189-92). In a much earlier play, Love's Labor's Lost, Shakespeare was already treating the inadequacy of laughter to keep away death. Berowne, the fool who has not contemplated death, is brought up short by Rosaline's charge to him to make the sick laugh:

To move wild laughter in the throat of death?
It cannot be, it is impossible:
Mirth cannot move a soul in agony.


Yet in one way the fool and death may be allied: death itself is not to be taken too seriously. Perhaps Cerimon in Pericles is thinking of this alliance when he expresses his preference for his medical studies

                                                            which doth give me
A more content in course of true delight
Than to be thirsty after tottering honor,
Or tie my pleasure up in silken bags,
To please the fool and death.


Death may wear the mask of the fool as well as that of the lover. In Cymbeline, the face of the apparently dead Imogen, disguised as Fidelio, teasingly suggests a response to a secret joke:

Thus smiling, as some fly had tickled slumber,
Not as death's dart being laugh'd at; his right cheek
Reposing on a cushion.


That the Dance of Death could be treated as entertainment in the form of a masque suggests one possible interpretation that could be placed on the grin of a skeletal death. James M. Clark, in his The Dance of Death, takes note of “a Dance of Death masque or tableau vivant performed at a royal Scottish wedding in 1285.”15 As a wedding entertainment, it might not have seemed the most appropriate, except for those who were accustomed to see life, love, and death as bound up together. In these dances, the living dance with the dead, and the dance thus becomes an allegory of death.16

One of the most famous treatments of the subject, and the culmination of the whole tradition, is Holbein's Dance of Death (1538). In each of the many separate scenes—really, each a memento mori—in which a skeletal Death mocks the living, the satiric note is sounded. In one of these scenes, Death mocks a married couple, whom he will separate:

The love by which they are united,
By faith should teach them, ere too late,
That soon such unions be blighted,
And Death steps in to separate.(17)

These scenes are close to the emblems of Laurentius Haechtanus, with a picture, a poem, and a biblical verse. His Cupid and Death emblem, for example, includes the biblical quotation “The wages of sin is death” to act as a reminder that death is always imminent and that one should therefore prepare oneself spiritually for it.

Another message of the Dance of Death is that death is the great leveler, that the social distinctions observed in Holbein's woodcuts are there only to show that all members of society—the monk, the duchess, the knight—are equally subject to death. Belarius, commenting on the death of Cloten in Cymbeline, draws attention to both aspects of the Dance of Death:

                    Though mean and mighty, rotting
Together, have one dust, yet reverence
(That angel of the world) doth make distinction
Of place 'tween high and low. Our foe was princely,
And though you took his life, as being our foe,
Yet bury him as a prince.


Guiderius responds: “Pray you fetch him hither. / Thersites' body is as good as Ajax', / When neither are alive” (ll. 251-53). The beautiful song that follows for Imogen, the Ajax to Cloten's Thersites, also reflects the Dance of Death:

Fear no more the heat o' th' sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

(ll. 258-63)

All power and learning come to the same end: “The sceptre, learning, physic, must / All follow this and come to dust.” Lovers, too, finish both their “joy and moan”: “All lovers young, all lovers must / Consign to thee and come to dust” (ll. 268-69, 273-75).


The parallel between the Cupid and Death emblem and the Dance of Death is too obvious to need emphasis, but the satiric element in both is worth further consideration, especially as it emerges triumphantly in Cupid and Death, a masque by James Shirley.

The relationship of emblem to masque is more direct than that between emblem and drama. If a play sets out to be an imitation of nature, a masque proposes no such thing; essentially, it is ornamental in its combination of poetry, music, dance, scenery, and costumes. Its symbolic language may be described as emblematic because the significance of the images is immediately translatable, unlike, say, Hamlet, with its richness of implication and complexity of meaning.18 There are those who do not like masques for the reason that they lack fully developed characters and interesting plots. And yet the very absence of character development enables the artist (both poet and designer) to conceive of the masque as a vehicle for compliment and entertainment, rather like a song in which intricate meaning would be out of place. Still, the emblematic or symbolic features of the masque in their decorative form imply, without fully expressing, the deeper mysteries of human existence. It was such mysteries that Ben Jonson insisted on in his masques, “which, though their voice be taught to sound to present occasions, their sense or doth or should always lay hold on more removed mysteries.”19

But these Platonic ideals play a lesser role in Shirley's Cupid and Death for the very good reason that it uses a well-known fable, with an intrinsic plot structure, and it draws more upon the real world than do Jonson's mythologized masques.20 When Shirley turned to the subject of Alciati's emblem De Morte et Amore for the subject of a masque, he both played up its humorous potential and gave it a new artistic being. By providing the happy ending intrinsic to the genre, he also resolved the problem posed by the emblem.

Shirley did not move directly from emblem to masque, however; he used a transitional form: the version of the fable in the Aesop's Fables of John Ogilby.21 From the various seventeenth century editions of the Fables, it is apparent that a movement away from strictly emblematic form toward narrative expression was already taking place even before Shirley's masque. Ogilby, in his version, shows more of the social setting for the customary actions of Cupid and Death before the exchange of their arrows. Cupid, for example, roves all day, “wounding a thousand hearts,” but it is at night when he pursues his sport “to a mask” that his activities call for the most amplification: “Where he his Quiver empties, and supplies / Again from beauteous Ladies eyes.” Death, too, is busy at a “cruell fight,” and by night he visits towns. All this is a prelude to explaining why Cupid and Death happened to meet, exhausted, at an inn.

Among those shot with the arrow of Death is a young man, who prays to Cupid to shoot him with a golden arrow, not with Death's “charnell bone.” The illustration that accompanies the first edition of the Fables, by Francis Cleyn, shows a youth who prays with clasped hands to Cupid in the sky (fig. 3).22 The old men and women are also shown in the exact dance described by Ogilby, while the young people appear pale and languishing as they look at (or turn away from) one of their number who lies stricken on the ground, near his grave. Like Ogilby's poem, Cleyn's illustration provides a more copious narrative treatment than any of the illustrations to Alciati's emblem. Usually in these, only two couples, one young, one elderly, are shown. Now the implication that the whole of society was affected by the exchange of Cupid's and Death's arrows is given greater confirmation in terms of pictorial narrative. The illustration in turn helps to make the appended moral more meaningful:

Age burns with Love, while youth cold
ague shakes;
And Nature oft her principles mistakes:
So suffers Youth in Ages cold imbrace,
As living men to dead bound face to face.(23)

In the enlarged folio edition of the Fables, illustrated by Hollar and Stoop in 1665, the basic design remains the same as in Cleyn's 1651 illustration (fig. 4).24 But the redrawn plate is much easier to interpret, though it less accurately reflects Ogilby's version in one respect. Gone is the young man who prays to Cupid. On the other hand, the volumes of the figures are much better Barlow by bringing Cupid and Death into a genre scene. He based this masque on Ogilby's version with a little help from another fable, “Cupid, Death, and Reputation,” in the Fables of 1651, to which he had already contributed a dedicatory poem.26 He could not have seen Barlow's illustration, of course, because it did not appear until 1666, but both artist and masque-writer clearly tried to imagine a scene in which Cupid and Death would appear in the everyday world.

Reviving the “jocosum” spirit of the tale, Shirley plays up its humorous potential, particularly in the person of the down-to-earth and greedy Chamberlain who receives the guests at a rural inn where Cupid and Death are to pass the night. He describes the sleeping arrangements for the “immortal guests”: “The great chamber, / With the two wooden monuments to sleep in, / (That weigh six load of timber, sir,) are ready.”27 Appropriately, Cupid's bed is decked with roses and myrtle; Death's, with yew from a churchyard. The attendant of Death, Despair, appeals to the Chamberlain's greed by saying that he has made a will in which he leaves everything to the man who brings Death to him. In his eagerness to be that man, the Chamberlain supplies Despair with a bottle of wine, paid for out of his own pocket. Ironically, as Despair drinks, he cheers up and is not inclined to make the Chamberlain his beneficiary. He will not even pay for the bottle of wine: “Your free gift, I remember. … We men of money, worn with age and cares, / Drink in new life from wine that costs us nothing” (Works, VI, 355). Despair's own free gift is some hemp, which the Chamberlain can use to hang himself when the time comes.

Annoyed with both Cupid and Death, the Chamberlain deliberately exchanges their arrows. If he should ever see them again, he thinks he will be safe: “should I meet with Death, / I shall not fear him now; for Cupid, if / Lovers must only by his arrows fall, / I'm safe, for, ladies, I defy you all” (Works, VI, 358). In the event he is proved wrong. But interestingly it is now the common man who plays the role of Fortune, thereby domesticating, as it were, the fable.

At the end of each of the five entries is a song; the first of these is on Love's power, the second on Death's. After the exchange of arrows, a song to Cupid asks the little god to pity pale lovers, not to kill them. This theme of Petrarchan love, already present in Alciati's epigram, receives new emphasis in the fourth entry when the scene changes to a garden of dead lovers, and a distraught Nature warns people against love, which has “now become your enemy, a murderer” (Works, VI, 358). The various illustrations to the fable are echoed in Nature's exclamation:

                                                            Look, everywhere
The noble lovers on the ground lie bleeding,
By frantic Cupid slain; into whose wounds
Distracted virgins pour their tears so fast,
That having drain'd their fountains, they present
Their own pale monuments.

(Works, VI, 359)

Again, one lover speaks for all: “Hah! What winter creeps / Into my heart!” As Nature looks on, old men and women begin their dance.

The Chorus' song “Change, oh change your fatal bows” (Works, VI, 360-61) prepares for the happy denouement of the masque. But first the Chamberlain, having left his old employment, appears, leading two apes as entertainment at fairs.28 But, struck by death's arrow, he falls in love with them. Praising their beauty as Nature's own—“No borrow'd ornament of white and red”—he kisses the “Black cherries” of their lips (p. 362). However, when a satyr carries them off, he decides to make use of the hemp that Despair had so generously bestowed on him, to hang himself.

After this anti-masque, Mercury, as deus ex machina, descends to restore order. Cupid is banished to humble “cottages,” no more to trouble “princes' courts,” and Death is forbidden finally to kill people who have “Marks of art or honour” (Works, VI, 365). Nature, still concerned about the young who have died from Cupid's arrows, is granted, in a second scene change, a vision of the Elysian fields, where these are shown to be living happily, true to their first love:

Open, blest Elysian grove,
Where an eternal spring of love
Keeps each beauty fair: these shades
No chill dew or frost invades.
Look, how the flowers, and every tree,
Pregnant with ambrosia be;
Near banks of violet, springs appear,
Weeping out nectar every tear.

(Works, VI, 366)

Instead of Ogilby's somber moral, the masque ends with a dream of ultimate harmony for which music and dancing are the natural expression.

It may be argued that Shirley has diminished the profundity defined, while the composition as a whole is better balanced, in part because the background is simplified and subordinated to the foreground figures.

But for charm and elegance in an illustration of the fable, there is no question that Francis Barlow's plate for his own edition of the Aesopics (1666) shows what an artist who entered into the spirit of the tale could do (fig. 5).25 In it, the narrative element is developed much further and with more variety of light and shade. A more realistic elderly couple are courting, a garland in the hands of the woman, a bunch of flowers in the hand of the man. Ogilby's young man prays to Cupid, while around him lie two dying young men, with arrows in their breasts. Above all, drama is supplied by the emergence of a menacing skeletal Death from the darkness of his cave (actually a tomb); a dog barks at him, causing the old man to look toward it in fear. A greater reality of figures in space and also a greater harmony of narrative detail liberate this illustration from the confines of the emblematic tradition. Departing from the usual schematic arrangement of the old and the young, Cupid and Death, the scene is believable as an experience in itself. Alciati's pictura has given way to naturalistic illustration, a world which the viewer can enter. As the design becomes more specific in treatment of figures and landscape, it tells the story better; on the other hand, in so doing, it necessarily loses something of the simple didactic emphasis of the emblem.

When James Shirley set out to write his masque Cupid and Death in 1653, he in a sense moved in the same direction as life.

Among the images that suggest a transforming faith is the one used by Posthumus when, after his vision, he remarks to his jailer: “I am merrier to die than thou art to live” (V.iv.171). When the jailer tells him, “look you, sir, you know not which way you shall go,” the blindfolded Posthumus replies, “Yes indeed do I, fellow” (ll. 176-77). Then the jailer voices his disbelief by saying: “Your death has eyes in's head then; I have not seen him so pictur'd” (ll. 178-79). This image of a skull with eyes in it certainly suggests an emblem, whether or not the jailer has seen it. Indeed, an earlier version of the image, in Richard II II.i.270-71—“Even through the hollow eyes of death / I spy life peering”—drew from Henry Green, in his pioneering study of emblems in Shakespeare's plays, the suggestion that somewhere there was just such an emblem, though he could not identify it.31 But if such an emblem has not been found, there are analogues in the form of infants shown beside skulls, with sometimes an interpretation appended that points to new life as emerging from death (fig. 6).32 The image of eyes in a skull is a metaphor for the regeneration that can come through death. Posthumus asserts: “there are none want eyes to direct them the way I am going, but such as wink and will not use them” (V.iv.185-87). But the jailer has the last word on the subject: “What an infinite mock is this, that a man should have the best use of eyes to see the way of blindness!” (ll. 188-90). In this context, sight stands for life and blindness for death, but, as the dialogue shows, the enlightened view of Posthumus finds spiritual sight compatible with physical blindness just as Gloucester, in King Lear, finally learned.

The skull that represents death's triumph thus can be converted in the perception offered by Shakespeare's quasi-emblematic image into something resembling the message of Reusner's emblem on a child with a skull: “vitae mors via sancta novae est” (“Death is the holy path to new life”). But Shakespeare gives picture and interpretative poem in a single line; he restores the metaphor to its original wholeness instead of separating its visual and verbal content. Some of this separation continues in the development of emblem into masque. But if at the end of James Shirley's masque the heavens open to reveal the truth about love, that it is “strong as death” (Song of Songs 8.6), Shakespeare returns the revelation to the world of human beings. That is why both his emblematic and his masque imagery play a subordinate, though characteristically pictorial and illuminating part in his drama. Neither Cupid nor Death can put in more than a brief symbolic appearance in his plays because they are, after all, personifications. To claim for Shakespeare's plays that they are emblematic is to mistake his genre.33 The whole picture he creates, his imitation of nature, constitutes a history painting in which emblematic detail is subsumed into a larger action, in which the passions of real people are given credible existence, and in which love and death belong together.

This too is the theme of a song from Ben Jonson's last play, the unfinished pastoral The Sad Shepherd. As the sad shepherd, Aeglamour, laments the supposed death by drowning of his beloved Earine, the kind shepherd, Karolin, sings to comfort him:

Though I am young, and cannot tell,
                    Either what Death, or Love
is well,
Yet I have heard, they both beare darts,
                    And both doe ayme at humane
And then againe, I have beene told
                    Love wounds with heat, as
Death with cold;
So that I feare, they doe but bring
                    Extreames to touch, and mean
one thing.
As in a ruine, we it call
                    One thing to be blowne up,
or fall;
Or to our end, like way may have,
                    By a flash of lightning,
or a wave:
So Loves inflamed shaft, or brand,
                    May kill as soone as Deaths
cold hand;
Except Loves fires the vertue have
                    To fright the frost out of
the grave.


Close as Jonson's play is to the masque in its lyricism and fantasy, his song suggests the same kind of solution to the pain of losing the beloved that enables the happy ending to Shirley's Cupid and Death that love may live beyond the grave.30 Aeglamour's response expresses his skepticism as he clings to his grief:

Doe you thinke so? are you in that good heresie?
I meane opinion? If you be, say nothing:
I'll study it, as a new Philosophy,
But by my selfe alone; Now you shall leave me!


Nevertheless, in the incomplete third act, which may be the last dramatic writing of Jonson's life, Aeglamour celebrates his love by imagining that she has been turned to a heavenly sphere:

But shee, as chaste, as was her name, Earine,
Dy'd undeflower'd: and now her sweet soule hovers,
Here, in the Aire, above us; and doth haste
To get up to the Moone, and Mercury;
And whisper Venus in her Orbe; then
Up to old Saturne, and come downe
by Mars,
Consulting Jupiter, and seate her
Just in the midst with Phoebus; tempring
The jarring Spheeres, and giving to the World
Againe, his first and tunefull planetting!
O' what an age will here be of new concords!
Delightfull harmonie! to rock old Sages,
Twice infants, in the Cradle o' Speculation,
And throw a silence upon all the creatures!


Perhaps it is only in the masque imagination that such “A Cogitation of the highest rapture!”—as Karolin calls it—can prevail. Aeglamour continues:

The loudest Seas, and most enraged Windes
Shall lose their clangor; Tempest shall grow hoarse;
Loud Thunder dumbe; and every speece of storme,
Laid in the lap of listning Nature, hush't;
To heare the changed chime of this eighth spheere!
Take tent, and harken for it, loose it not.


The more reasonable shepherds call this a “wild phantsy” or “a strayn'd, but innocent phant'sie” (III.iii.9, 15). Certainly a leap has been taken here—and in Shirley's masque—away from the conclusion to the various versions of Alciati's Cupid and Death emblem. Although emblem finds a home in masque, and, in the case of Shirley's masque, supplies the essential plot, it stops short of the dramatic revelation, the epiphany, that the masque as a genre moved toward.

An emblem does not progress; even when it is of a narrative type, it necessarily takes on a static form, within a frame, as of something eternally valid as a truth. The Cupid and Death emblem begins as narrative but ends with a permanent condition in which Love and Death use the wrong arrows on their unsuspecting victims. Pageants and tableaux share this quality of symbolically representing an idea. Anything designed for performance on the stage, including the masque, must, on the other hand, represent an action that proceeds in time. The masque-like revelation of Jupiter to the sleeping Posthumus in Cymbeline (V.iv.93-113) itself points to the final resolution, from death to new


  1. On the significance of syllabic repetition in Latin literature, see Frederick Ahl, Metaformations: Soundplay and Wordplay in Ovid and Other Classical Poets (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), esp. p. 40 for his citation of the example of amor and mors.

  2. For a recent study of this emblem, see my “De Morte et Amore: A Story-Telling Emblem and Its Dimensions,” in The Art of the Emblem: Essays in Honor of Karl Josef Höltgen, ed. Michael Bath, John Manning, and Alan R. Young (New York: AMS Press, 1993), pp. 39-70.

  3. See, for example, L. Guicciardini, Detti et fatti piacevoli et gravi (1565), fol. 83v.

  4. For the emblem De Morte et Amore, see Geffrey Whitney, A Choice of Emblemes (Leiden, 1586), p. 132.

  5. Plutarch, The Philosophie, Commonlie called The Morals, trans. Philemon Holland (London, 1603), p. 1151.

  6. Henry Peacham, Minerva Britanna (London, 1612), p. 172.

  7. All quotations from Shakespeare's works are from The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).

  8. A Greek poem on “The Dead Adonis,” frequently included in editions of the Bucolic Poets, represents the boar as defending himself against Venus' accusation by saying that he only wanted to kiss Adonis; he blames his tusks for killing the youth. The parallel with the words of Shakespeare's Venus on the boar's desire to kiss Adonis is remarkable. See “The Dead Adonis,” in The Greek Bucolic Poets, trans. J. M. Edmonds (London: William Heinemann, 1912), p. 483.

  9. Alciati, Emblemata (1577), No. clv (later reversed with cliv).

  10. See H. W. Janson, “A Memento Mori among early Italian Prints,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 3 (1939-40), 243-48, who comments on Northern forms of the memento mori theme such as the girl and the skeleton and “the young man surprised by death.” Both of these suggest parallels with Alciati's “In formosam fato praereptam.”

  11. Ascribed to Erinna. This translation is quoted and attributed to J. H. Merivale, in Lord Neaves, The Greek Anthology (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood, 1874), p. 60.

  12. Ibid., p. 69. The translation is “based on one by Mr. Hay.”

  13. See, for example, Jean Le Maire, “Les Trois Contes Intitulez de Cupido et D'Atropos: Le Premier Conte,” in Oeuvres, ed. J. Stecher (Louvain: Lefever, 1885), III, 39-42.

  14. See James W. Clark, The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Glasgow: Jackson, 1950). Enid Welsford observes that the Fool “laughs in death's face, but his laughter cannot save him” (The Court Masque [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1927], p. 385).

  15. Clark, The Dance of Death, p. 93.

  16. Ibid., p. 105.

  17. The Dance of Death, by Hans Holbein the Younger; facsimile edition of the Original 1538 Edition of Les simulachres & histories faces de la mort, trans. Werner L. Gundersheimer (New York: Dover, 1971), p. 140.

  18. On this subject, see my “Shakespeare's Imagery: Emblem and the Imitation of Nature,” Shakespeare Studies, 16 (1983), 45-56.

  19. Preface to Hymenaei (1606), in Ben Jonson, The Complete Masques, ed. Stephen Orgel (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1969), p. 76. Interestingly, Sidney, in his Old Arcadia, ed. Jean Robertson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 44, notes: “the fool can never be honest, since not being able to balance what points virtue stands upon, every present occasion catches his senses, and his senses are masters of his silly mind.” The link between “present occasions” and the senses supplies a context for Jonson's plea for “more removed mysteries.” See also Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, revised ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968), esp. pp. 163-64, on the mystery that is reduced to emblem in Alciati's De morte et amore.

  20. See the discussion of “Platonic Politics” in Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong, Inigo Jones: The Theatre of the Stuart Court (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1973), I, 49-73.

  21. John Ogilby, The Fables of Aesop, Paraphras'd in Verse (1651), Fable 39. Much of my discussion of Shirley's masque of Cupid and Death is drawn from my “De Morte et Amore” (cited above, n. 2) by permission of AMS Press.

  22. On Cleyn's etchings for this edition, see Edward Hodnett, Aesop in England (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1979), pp. 51-53. Hodnett comments on Cleyn's concern with factual correctness.

  23. The last line apparently alludes to the legend of the Three Dead and the Three Living; see Clark, The Dance of Death, p. 95.

  24. On this second edition of 1665, see Hodnett, Aesop in England, pp. 53-56, who considers the illustration to “Cupid and Death” to be by Stoop, though this attribution remains open to question. See his Concordance, No. 47, p. 88.

  25. Francis Barlow, Aesop's Fables in English, French, & Latin (1666), p. 123. For a discussion of Barlow's illustrations, though with no specific reference to “Cupid and Death,” see Hodnett, Francis Barlow (London: Scolar Press, 1978), chap. VIII.

  26. “To My Worthy Friend Mr. John Ogilby,” in The Fables of Aesop (1651). John Webster's allusion to Cupid, Death, and Reputation in his Duchess of Malfi (1623) is said to be based on P. Matthieu's Henry IV, trans. Grimeston (1612), sig. SsIv. Ferdinand relates the fable to his sister as a warning to her that she has “shook hands with Reputation, / And made him invisible” (III.ii.134-35).

  27. Cupid and Death, in The Dramatic Works of James Shirley, ed. William Gifford and Alexander Dyce (London: John Murray, 1833), VI, 347. All quotations from the masque in my text are from this edition.

  28. Edward Dent, in his edition of the music for Cupid and Death, by Matthew Locke and Christopher Gibbons (London: Stainer and Bell, 1951), notes no fewer than five anti-masques, including a dance by Death (p. xiii). B. A. Harris, in his edition of Cupid and Death (in A Book of Masques [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1967], pp. 371-99), computes the number of entries and anti-masques differently. Incidentally, Harris notes that Death, who was a female in Ogilby's fable, has now become a man, counter-balanced by Dame Nature (p. 375).

  29. Quotations in my text from The Sad Shepherd are from Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford, and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, VII (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941). Cf. Thomas Stanley, “The Sick Lover,” in Poems (1651), p. 21. This poem, after Guarini, has as its first stanza:

                                            My sickly breath
    Wastes in a double flame;
                                            Whilst Love and Death
    To my poor life lay claim;
    The fever, in whose heat I melt,
    By her that causeth it not felt.
  30. One of Sidney's songs in the Arcadia seemingly pays a similar tribute to love. A sorrowful prince, Plangus, asks:

    And shall she die, shall cruel fire spill
    Those beams that set so many hearts on fire?
    Hath she not force even death with love to kill?

    Unfortunately, he fears that death itself will be so “inflamed with hot desire” that it “becomes a rival to us all” (The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia [The New Arcadia], ed Victor Skretkowicz [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987], p. 201 [ll. 28-30]).

  31. See Henry Green, Shakespeare and the Emblem Writers (1870; rpt. New York: Burt Franklin, 1964), pp. 339-40.

  32. See H. W. Janson, “The Putto with the Death's Head,” Art Bulletin, 19 (1937), 423-49; and also Rudolf Wittkower, “Death and Resurrection in a Picture by Martin de Vos,” in Allegory and the Migration of Symbols (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), pp. 159-66.

  33. See, for example, Dieter Mehl, “Emblems in English Renaissance Drama,” Renaissance Drama, n.s. 2 (1969), 39-57, especially his reference to the way in which dialogue and visible stage action illuminate each other: “and this is akin to the characteristic method of an emblem book” (p. 54). Rosemary Freeman, however, in her English Emblem Books (London: Chatto and Windus, 1948), comments that “the emblem, even as used by dramatists like Chapman and Webster who rely upon it so much, was never more than an adjunct, one device among many. It could not be said to colour their whole technique” (p. 101).

Barbara D. Palmer (essay date 1995)

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SOURCE: “Court and Country: The Masque as Sociopolitical Subtext,” in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, Volume 7, edited by Leeds Barroll, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995, pp. 338-54.

[In the essay below, Palmer analyzes Yorkshire historical documents to argue that the link between court and country masque performances were greater than expected, with landed gentry using performances as a means of social advancement.]

On 3 January 1588/89 James Ryther of Harewood in the West Riding, Yorkshire, described his northern neighbors' conception of entertainment to Lord Burghley in London: “By affynytie with the Skottes and borderers thes people deliver in a rude & wilde kinde of musick, to which ar sewtable rymes and songes entewnyd and songe eyther of wanton or warlyke actions[;] by our Invention in this easyly is dysernyd our distance from the Soon [Sun/King].”1

Ryther's account is hardly disinterested—he is quite piqued that he must actually live on his Yorkshire estate in order to claim it—and certainly not fair in marking the northern New Year and Hogmanay as typical behavior, but his elitist, southern bias has prevailed in later conceptions. Northern entertainment is provincial, isolated, and rude, along the lines of clog dancing to a bagpipe; London entertainment is courtly, sophisticated, and refined, Ben Jonson masques to Inigo Jones sets. What has survived of the West Riding pre-1642 entertainment records, however, suggests masque participation which is neither naive nor isolated from events at court and capital.2

As with any other county collection of documents, the West Riding manuscripts are problematic. Their survival is serendipitous, they are scattered among thirty archives, they contain gaping lacunae, and the meaning of the evidence they present frequently is opaque. Caveats duly noted, and present readers allowing for some chronological darting about in what follows, the West Riding documents are relatively abundant, providing an additional dimension to prior studies of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century masque. The earliest surviving documentation of a West Riding masque is by Sir John Nevill of Chevit at “The Marriage of [his] Son-in-Law, Roger Rockley, and [his] Daughter, Elizabeth Nevill, the 14th day of January, in the 17th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King Henry the VIIIth, 1526.”3 The celebration gives new meaning to father-of-the-bride obligations as Nevill records apparel costs, wedding dinner charges, and other food expenses for the week of guests.

Elizabeth married on a Sunday, and her father records the wedding night entertainment as “First, A Play, and streight after the Play a Mask, and when the Mask was done, then the Bankett which was 110 Dishes and all of Meat, and then all the Gentlemen and Ladies danced, and this continued from Sunday to the Saturday after.” The banquet menu is expansive, lavish, and not inferior to surviving court or London great household offerings. Abundant are brawn, peacock, swan, salmon, pike, roe, venison, lamb, and a variety of other “Flesh and Fish.” Less easy of explication is Nevill's list of apparel expenses for the couple, which seems to include far too much fabric for the wedding costumes alone with 74.5 yards of fine fabrics and two rolls of buckram, not enough garments for the entire week cited above or for a wedding trip if the couple were not present, and yet cannot confidently be assigned to masquing outfits. Thus although Nevill's account confirms the performance of a masque as part of an elegant and expensive celebration, it remains frustratingly silent on that masque's content or visualization.

The next surviving West Riding document with reference to masques, a 1568 probate inventory of Thomas, Lord Wharton of Healaugh, is more vocal. Among “Apparell for the Revells” are as follows:

ffirst ix(0) long gownes of Darinx
Item one gowne of buckrame layd vpone with layce of Strawe
Item thre fooles Cootes
Item Six hattes of paper
Item two busshops myters and twoe freers Cappes
Item a Coote of bukrame garded with
Item twoe freer hoodes
Item Six Swordes of woode with girdles
Item Six beardes
Item viij(0) vysures
Item two fooles Daggers ij(0) tipstaves and
a mayce
Item twoe Dromes and one pare of stuckers
Item Sevyn pare of Skarffes of redde and yellowe
Sarsenet for masking

iij li vj s viij d4

The same inventory also records an unspecified “Instrument” in the lobby, a set of recorders, a pair of virginals, and the organs in the chapel to the additional sum of £13.6s.8d. The inventory's juxtaposition of revels equipment to musical instruments may imply some performance relationship, and although the content of revels or masques is not indicated, from the costume appointments the activities would seem to have taken a comedic, satiric, or folk direction most likely not performed at a Wharton wedding.

These Nevill and Wharton records confirm the presence of northern household masquing, as do other surviving documents. In a 1582 “Breife Inventory” of Lord Shrewsbury's Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor Lodge is noted “Item masken Coates of Darnipe iiiir.”5 Although Mary, Queen of Scots was then under Shrewsbury's care at Sheffield and masques may have been provided for her entertainment, she hardly can be credited for originating or sustaining the Shrewsburys' long-standing pleasure in masques, music, and plays, which is well documented from their household papers and discussed below. The Cliffords were equally avid entertainment lovers. Payments to players, waits, minstrels, and other performers appear regularly in the surviving documents. Among these events, isolated Skipton Castle saw a late spring 1637 production of Milton's Comus, which had been preceded by the performance of another masque of unspecified content in February.6

Evidence for this first 1637 Skipton Castle masque rests on a 6 February entry in the Ingram accounts, which notes that Sir Arthur's Temple Newsam steward John Matteson “paid at Mr Calbertes for a hatt for little Arthur at his goeing to Skipton to the maske and a paire of black stockens all 0. 9. 8.”7 The entry is unique documentation of the Skipton masque, but it is equally important in highlighting gentry sociopolitical interaction. Maintaining or, preferably, advancing one's position—social, financial, political—rested on numerous factors, one of which was measured by masquing activities in both northern and southern venues. West Riding gentry, some perhaps the upstart crows of Ingram's feather, seem to have considered masque training and expenses as a sort of futures investment which might be realized in their children's marriages or a family's preferment at court.

When “little Arthur”—Sir Arthur Ingram, Jr.—attended the 1637 Clifford masque, he was some forty-one years old and had been married to Eleanor Slingsby for fifteen years. Rather than his being a child on an indulgent outing of amusement, which the steward's phrasing suggests, he thus would seem to be representing the Ingram family in his forty-mile winter trek over the moors to Skipton Castle. Earlier on, in 1613, Ingram's sister, Elizabeth, had incurred charges of ls 6d “for the maske she derkik” in London, an entry which apparently has lost something in the translation of Matteson's filthy hand.8 She married Sir Simon Bennet of Beckhampton, maintaining a suburban London residence which served her West Riding father as a hospitable alternative to his other dwellings in York, Sheriff Hutton, Temple Newsam, and London proper.

“Little Arthur” Ingram and Eleanor Slingsby were married at Red House on 6 January 1621/22, an event recorded in the Slingsby accounts: “A masking sewte[:] To Richard Atcheson for 6: sewtes of buckeram for an antike at Sir Arthur Ingrams wedding cat the 12: nighte 1 s.”9 The bride was not unprepared for the masque. In 1613 her father paid “mr Hearne for: 4or: mounthes teaching of mistress Ellen Slingesbie to dance at Yorke xxvj s viij d”; six months of singing lessons cost him ten shillings, and she also was taught to play the lute.10 Her brother Henry received intensive viol lessons, sometimes daily, from at least three masters and additionally was taught to sing to the viol. He and his brother, Thomas, had a private dancing master and also were enrolled in a dancing school some two years prior to Thomas's performance in “the Showe maid by the Scollers” at Cambridge. Although the content of the show is not specified, it would seem to have required dancing: Thomas's expenses include “Spanishe leather showes 5: paire & a paire of pompes—xij s viij d: for mendinge shooes xx d: ffor borroweinge of a waistcote & other necessaries xiiij s: …”11

“Necessaries” would seem to be the operative word for many of these Yorkshire entertainment expenses: they were intended to advance the family's fortunes both at home in the marriage market and also in London, where almost all Yorkshire gentry of significance owned or rented dwellings. Jacobean political maneuvering was complex: where the king list to hunt or the queen to masque influenced behavior, schedules, and expenditures, sometimes to no little consternation. Francis Clifford, fourth earl of Cumberland, committed himself to supply a 1617 masque for James I at Brougham Castle but fretted to his son that “albeit I will not dislyke your device, I fynde plainly, upon better consideration, the charge for that entertaynment will grow very great, besyde the musick; and that, instead of lessening, my charge in generall encreaseth, and newe paiments come on, which, without better providence hereafter, cannot be performed.”12

Clifford's concern about masque costs does not reflect just the legendary Yorkshire stitched pocket but a more considered carefulness that he get value for money. Northerners were hardly unaware of the price of court—or court-worthy—masques:

There are two Masques in hand, The first of the Innes of Court, which is presented on Candlemas day, The Other the King presents the Queene with on Shroue tuesday at night. High expences, They speake of 20000 li that it will cost the men of Lawe. Oh that they wold once giue ouer these thinges or lay them aside for a time; And bend all theyre Endeauours to make the King riche, ffor it giues me no satisfaction, who am but a looker on, to see a rich Commonwelth, a rich People, and the Croune poore; God direct them to remedy this quickly.13

The fiscal matter had been brought to James's attention rather earlier on, namely in 1603 when he found a note under his feet at the Cockpit which declares that “the Queene gives all, the Ladies of honor beggs all, the Courtiers spend all, and the poore subiects paye for all.”14

The “poore subiects,” insofar as Yorkshire gentry fit that category, usually decided to pay, as did Clifford on the occasion of the Brougham masque orchestrated by his son. Part of their return was measured by their children's participation in masques at court, and Clifford already had initiated this reciprocal investment in 1612/13, when he wrote to Sir William Wentworth, whose son Thomas had married Clifford's daughter Margaret in 1611:

We doe all nowe desyre lykewyse to see your Sonne and myne, safely retourned [from the Continent, where they had done a tour abroad]; I shall hope he may be at London at the Mariage, which wilbe on Shrove Sondaie. … [T]here is alsoe a maske apoynted to be at the Mariage; viij Noble men, and viij Ladies, of which Number my Sonne is first of the 4 Barons.15

In addition to the Clifford son, two Shrewsbury sons-in-law, Savile offspring, an Ingram daughter, and Lady Anne Clifford, among others, apply their northern-trained skills to court or London masques. Raised primarily in Yorkshire, Lady Anne clearly saw the connection between masques and status: “Queen Anne was euer inclyneinge to our part, and very gratious and fauorable to us. For in my youth I was much in the Courte with her. And in Maskes attended her, though I neuer serued her.”16

This political subtext to entertainment did not escape the notice of others, which is heavily reflected in the surviving Yorkshire correspondence to and from the south, a correspondence which overturns naive notions of cultural isolation or provinciality. In the letters from correspondents near the seat of power to their northern friends, one needs to be a specialized historian on both royal entertainment and also royal progresses (which this present writer is not) to identify even the content, let alone the personnel and their political relationships. Seldom do letters to the north mention what was performed or in what manner, focusing instead on the participants, the jockeying for preference, and the royal reaction. On 5 March 1578/79 Gilbert Talbot writes from court to his father, the earl of Shrewsbury, then in Sheffield, reporting on the Shrovetide “shews as was shewed before her maiestie.” Although Gilbert politely protests that “yt is but vayne to troble your Lordship with suche shewes,” he quickly goes on to note that

the chefest was a devyse presented by the persons of therle of oxford, therle of surrye, the Lordes Thomas Haworthe & Wynsoure, the [def] devyse prettyer than it had happe to be performed, but the best of it, & I thynke the beste lyked, was, twoe ryche lewells which was presented to her maiestie by the ij earles.17

What Gilbert has highlighted for his father, somewhat occupied in his role as Keeper of the Queen of Scots, is who presently is favored or attempting to gain favor, the falling short of their enterprises, and Elizabeth's appreciation for the reality of jewels over the illusion of “shewes.”

Likewise, Sir George Savile writes from Newington to Shrewsbury on 14 August 1602, recounting the Lord Keeper Sir Thomas Edgerton's entertainment for Queen Elizabeth at Harefield House:

My humble Dewty remembered vnto your Lordship & my lady I haue cmade the longer stay to signifie the same In hope of some nouelty of worth to advertise withall which tho hard for me to doe, for your Lordship, so many Frendes of better Intelligence, yet to show my desire to do your Lordship some service Behold inclosed the manner of her Maiestys late Intertaynment at my Lord kepers howse, whervnto I must add the daynty playing of Barly Breaks, Dansinge of Contrye dances by the Boys of the Chapple, And excellent vawtinge of Tumblers. The feast so great, as sixe Dishes vpon head stood so furnished throughe the whole service which by report is greatly spoken of in London. Your lordship hath hard of her Maiestys Returne to Otlands wher yet ther is a Speeche of goinge foreward & to my lord of Harfords. In this Inclosed your lordship maye see the manner of presentinge the giftes which weare many and great. The Iewell my lord keper presented was held Richly worth 1000 li. as I was credibly told. Another Iewell said worth vj C. li. And the Gowne of Raynbows very Riche Embradred.18

Much remains to be explored in the sociopolitical relations between the Inns of Court and the northern nobility. Although Sullivan and Butler, among others, accurately have scraped the surface through court or London documentation,19 they by and large worked without the benefit of northern gentry correspondence, which strengthens their suspicions that Inns of Court entertainments contained more than met the eye. Shortly before Christmas 1597, the Middle Temple writes to Shrewsbury in Sheffield:

Right honorable Lord we send you humble and hearty greetinge, forasmuch as the ordinarie expence of our publique hospitalitie is Such and Soe great at all times in the knowledge and view of all men of right understandinge and consideracion and that by new vnexpected accidentes of forraine chardge and enterteinmentes the Same is at this present soe greatlye augmented and encreased, that without beneuolent Largess and contribution of the members and wellwishers of this howse the same cannot well be defraied and dischardged, These are therefore to request your honor as you tender the loues of vs your fellowes and allyes and the grace and reputation of this fellowship whereof we repute and hold you a worthy and principall member and fauourer, to Lend us such a Some of moneye as to your honor Shall Seem conuenient in fauour of our pretended extraordinarye designes, which wee promise to repaye vnto you the xxxth day of februarie next at our Threasurye, from whence we bid you heartylye farewell

Your very louinge friendes Middle Temple

Although 30 February would not seem to be a propitious date for Middle Temple's repayment of the requested “loan,” Gilbert Shrewsbury quickly replied in the festive vein: “In respect of the Prince d'Amores kepinge his revells in the Inn of Courte I send him by the handes of Mr Davyes of cthat house—30 li.” Middle Temple's Prince d'Amour returns his thanks to Shrewsbury on Christmas Day:

To the Right honorable and worthy Lord the Earle of Shrewsberrye our louing Cossin and trustye counseller health and happy gretting[.] It is the dutye of a good Prince to be carefull[ye] allwayes of the publique good for which he is so elected and to shew himselfe thankfull to those by whome this publique is soe aduanced which moues vs to giue your Lordship especially thankes by whose honorable and Bountyfull contribution our publique treasurye hath bene soe much enritched, for which we giue your Lordship the testimonye of a most loiall Subject to loue with whome yow shalbe assured to be all wayes fauored and soe we byd you heartyly farewell from our roiall Pallace the xxvth December.20

The content of the event itself seems almost to have escaped notice: this writer's admittedly uncompulsive search has turned up only a single, unpublished account, which records “Noctes Templariae; or, a briefe Chronicle of the Darke Reigne of the bright Prince of Burning Love,” with an unrealized imprimatur granted to Sir Benjamin Rudyerd's subscription.21 However, it does not require a Machiavellian to discern the Shrewsbury letters' political subtext: the Prince d'Amour has been elected by the powerful Middle Temple as an appropriate spokesman, albeit within the apparently innocuous frame of holiday revels, for issues perhaps not confrontable in a more direct fashion; public and court attention is focused on the parodic event; and the lawyers' entertainment lights are promised to shine favorably on their patrons, namely Shrewsbury in this instance. As Butler notes of later Carolinian entertainments, “The lawyers may have used courtly forms, but were by no means slaves to courtly attitudes.”22

The extent and detail of the Middle Temple's parody of state also is recorded in hitherto unnoted correspondence to northern gentry, letters which amplify Butler's observation. The Carolinian correspondent in this case is the Reverend George Garrard, writing on 8 January 1635/36 to Sir Thomas Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse, West Riding, and by that date the earl of Strafford, lord deputy of Ireland. After recounting to Wentworth various entertainments for the Prince Elector, Garrard writes,

The Midle temple house haue sett vp a Prince, who carryes himselfe in greate State, One Mr Viuian a Cornish gentleman, whose father Sir ffrances Viuian was fined in the Starchamber about a Castle he held in Cornwall, about 3 yeares Since. He hath all his Greate officers attending him, Lord Keeper, Lord Treasorer, eight whytestaues at the Court, Captayne of his Pencioners, Captain of his Guard, two Chaplaines who Sunday last preached before him, and in the Pulpitt made there lowe Leggs to his Excellency, before they began, which is muche laught at, My Lord Chamberlayne lent him two fayre Clothes of State, One hung vp in the Hall, vnder which he dines, the Other in his Privy chamber, Seru'd on the Knee, and all that come to see him, kisse his hand on theyre knee. My Lord of Salisbury hath lent him Poleaxes for his Pentioners, He sent to my Lord of Holland his Iustice in Eyre for venison, which he willingly sends him, To the Lord Maior and Sheriffs of London he sends for wine, All Obey; Twelue day was a greate day, Goeing to the Chappell, Many Petitions deliuerd him, which he gaue to his Masters of the Requests, He hath a ffauorite, whom with some others Gentlemen of greate qualitye he knighted at his retorne from church; And dined in greate State, Att the Goeing of the Chambers in the Garden, when he drancke the Kings health; The Glasse being at his mouth he lett it fall; which much defaced his Purple Satten Sute, for soe he was clothd that day, having a Cloke of the same, downe to hys foote, for he mournes for his father, who lately dyed.

It costs this Prince 2000 li out his owne Purse; I heare of no other Designs, but that All this is done, to make them fitt to giue the Prince Elector a Royall Entortaynement, with Masques, Dancings, and some Other exercises of witt, in Orations, or Arraignments, that day, that they invite him.23

Another correspondent, James Howells, also considers the event significant enough to report to Wentworth on 19 February, as he writes from Westminster that “for home passages Prince Rupertus, the Palsgraues second brother, is lately come ouer, & as j heare is allready sworne of the bed chamber, & is thought will stay here. Our famous Prince d'amour inuites them both, to a feast & mask vpon Twesday next.”24 On 15 March Garrard supplies Wentworth with postevent details, heretofore unpublished:

On Shrouetuesday at night the Lady Hatton feasted the King Queene and Princes at her house in Holborne; but the moneday before the Prince of the Temple invited the Prince Elector, and his brother to a Masque at the Temple, which was very compleately fitted for the Vanetye of the Sceanes, and excellently well performed. Thither came the Queene with 3 of her Ladyes disguized, all clad in the Attire of Citizens, Mrs Basset the greate Lace woman of Cheapside, went formost, and lead the Queene by the hand; My lord of Holland and Goring, with Henry Percy and mr H: Iermyn [Henry Jermyn], wayted on them; somewhat disguized also; This done the Prince was depos'd, but Since the King knighted him at Whytehall.25

These Inns of Court entertainments cannot be dismissed as mere holiday merrymaking or the high jinks of jejune undergraduates, any more than, for example, the preceding centuries' Boy Bishops can be reduced to childish reveling. Likewise, the popular picture of litigious, isolated northern lords interminably suing each other over lands and wardships, although regularly true, but points to a far more complex legal vista which must include quite sophisticated communications between the Inns of Court, their northern patrons, and their mutual message to the Crown through entertainments.

Festivities at the first Christmas season of James's reign were laden with political implications, and no one awaited reports as impatiently as Shrewsbury. On 23 December 1603 Thomas Edmonds writes to him from Hampton Court:

Both the Kings and Queens ma(jesties) haue an humor to haue some maskes this Christmas tyme And therefore for that (pur)pose both the younge lordes & Chief g(entle)men, of one parte, and the Queene and h(er) ladyes of the other parte, doe seuerallie v(nder)take the accomplishing & furnishing th(erof) And because there is vse of Invention there(in) specially choice is made of mr Sanford (to) dyrect the order & Course for [mr Sanf] the laydes which is an occasion to staie him here till that busynes be donne and that perfourmed it is intended he shall shortlie after be sent awaie to yor Lordship.26

Also on 23 December Cecil, Lord Burghley writes brusquely to Shrewsbury that “Other stuff I can send yow none from this Place [Hampton Court], where now we are to feast 7 Embassadors Spain France Poland Florence and Savoy besydes Masks and much more.”27

Shrewsbury's postevent reports proved inadequate, as the earl of Worcester's 2 February 1603/1604 letter from Whitehall is in obvious answer to Shrewsbury's chiding.

Whear as your Lordship saythe youe wear never particulerly advertised of the maske I haue been at 6 d charge with chore to send youe the booke which wyll enform youe better then I Can having Coted the names of the ladyes applyed to eche goddes, and for the other I would lykewyse haue sent youe the ballet yf I Could haue got yt for money but theus bookes as I heare are all Cawled in, and in truthe I wyllnot take vppon mee to set that down which wyser then my self doe not vnderstand. This day the King dined abrode with the florentine imbasador who taketh now his leave very shortly, he was with the King at the play at nyght and sopped with my lady ritche in her Chamber. …28

The political convulsions of that 1603/1604 Christmastide are beyond the scope of this paper to explicate and in fact take Sullivan some ten pages to outline,29 but these letters should be of no little interest to historians. Three masques were scheduled: on New Year's Day the duke of Holst's Masque of the Knights of India and China; on 6 January a masque of Scots, substituted for political reasons to appease the French ambassador; and on 8 January the queen's masque, Samuel Daniel's Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, which originally had been intended for Twelfth Night. “Mr Sanford” was the spectacle designer for the queen's masque, although his agency has gone unnoted.30 Whether Worcester meant the Knights of India and China masque or the masque of Scots is not clear, but for political reasons the text of one or the other was suppressed. His report on the favor James showed the Florentine ambassador on 2 February also is of political significance. “In the case of the Queen's masque, the most important minor quarrel concerned the respective rights of the ambassadors of Florence and Savoy. To avoid displeasing either by settling the ‘contention for precedence’ between them it was thought best to invite neither, though their trains were admitted as spectators.”31 The Savoyan ambassador departed England prematurely, and the Florentine ambassador received the reward of outwaiting him.

The preceding letters are exemplary and representative of the dozens of court or London entertainment accounts which have quietly rested unnoticed in northern archival collections and which almost to a letter amplify or modify previously published assessments. In some instances, actual performance dates are corrected from what was intended but then modified by political difficulties. In other instances, masquing personnel are identified or shifts in personnel are clarified. In further instances, audience reception is recorded, to somewhat startling effect. For example, on 7 January 1637/38, William Davenant's Britannia Triumphans was performed as King Charles's masque at Whitehall: Nicoll and others describe the text and appointments,32 but surviving northern letters supply the subtext. On 9 November Garrard alerts Wentworth in Ireland that the king purposes a masque at Christmas and the queen another masque at Shrovetide,33 going on to note,

A Greate roome is now in building only for this vse betwixt the Guard Chamber and the banquetting house; of firre only weatherboarded, and slightly couered; At the mariadge of the Queene of Bohemia I saw one sett vp there, but not of that vastnes that this Is; which will cost too much money to be Pulld downe, and yett downe it must when these Masques are Over.34

Garrard writes again to Wentworth on 16 December and repeats his concerns:

Here are two Masques intended this winter. The King is now in Practicing his, which shalbe presented at tweluetide; Most of the young lords about the towne who are Good Dancers attend his Maiestye in this busines, The Other the Queene makes at Shrouetide; A new house being Erected in the first Court at Whytehall, which costs the King 2500 li, Only of Deale boards [fir or pine], because the King will not haue his Pictures in the banquetting house hurt with light.35

Garrard's postevent account to Wentworth of the masque's reception is unique; its significance also is amplified because he himself did not attend and thus is reporting what he widely has heard.

The french and spanish Embassadors were both at the Kings Masque, but not receaued as Embassadors, The French satt amongst the Ladyes, the spanish in a boxe; It was performed on a Sunday Night the day after 12th night [Sunday, 7 January], in very Cold weather; soe that the house was not filld according to Expectation; The Act of Councell, to driue all men into the Country, the Coldnes of the Weather, the day Sunday, and the Illnes of the Inuention of the Sceanes, were Giuen for Causes, why so small a Company came to see yt. My lord Treasorer, was there by Command.36

Similar modifications of published entertainment materials recur throughout the surviving West Riding records, and although the present pages are not the appropriate vehicle to describe them, one can suggest that the 1603 masque at Winchester for Prince Henry; James's coronation entertainment; the Juno and Hymenaeus masque for the 27 December 1604 wedding of Sir Philip Herbert and Lady Susan Vere; Jonson's The Masque of Darkness, performed on Twelfth Night 1604/1605; Jonson's The Hue and Cry after Cupid masque for the 17 February 1607/1608 marriage of John Ramsey, Vicount Hadington and Lady Elizabeth Ratclife; Jonson's Masque of Beauty, performed 10 January 1607/1608 in the New Banqueting House at Whitehall; Jonson's Masque of Queens on 2 February 1608/1609; Campion's Lords' Masque, Chapman's Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn, and Beaumont's Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, all performed between 11 and 15 February 1612/13 for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Frederick; Jonson's Irish Masque, Campion's Masque of Squires, and the anonymous Masque of Flowers, performed for the December 1613 wedding of Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset and Lady Frances Howard; Jonson's Love's Triumph through Callipolis, performed 9 January 1603/31 at Whitehall; the Inns of Court masque, probably Shirley's Triumph of Peace, performed on 3 February 1633/34 and the king's masque, Carew's Coelum Britannicum, performed on 5 March;37 and Davenant's The Temple of Love, performed in February 1634/35—among innumerable other pageantic and entertainment references—receive some attention in these letters from court to country.

That attention is likely to prove disappointing to literary scholars, for although the occasional glance is given to the quality of performance, the letters' thrust is almost exclusively political reportage. What interested northern gentry was who had been selected as masquers, their order in masque processions, who took out whom in the dancing, how foreign representatives were received, and what expenses were incurred. Nevertheless, West Riding gentry were at some pains to acquire the most recent entertainment materials. Having successfully performed a London-acquired tragedy on 23 April 1581 at Sheffield Castle, Shrewsbury's players request on 25 April

some short play (librum) new, pleasant, agreeable, elegant, gay, droll, knavish, full of brawls, and packed with all sorts of murders, robberies, and bawdry. In this matter they say that one Wilson, a servant of the Earl of Leicester … is willing and able to do much, especially if you ask him in the name of our Morgan.38

The Leicester connection is in part explicated by a 1559 letter from Robert Dudley at Westminster to Shrewsbury in Sheffield, requesting that he give Leicester's players his authority while they play in Yorkshire.39 Their players obviously continued to communicate with each other.

London entertainment texts also came north. Shrewsbury clearly solicited masque texts—and impatiently awaited their arrival. Noted above is the earl of Worcester's 1604 attempt to procure these texts for Shrewsbury, but by 11 February 1607/1608 Worcester has become a bit testy on the subject of masques. He writes in answer to Shrewsbury's demands that

The very same night that the queens maske was performed [10 January] I was scantly able to goe but yet held owt vntyll all was performed. since which tyme vntyll this great wedding [of Viscount Hadington and Lady Elizabeth Ratclife on 17 February] I went not vpp the stayers but that night [of the Queen's masque] I forced my leges to Carry mee to see that maske[. T]o geue youe account of bothe was my determination but my indisposition for the first was sutche that tyme passing would now make that stale for I assure my self youe haue receyved it already. For the second I knowe your 2 sons[-in-law] being both actors wyll not omitt the relations. Vppon which assurances I wyll omit both.40

Other of Shrewsbury's correspondents are more helpful. Of the queen's masque Viscount Lisle writes that he will

begin with what yovr clordship desires about the Maske. Truly it was as well performed as euer any was and for the Verses of it with all the speeches and verses I had sent it to your Lordship ere this if I could have gotten it from Ben Iohnson, but no sooner had hee made an end of this, but that hee vndertook a new charge for the maske that is to be at the Vicount Hadingtons marriage on Shrouve Tuesday at night so at (…) the best I cannot have the first but then for the interest and principal cost I will send your Lordship both.41

Shrewsbury, however, had not exhausted his resources for obtaining the text. The earl of Arundel, his son-in-law, writes from Arundel House to Sheffield on 1 February that his “wife defers her writinge till she may sende your Lordship the booke of the Queenes masque; which will be shortly: and I am so troubled with an other masque [Hadington's], as, I want leisure to write any more to your Lordship at this time.”42

One can only speculate about Shrewsbury's motives in trying to acquire masque texts quickly. On whether his perseverance stemmed from an intention to perform the newest masques, a need to interpret the court political climate, a satisfaction of personal preference, or a combination thereof, the records are silent. They are less so in the surviving and voluminous correspondence of Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford. The political subtext, regardless of the correspondent, is predominant: masquing tittle-tattle as a barometer of fortune and men's eyes. As partially noted above, London letters to Wentworth in Yorkshire or, later, in Ireland from Henry Slingsby, Philip Mainwaring, Edward Conway, Gervais Clifton, James Howell, and, particularly, from George Garrard consistently record the masque as political gossip. Garrard regularly reports masquing activities to Strafford, and his narratives are singularly focused: the costs, the participants, the reason for their selection or exclusion, the masque's reception by its audience, and the sociopolitical dynamics of the occasion. In none of the letters does Garrard cite the content of the masques—no titles, no texts, no costumes, no sets—and Strafford seems never to have inquired about matters aesthetic, probably a forgivable oversight given his political circumstances.43

In her Court Masques of James I, Sullivan notes that “in a monarchy so personal as that of England under James, everything done by the monarch or by any of his family had a diplomatic as well as a social bearing, and in the case of the masque the diplomatic, under cover of the social, seems to have been of greatest significance.” With commendable objectivity, she goes on to note that “many of the documents, of the reign of James I, are lost or have not yet been recovered from unknown places of deposit. It is difficult therefore to state, with any positiveness, the exact cost of these productions.”44 The wisdom of time and the recovery rate of the REED project have done much to remedy Sullivan's latter lament but little to alter her initial perception, that the masque was in essence a political beast—not just to the king but to the gentry throughout the country. It may well have been art, it certainly was artifice, and it was infinitely plastic in measuring the aspirations of the aristocracy well before and well after the time of James I.

Northern data, partially collected as they are at this present stage, suggest that the entertainment communication between provinces and home counties has been severely undervalued. Likewise, the aesthetic level of northern entertainment in its own right has been underappreciated. Northern gentry were educated, trained, and attuned to what was nationally perceived as a sophisticated medium of advancement: the masque. One of many strings on a very complex instrument, the masque functioned as a prefiguration of any number of later versions of who is seen where attending what about town or manor with whom. When thirty years into Elizabeth's reign James Ryther complained to Burghley that West Riding entertainment consisted of a cacophonous emission by Scots and Yorkshiremen, he little thought that four years into James's reign “the great mariage of vicount Hadington” would consist of

a singular braue maske of Englishe & scottes att which [Sir Henry Savile, of Thornhill Hall, West Riding, Yorkshire] stayed with [his] wyfe & her mother & [his] sister there till three a clocke in the morninge. The kinge drunke a health to the Bridegrome & his Bryde in a Cuppe of gould & when he hade donne sent yyt by my lord of Fenton & therin a pension out of the Exchequer of six hundred pound a yeare to him & to her & to the longer lyuer of them.45


  1. British Library (BL) Lansdowne MS. 119, f. 116v.

  2. The West Riding, Yorkshire, records have been collected for the Records of Early English Drama (REED) project by the present author and John M. Wasson under the auspices of a National Endowment for the Humanities' Texts and Editions grant. Gratitude also is due to the archivists and staffs of the Bodleian Library, Oxford; West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford; Chatsworth House and the Duke and Duchess of Devon; Lambeth Palace Library; West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds; Nottinghamshire Archives Office; Sheffield City Libraries and Olive, Countess Fitzwilliam's Wentworth Settlement Trustees; York Minister Library; and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds, for their unfailing generosity, courtesy, and perseverance.

  3. J. Croft, Excerpta Antiqua; or, A Collection of Original Manuscripts (York: William Blanchard, 1797), 78-81. The original Nevill accounts have since disappeared.

  4. Yorkshire Archaeological Society (YAS), Leeds, MS. 707, mb. 4.

  5. Sheffield City Libraries, Leader MS. 121, f. 28. Originally made at Doorneck in Flanders, darnipe is a cloth resembling damask.

  6. Chatsworth House, Chatsworth MS. BAM 175, ff. 181-181v. Thanks are due to John M. Wasson for sharing the Clifford records which he has collected for a REED great households' volume, among which are expenses for these two Skipton Castle masques.

  7. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds, Ingram MS. TN/EA/13/23, f. 14v.

  8. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds, Ingram MS. TN/EA/13/7, f. 4.

  9. YAS MS. DD56/J/3/4, f. 172v. One can only note the peculiarity of the Slingsby steward's reference to expenses for “Sir Arthur Ingram's wedding,” when his mistress, Miss Ellen Slingsby, is the bride.

  10. YAS MS. DD56/J/3/3, ff. 63v, 71, 83v.

  11. YAS MS. DD56/J/3/3, ff. 165, 171, 173v, 174, 174v, 169, 171v, 57.

  12. Audrey Douglas and Peter Greenfield, eds., Records of Early English Drama: Cumberland, Westmorland, Gloucestershire (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), 216-17, 240-41. See also 230 and 174 for note of a 1593 civic masque at Kendal, perhaps on the occasion of completing New Hall.

  13. Sheffield City Libraries, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments WWM STR P 13, Letter 159, f. 5: George Garrard in London to Thomas Wentworth, Lord Strafford in Ireland, 9 January 1633/34. Five surviving letters to Wentworth report on the 1633/34 Christmas activities, and their accounts are somewhat confusing. On 6 December Garrard writes of a proposed Inns of Court masque for the court at Twelfth Night, but this letter of 9 January reports that Twelfth Night produced only one play (John Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess, performed by the King's Men) and that two masques (one by the Inns of Court on Candlemas, 2 February; and the other by the king to the honor of the queen on Shrove Tuesday, 5 March) are proposed. Arundel on 22 February reports on both masques, the Inns of Court performed on 3 February and the king's on Shrove Tuesday. The dates apparently are confused in R. F. Hill, ed., Dramatic Records in the Declared Accounts of the Office of Works 1560-1640, Malone Society Collections, 10 (1977 for 1975), 45, which reports the king's masque on 18 February, as does C. E. McGee's unpublished “Masques (but not at court): A Preliminary Survey of the Field” in following the Malone Society dating. The Inns of Court masque seems to be Shirley's Triumph of Peace; the king's masque is thought to be Carew's Coelum Britannicum (see Enid Welsford, The Court Masque [New York: Russell and Russell, 1962], 228-29, which describes it as displaying “almost all of the worst vices of the masque at this period”).

  14. West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford, Hopkinson MS. 32D86/27, f. 59v, in John Hopkinson's transcription of a Sheffield Castle manuscript, now lost; the news from London was sent to Shrewsbury in Yorkshire.

  15. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 20, Letter 194, single sheet; Francis, earl of Cumberland from Londesborough to Sir William Wentworth at Wentworth Woodhouse, 13 January 1612/13. The marriage would seem to be that of Lord Howard de Walden and Lady Elizabeth Home.

  16. York Minster Library, Hailstone Box 7.1, Lady Anne Clifford's Memorials, f. 6.

  17. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3197, Letter 295, f. 1; this may be the 1578 tilt described in C. E. McGee and John Meagher, “Preliminary Checklist of Tudor and Stuart Entertainments: 1558-1603,” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 24 (1981): 97, and noted by Sydney Anglo, “Archives of the English Tournament: Score Cheques and Lists,” Journal of the Society of Archivists 2 (1962): 161. Hill, Dramatic Records, 8-9, notes that “there were Shrovetide plays at Whitehall by Warwick's and Sussex's men, and by the Children of the Chapel. A tilt and barriers in honour of John Casimir, son of the Elector Palatine, were held at Whitehall on 1-2 Feb. (Chambers, iv. 95-6)” and records the Whitehall expenses “for Reparacions and worcke done in dyvers places of the said House againste the comminge of Cassymerne, Also for makinge of particions Skaffoldes and other neccesaries for playes, Tragidies and Bearebaytinge at Shrovetyde” [author's expansions of abbreviations].

  18. Nottinghamshire Archives Office, D.D.SR.1/D/1426, f. 1. Sir George Savile was the son of Sir George Savile, 1st Bart., and his first wife, Mary Talbot. This letter is directed to his uncle, the earl of Shrewsbury, at Sheffield Castle, where it was when it was copied by Nathaniel Johnson in the late seventeenth century (West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds, Bacon Frank Collection MS. BF/13, p. 304) but somehow found its way back into the Savile archives now deposited at Nottingham. Working with Johnson at the castle, John Hopkinson seems to have copied the now-missing enclosure (Bradford Record Office, Hopkinson MS. 32D86/21, ff. 22v-24v). Although indexed at Bradford as “Lady Lumley to the Countess of Shrewsbury” on unknown authority, it contains the “Speech delivered to her Majesty at her departure from Hatfield [sic], the Lord Keeper's house. The place attired in black. A masque performed to the Queen there. The speech followeth; then some poetry, then spake the voice of heaven to this sad knight.” See McGee and Meagher, “Preliminary Checklist,” 147-51, for additional records of the entertainment at Harefield House. This Savile letter would seem to be what they note as “Cartwright MS., untraced … J. J. Cartwright, ed., HMC, 11th Report, App. 7 (London, 1888), p 128” (p. 150).

  19. Mary Sullivan, Court Masques of James I (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913); and Martin Butler, “Private and Occasional Drama,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama, ed. A. R. Braunmuller and Michael Hattaway (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 127-60.

  20. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3199, Letter 249, f. 1; Shrewsbury's directive on same, f. 2v; 25 December reply Talbot MS. 3201, Letter 77, f. 1.

  21. McGee and Meagher, “Preliminary Checklist,” 141, which notes the event as 31 December, 7 and 21 January 1597/98, Middle Temple Christmas Revels, in the unpublished BL MS. Harleian 1576, ff. 556-62 and further noted in STC R2189 as Le Prince d'Amour, also unpublished.

  22. Butler, “Private and Occasional Drama,” 155.

  23. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 15, Letter 315, ff. 2-3. Garrard, an erstwhile regent master and fellow of Merton College whose later career is difficult to trace, became Strafford's most diligent and loyal correspondent on London socio-political matters.

  24. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 15, Letter 349, f. 2.

  25. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 15, Letter 364, f. 4. There is some confusion about the date of performance. Howells's “Twesday next” would have been 22 February, Shrove Tuesday was 1 March, and Garrard's “moneday before” would have been 21 February. C. E. McGee, in “Masques (but not at court): A Preliminary Survey of the Field,” notes “23/24 February … W. Davenant's The Triumphs of the Prince d'Amour, for the Queen and Sir Henry Herbert”: his source would seem to be Henry Herbert's diary (The Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1917], 56). Allardyce Nicoll, Stuart Masques and the Renaissance Stage (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1938), 113-14, describes the masque, a description which hardly clarifies the queen's appearance with Mrs. Basset.

  26. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3201, Letter 177, f. 1; approximately 20 mm. of the right margin are torn with the missing readings supplied here in diamond brackets. John Hopkinson's copy of this letter (West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford, Hopkinson MS. 32D86/33, ff. 140v-141) agrees with the original in all particulars except Hopkinson's expansions of abbreviations.

  27. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3201, Letter 168, f. 2.

  28. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3201, Letter 182, f. 1v.

  29. Sullivan, Court Masques, 10-20.

  30. See Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 56-57 and passim. The present writer has not been able to identify “Mr. Sanford” but finds it notable that he apparently was available to travel to Shrewsbury at Sheffield as soon as his court obligations were concluded.

  31. Sullivan, Court Masques, 20.

  32. Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 114-16.

  33. William Davenant's Luminalia, described in Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 116-17.

  34. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 17, Letter 222, f. 3v.

  35. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 17, Letter 260, f. 1v.

  36. Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 17, Letter 284, f. 1v.

  37. Hill, Dramatic Records, 45, reports the date as 18 February but Arundel's letter to Wentworth (Sheffield City Libraries, WWM STR P 13, Letter 201, ff. 1-2) is quite precise.

  38. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3198, Letter 74, f. 1; trans. S.O. Addy, “Stage Plays in Sheffield in 1581,” Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society 3.3 (1927): 243. The letter is written to an unidentified person in London by Thomas Bayly, one of Shrewsbury's players. “Wilson” is Robert Wilson, noted with Richard Tarlton as “rare men” for their “extemporal wit” among what shortly would be constituted as the Queen's Players (R. A. Foakes, “Playhouses and Players,” The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama, 39).

  39. West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford, Hopkinson MS. 32D86/15, f. 8v. Hopkinson transcribed the letter in 1676 from the abandoned Sheffield Castle muniments; the original letter now is at Lambeth Palace Library. Leicester vouches for his players as “being honest men & such as shall playe noe other matters I trust but tollerable & Conveinent, …”

  40. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3203, Letter 38, f. 1. The text of Jonson's The Haddington Masque, renamed The Hue and Cry after Cupid, “Celebrating the happy Marriage of Iohn, Lord Ramsey, Vicount Hadington, with the Lady Elizabeth Ratclife, Daughter to the right Honor: Robert, Earle of Sussex. At Court On the Shroue-Tuesday at night. 1608 [17 February],” is in C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, eds., Ben Jonson, vol. 7 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), 243-63; the set and action are described in Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 69. Rowland Whyte, writing to Shrewsbury on 26 January (Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3202, Letter 131, f. 1v) reports that the masque will cost the five English and seven Scots noblemen “about 300 li a man.” The queen's masque is Jonson's The Masque of Beauty, performed 10 January 1607/8 at Whitehall in the New Banqueting House. The text is in Herford and Simpsons, 181-94, and a description in Nicoll, 67.

  41. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3203, Letter 134, ff. 1-1v; the word in diamond brackets is illegible.

  42. Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot MS. 3202, Letter 173, f. 1.

  43. The over six thousand surviving Wentworth letters are at the Sheffield City Libraries as Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Strafford (WWM STR); they are, at best, roughly indexed but contain a wealth of unpublished material.

  44. Sullivan, Court Masques, 3, 138.

  45. Bodleian Library, Add. MS. C. 259, Letter 15, f. 1: Sir Henry Savile of Thornhill, West Riding, then in London, to Sir Richard Beaumont of Whitley, West Riding, on Ash Wednesday (18 February) 1607/1608. Joseph Hunter's 1819 copy of this extract is BL Add. MS. 24475; it agrees with the original in all significant particulars.

Peter G. Platt (essay date 1997)

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SOURCE: “The Masque and the Marvelous,” in Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvelous, University of Nebraska Press, 1997, pp. 99-129.

[In the following excerpt, Platt contrasts the rational literary aspects of the masque as embodied in Ben Jonson's work with the fantastic and visual qualities of Inigo Jones's contributions.]

To wonder first, and then to excellence,
By virtue of divine intelligence.

—Ben Jonson, Love's Triumph through Callipolis

An examination of the masque necessarily involves encountering staged versions of several conflicts treated in earlier chapters: reason and wonder, word and image, the naturalistic and the marvelous. By investigating wonder in the masque—and especially the tension between verbal and visual that unfolds—I explore from a slightly different angle the mutual dependence of politics and theater, statecraft and stagecraft, that has been covered relentlessly in recent criticism.1 The very structure of the masque not only revealed wonder and epistemological confusion in the antimasque—the chaotic, discordant, wonderful first part of a masque—but also contained them in the resolutions of the transformation scene.2 Formally, then, the masque seems to evince an Aristotelian movement from ignorance or uncertainty to knowledge, from evocation to dissipation of wonder.3 Such a structural principle allows the royal center both to inspire awe through spectacle and to reassure the spectators that, by the end, nothing is left unresolved. Furthermore, both movements exalt the king, for, as Jonathan Goldberg notes, “wonder … in masque after masque [occurs] when the poet's trope realizes itself in the movement to state.”4 The marvelous displays underscored royal magnificence and grandeur, which “could be symbolically revealed or made visible in some of its aspects by means of the miraculous discoveries effected by the machinery of the masque, and charged with its full moral grandeur by poetry and fable.”5 But the movement toward containment is equally important to the inscription of the monarch's power because the king is shown taming the potential threat to reason and order that the marvelous often brings with it. As Leah Marcus notes, “the monstrous and subversive impulses,” released by the marvelous antimasque, “invariably … are quelled by the intervention of some reforming energy associated with the policy and person of the king.”6

This double movement apparently lies at the heart of Ben Jonson's epistemological and aesthetic vision of the masque: wonder is repeatedly evoked—often by a figure of the king himself—only to be domesticated and dissipated by the king's actions; like Wonder in The Vision of Delight (1617), marvelous energies disappear, never to be heard of again. In his early work on the masque, Stephen Orgel views wonder, and the spectacle that accompanies it, as completely in harmony with the reason and poetry that are the other half of the masque; the antimasque, and all its potentially subversive trappings, can be “accommodated to and even included in the ideals of the main masque.”7 This vision of harmony is certainly one that Jonson seems to have tried to convey. But Orgel goes further and attempts to smooth over a structural tension of the masque that reflects a major artistic and intellectual conflict of the Renaissance: “It must be stressed that for the Renaissance spectator, the realistic and the marvellous—that which produced wonder, the end of drama—were neither antithetical nor, on the whole, even distinguishable.”8 And yet, of course, the perception of difference between the realistic and the marvelous, text and spectacle, word and image was sufficiently apparent in the Renaissance to start literary and aesthetic, not to mention religious and military, conflicts.9 By assimilating and therefore defanging wonder, Orgel, like Jonson (and Aristotle) before him, domesticates this figure and hides its subversiveness in the process.10

The forces of reason could not fully tame the potenza ammirativa that was figured on the masque stage by the scenic marvels of Inigo Jones. Because the quarrel between Jonson and Jones embodies so neatly this tension between poetry and spectacle, reason and marvel, I focus primarily on the Jonsonian masque. The chapter concludes, however, with an examination of two masques by Samuel Daniel, who, I argue, provides an alternative vision of the marvels of the masque. For even though the wondrous and “wayward energies of life were fitted into a controlled vision in which their existence was recognised and their relative power defined and limited by higher authorities,” wonder often eludes this structure—even in the masques of Jonson—and threatens the artistic, epistemological, and political certainties it was meant to confirm.11

The origins of the masque have been located in pagan holidays and festivals that involved processions, cross-dressing, and monstrous masks. Even in its earliest forms, though, the masque involves a structural movement out to the audience, to the community.12 Orgel claims that this movement inevitably led to a blurring of boundaries between “spectators and actors, so that in effect the viewer became part of the spectacle”; one of the objects of the structure, then, was “to include the whole court in the mimesis—in a sense, what the spectator watched he ultimately became.”13 In the Renaissance masque this movement was crucial in establishing both the wonder aroused by the prince and the possibility of his actualizing political ideals: the king was more than human and the masque highly allegorical, but both were also anchored in the real and the present.

Just as important in the structural genealogy of the masque, however, are the Italian intermezzi, which, according to John Shearman, grew out of “secular interruptions in the miracle-plays of the fifteenth century.”14 In many respects these spectacular interludes posed threats to the harmony and resolution figured in the main play, commedia, or masque. As Allardyce Nicoll explains, there was always something aesthetically eccentric about the intermezzi: “Prevented [by fixed stage sets] within the play from presenting anything more than a single and formal set, tragic or comic or pastoral in accordance with the drama's style, they [scenic artists] sought and found an opportunity in the entertainments presented during periods of intermission. Naturally there was opposition, but in spite of that opposition the intermezzi had by 1572 assumed an overwhelming importance in the Italian theater: that year Piccolomini was forced to complain that ‘nowadays more attention is paid to these intermezzi than to the plays themselves.’”15 Bursting the scenic confines of—and inevitably competing with—the main body of the play, these spectacles at intermission threatened the integrity and predominance of the text to which they were supposedly appendages. Potentially subversive instead of subservient, the intermezzi seem to have found favor with their audiences at the expense of “the plays themselves.” Moreover, as an observer of an intermedio at Florence noted in 1589, these interludes were linked with wonder: “The grandeur of the spectacle cannot be told; he who did not actually see it must fail to credit its wonders.”16

The direct descendant of the intermezzo is the antimasque, and Jonson seems to have been aware of the structurally and epistemologically threatening nature of the intermezzo-turned-antimasque and to have coined the term to suggest its oppositional nature.17 The danger for Jonson is the power of wonder that lies in the spectacle and scenic marvels that Inigo Jones brought into the Jonsonian antimasque and transformation scene. Thomas Greene identifies this tension between antimasque and masque as part of the “double gesture” of humanist art—“first penetrating depths to bring up someone or something from them, and secondly restoring it to being and form, designing, shaping, and structuring a harmonious edifice.” Although Greene recognizes that “threats to this order can be glimpsed that are not fully exorcised,” he rightly claims that most of the masques reveal Jonson's faith in a return to unity.18 The threats to this order come largely from the wonder that forms such a large part of the antimasque; the threatened include epistemological certainty, aesthetic harmony and closure, and—by extension—the hegemony of James himself.

The implications of the doubleness of the masque structure can be illuminated by considering the connections between the masque and the emblem because both forms consist of an interplay between words and images.19 In theory, says Rosalie Colie, “no part of the emblem—figure, epigram, caption, or adage—was supposed to translate any other: rather all the elements were by their special means to point inward to a single idea, supported in part by them all.”20 However, as Glynne Wickham notes, the very nature of the emblem, with its visual and verbal components, had tremendous potential for paradox, mystery, and conflict: “for while the visual component was designed to arrest attention and boldly to proclaim an idea, the form in which it was cast was as often designed, like a riddle, to contain a secret. … It could be stretched to incorporate a written text—a “scripture,” a motto, a poem—of an explanatory character: but to be truly itself a device had to be something more (even other) than it seemed to be, and to be fully possessed of its meaning, viewer or reader had to own, or be supplied with, the key that alone would release the secret and reveal its full significance.”21 Interpretive difficulty, then, lies at the heart of the emblem, and instead of leading to univocal clarity, the device could evoke uncertainty; instead of working together, the visual and verbal could work against one another, creating confusion, mystery, obscurity.22

It is not surprising, then, that in the masque, as in the emblem, there is a dynamic play between image and word. Instead of trying to harmonize away the tension between visual and verbal, though, D. J. Gordon notices and outlines a war over primacy in representation, one he sees embodied in the Jonson and Jones dispute. To Gordon, the battle boils down to an assertion on the part of visual artists that they are “artists” instead of “craftsmen,” are practitioners of the liberal instead of the mechanical arts.23 In stressing this artistic agon, Gordon is pitching a battle of his own, for he questions the certainty with which E. H. Gombrich saw Renaissance visual arts in general and the emblem in particular as revealing “an aspect of the structure of the world which would seem to include the ordered progress of dialectic argument” and offering “an escape from the limitations of discursive speech.”24 To put it at its simplest, Gordon sees the dynamic relationship between the verbal and the visual as perhaps the central issue in Renaissance art.

The role of wonder in the clash cannot be overestimated. Just as it arises from the collision of antimasque and masque, wonder emerges from the visual and verbal fabric of the emblem. As Nicoll claims, “in the impresa and in the masque alike the quality of meraviglia, or wonder, was called for—the exciting of that admiration aimed at in the entire spectacle.”25 Part of the power of wonder in emblems, masques, and art in general comes from the obscurity and strangeness that can emerge from them.

Jonson's writings on the form uncover for us his knowledge of the emblematic tradition, its relation to the masque, and his seeming uneasiness about spectacle and its attendant power of wonder.26 Jonson's preface to Love's Triumph through Callipolis (1631)—headed “To Make Spectators Understanders”—articulates his views on the purpose of the masque. He is very much concerned with the moral and epistemological journey of the viewer (and later reader) of this form:27 “Whereas all representations, especially those of this nature in court, public spectacles, either have been or ought to be the mirrors of man's life, whose ends, for the excellence of their exhibitors (as being the donatives of great princes to their people) ought always to carry a mixture of profit with them no less than delight.”28 Jonson clearly expresses concern that the “spectators” will get lost in the wondrous “delight” of the masques and will forget that the chief purpose of them is moral “profit.” Jonson further addresses this dualism in the preface to his first court masque, The Masque of Blackness (1605). With his “later hand” Jonson attempts to capture the essentially ephemeral event for “posterity” and “redeem” the shows from “oblivion”: “But, when it is the fate even of the greatest and most absolute births to need and borrow a life of posterity, little had been done to the study of magnificence in these if presently with the rage of the people, who, as a part of greatness, are privileged by custom to deface their carcases, the spirits had also perished.”29 Here we see what will become a significant distinction for Jonson: the “carcases” of the spectacle (and its sets) and the “spirits” of the poetry's language (and its connection to the essence of the masque), which is clearly privileged in this description.30 Preserving the spirits, which he seems to fear will otherwise be defaced along with the carcasses, appears to drive Jonson's concern with the posterity of the masque.

His masque theory is developed more fully in the highly significant preface to Hymenaei (1606):

It is a noble and just advantage that the things subjected to understanding have of those which are objected to sense that the one sort are but momentary and merely taking, the other impressing and lasting. Else the glory of all these solemnities had perished like a blaze and gone out in the beholders' eyes. So short lived are the bodies of all things in comparison to their souls. And, though bodies ofttimes have the ill luck to be sensually preferred, they find afterwards the good fortune, when souls live, to be utterly forgotten. This it is hath made the most royal princes and greatest persons, who are commonly the personators of these actions, not only studious of riches and magnificence in the outward celebration or show, which rightly becomes them, but curious after the most high and hearty inventions to furnish the inward parts, and those grounded upon antiquity and solid learnings; which, though their voice be taught to sound to present occasions, their sense or doth or should always lay hold on more removed mysteries.31

Returning to the dualism of spirit and carcass, Jonson links “understanding,” the “impressing and lasting,” and the “soul” with verbal and poetic profit. In opposition are “sense,” the “momentary and merely taking,” and the “body,” which he considers part of the transient delight of spectacle. Furthermore, he asserts that royal viewers are—and should be—concerned not only with “riches and magnificence in the outward celebration” but also with “the most high and hearty inventions to furnish the inward parts, and those grounded upon antiquity and solid learning,” those that allow them access to “more removed mysteries.” Here Jonson associates wonder and mystery not with spectacle but with a poetry based on “antiquity and solid learning.”

Like many of the Protestant reformers examined in chapter 2, Jonson wishes not to banish wonder completely but to reclaim it—to relocate it in the verbal realm. For Jonson clearly understands, as he reveals later in this masque, that there is a power of wonder that emanates from the spectacular nature of these shows: “Such was the exquisite performance, as (beside the pomp, splendor, or what we may call apparelling of such presentments) that alone, had all else been absent, was of power to surprise with delight, and steal away the spectators from themselves. Nor was there wanting whatsoever might give to the furniture or complement, either in riches, or strangeness of the habits, delicacy of dances, magnificence of the scene, or divine rapture of music. … Yet that I may not defraud the reader his hope, I am drawn to give it those brief touches which may leave behind some shadow of what it was.”32 While he concedes that he can reproduce only a shadow of what was, there is a very strong sense in Jonson that this verbal effigy is superior to the transient spectacle that enraptures the viewers at the “present occasion,” translated from, as Jonas Barish asserts, “the turbulence of the public arena” into the “still silence of the page.”33 Wonder, for Jonson, should emerge from the word, for, as he says in the Discoveries, “of the two, the Pen is more noble then the Pencill. For that can speake to the Understanding; the other, but to the Sense.” And later in the same work he uses the language of the emblem to establish the role both of his poetry in the masque and of his “later hand” afterward: “The conceits of the mind are Pictures of things, and the tongue is the Interpreter of those Pictures.”34 Perhaps Jonson's boldest statement of his view of the primacy of poetry comes in the prologue to The Staple of Newes (1626):

Would you were come to heare, not see a Play.
Though we his Actors must provide
for those,
Who are our guests, here, in the way of showes,
The maker hath not so; he'ld haue you wise,
Much rather by your eares, then by your eyes.(35)

Jonson's writings on the issue, then, indicate a deep skepticism toward shows and the wonder that accompanies them. For when this type of wonder dissipates—as wonder, for Jonson, always does—emptiness, and not knowledge, takes its place: “Have not I seen the pompe of a whole Kingdome, and what a forraigne King could bring hither also to make himselfe gaz'd, and wonder'd at, laid forth as it were to the shew, and vanish all away in a day? And shall that which could not fill the expectation of few houres, entertaine, and take up our whole lives? when even it appear'd as superfluous to the Possessors, as to me that was a Spectator. The bravery was shewne, it was not possess'd; while it boasted itselfe, it perish'd. It is vile, and a poor thing to place our happinesse on these desires.”36

While this passage retraces much of the ground covered so far, it takes us into new territory as well because Jonson removes the issues from the aesthetic realm and brings them into the world of royal politics. By placing himself in the role of “Spectator,” he acknowledges that theatricality exists outside the theater and that a king should have his pageants firmly grounded in substance and meaning so that when the ephemeral display is over, there is still something for the viewer—the king's subject—to grasp. To the extent that Jonson helps construct James's spectacles, he tries to effect this marriage of masque and meaning.

Before we look at the way Jonson stages the politics of wonder, an examination of the famous feud with Inigo Jones is essential. This conflict has been thoroughly documented, but the quarrel takes on new power when seen as a contest for control of the marvelous. For, although there are certainly personal and idiosyncratic issues involved, the two men also embody the conflicts over epistemology and art in general and wonder in particular that, I have been arguing, were prevalent in the early modern period.

Gordon gives a detailed list of the “documents of the quarrel,” ranging from epigram 115 (first published in the 1616 Folio) and references in Conversations with Drummond (1619) to A Tale of a Tub (1633).37 Given the limited space here, we will focus on only a few. The supposed origin of the dispute—that Jonson placed his name before Jones on the title page of Love's Triumph through Callipolis—surely must instead be the culmination of a deep-seated aesthetic disagreement.

An important document in the dispute is “An Expostulacion with Inigo Jones” (1631), a portion of which follows:

What is y(e) cause you pompe it soe?
I aske
And all men eccho you haue made a Masque.
I chyme that too: And haue mett w(t)h those
That do cry vp y(e) Machine and y(e) Showes!
The majesty of Iuno in y(e) Cloudes,
And peering forth of Iris in y(e) Shrowdes!
Th'ascent of Lady Fame which none could spy
Not they that sided her, Dame Poetry,
Dame History, Dame Architecture too,
And Goody Sculpture, brought w(t)h much adoe
To hold her vp. O Showes! Showes! Mighty Showes!
The Eloquence of Masques! What need of prose
Or Verse, or Sense t'express Immortall you?
You are y(e) Spectacles of State! Tis true
Court Hieroglyphicks! & all Artes affoord
In y(e) mere perspectiue of an Inch board!
You aske noe more then certeyne politique Eyes,
Eyes y(t) can pierce into y(e)
Of many Coulors! read them! & reueale
Mythology there painted on slit deale!
Oh, to make Boardes to speake! There is a taske!
Painting and Carpentry are y(e) Soule of Masque!
Pack w(t)h your pedling Poetry to the Stage!
This is the money-gett, Mechanick Age!(38)

Jonson openly despairs at the prominence that Jones and his “Showes” have begun to receive. Spectators, including royal ones (“certeyne politique Eyes” that watch “Spectacles of State”), have chosen a new aesthetic of the visual that has left behind the verbal—“prose,” “verse,” and “sense”39—and thrives only on scenic wonder. Or, as William Armstrong puts it, Jonson rails against “scenes, lights, and machines which moved before the spectators' eyes; i.e. against those most likely to distract attention from the spoken word, from the ‘soul’ to the ‘body’ of the masque.”40 Later in the poem, having mocked various stage constructions as inferior to poetry, Jonson goes a step further and dissects the wonders of Jonesian stagecraft. While prose and verse have anchors in truth that make them substantial and lasting, spectacle—and the false wonders it evokes—is mutable, expendable, interchangeable:

          who can reflect
On y(e) new priming of thy old Signe postes
Reuiuing w(th) fresh coulors y(e) pale Ghosts
Of thy dead Standards? or (w(t)h miracle) see
Thy twice conceyud, thrice payd for Imagery?
And not fall downe before it? and confess
Allmighty Architecture?(41)

Cheap and reusable, Jones's stage wonders are reduced to mere paint and wood, and Jonson mocks any claim to their status as miracles.

Inigo Jones was to fight back, and in several works—but particularly in designs for Albion's Triumph and Tempe Restored—he makes his claim as an inventor and not just a producer or craftsman.42 In struggling over “invention,” Gordon argues, the artists were battling for the primacy of their respective forms; the dispute came down to who was responsible for the origin of the idea, the design, the concetto for the work of art—the poet or the artist/architect.43 Gordon suggests that both Jonson and Jones had difficulty accepting the dynamic, Patrizian marea or flow between the two poles that is essential to the art that they made. The irony here is that the power of wonder evoked by Jones's spectacles largely worked against the rational and intellectual elements that the two men were fighting over. As we will see, it was precisely the ability to take the audience out of their rational selves, noted by Jonson in his commentary on Hymenaei, that made Jones's scenic marvels so powerful and posed such a threat to the ordered poetic edifice that Jonson had constructed.44

That wonder plays a role in nearly every Jonsonian masque cannot be disputed—from the face “circumfused with light” in The Masque of Blackness to “the spectacle of strangeness” that Jonson dubbed the antimasque in The Masque of Queens; from the “mikrokosmos, or globe, filled with countries” in Hymenaei to the wonder that is James in The Golden Age Restor'd; and from the presence (and disappearance) of Wonder itself in The Vision of Delight to the fountain of light in Pan's Anniversary. But as I have suggested, Jonson's vision of wonder is a very controlled one: the marvelous is evoked, usually with a certain amount of confusion and terror, and then is dissipated when order, knowledge, and certainty are achieved; his masques seem to be perfect models of the Aristotelian sense of wonder. As the chorus describes it in Love's Triumph, the movement is “To wonder first, and then to excellence, / By virtue of divine intelligence.”45 Four representative masques—Oberon (1611), The Vision of Delight (1617), Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue (1618), and News from the New World (1620)—will illustrate Jonson's aesthetic and epistemological theories and show how he sought to affirm the power and wonder of James. It will be important to explore also, however, how this structured and ordered vision of wonder is destabilized by both the presence of and the spectators' reactions to the marvels that Inigo Jones created to accompany Jonson's poetry.46 For even in the masques that reveal the pattern most clearly, there are energies that work against the triumph of reason and order.

Although Oberon certainly evinces the wonder paradigm, the structure has problems embedded in it because there are at least two “wonder figures”: Prince Henry and James. From virtually the outset Henry as Oberon plays an important role as evoker of wonder. While Henry, as royalty, cannot physically be part of the antimasque,47 Oberon inspires awe long before the transformation scene: at a glimpse of his palace, “the satyrs [are] wondering,” and Silenus exclaims,

Look! does not his palace show
Like another sky of lights?
Yonder with him live the knights
Once the noblest of the earth,
Quickened by a second birth,
Who for prowess and for truth
There are crowned with lasting youth,
And do hold, by Fate's command,
Seats of bliss in fairyland.(48)

However, this wonder is nothing like what occurs when “the whole palace opened” (213), and Oberon is displayed in all his majesty. Yet it soon becomes clear that the source of wonder is not Oberon/Henry but James:

Melt earth to sea, sea flow to air,
                    And air fly into fire,
Whilst we in tunes to Arthur's chair
                    Bear Oberon's desire,
                    Than which there nothing can be higher,
Save James, to whom it flies:
But he the wonder is of tongues, of ears, of eyes.


In a way, of course, this move makes sense: Arthur—in Stuart mythology—is the source of James, who is the source of Henry. There is a genealogy of wonder; James, the second Arthur, restored England to its original line and greatness.49 Furthermore, it seems as if at least part of Henry's interest in the Oberon character came from his knowledge of Spenser's Oberon (fq 2.10.75)—based on Henry VIII—and the suggestions there of the Tudor connection to Arthur. In short, there is a mythic and textual web of support for Jonson's move.50

However, as Orgel points out, a structural difficulty results that makes a typical resolution problematic because “James is not at the center of the masque world but outside it.”51 With James outside of the masque, there is a problem of reference, of the source of wonder; the supreme powers seem to be fiction and history. Even with a perspective theater, James is in danger of being upstaged not, as in later masques, by spectacle, but by a body of texts. To put it at its simplest, Jonson, in his desire to ground his masque on “solid learnings,” has left room for too much questioning. After still more wondering—“Seek you glory, to amaze? / Here let all eyes stand at gaze” (288-89)—Jonson attempts both to put an end to the marvel by demonstrating its final, undisputed source and to leave the audience in a state not of wonder but of knowledge:

Seek you knowledge, to direct?
          Trust to his without suspect.
Seek you piety, to lead?
          In his footsteps only tread.
Every virtue of a king,
And of all in him we sing.
But may none wonder that they [the solemn rites] are
          so bright;
The moon now borrows from a greater light.

(292-97, 305-6)

The wonder that has been evoked—though by whom is still a complicated issue—is tamed, as if to suggest that too much wonder, too many questions, puts in doubt the ultimate authority of the monarch, a fact the masque is supposed to affirm unequivocally.

There is little problem of reference in The Vision of Delight, which presents a uniquely apt version of the pattern: Wonder itself is evoked, makes an appearance, and is virtually laughed offstage for his ignorance, an event dramatizing the proverb mentioned in chapter 1—“Wonder (Marvel, Admiration) is the daughter of ignorance”52—and emphasizing James as the source of what Wonder could not understand. Two visual antimasques are displayed—the first consisting of a shemonster, six burrantines, and six pantaloons, and the second of several phantasms—and in between them Fant'sy presents what Orgel calls an unusual “verbal antimasque”: a verbal copia cataloging human vices and depravities.53 Anticipating the confusion and marveling that this visual and verbal chaos will evoke in both the audience within the masque (including Delight, Grace, Love, Harmony, and Wonder, among others) and the court audience, Fant'sy does not allow time for wonderment:

Why, this you will say was fantastical now,
As the cock and the bull, the whale and the cow;
          But vanish away; I have change to present you,
And such as I hope will more truly content you.


At this point, “the whole scene is changed to the bower of Zephyrus” (117-18), and, appropriately, Wonder steps forward amazed. Indeed, he is the spokesman for the Choir, who are so stunned that Peace says that they look “as if you statues stood” (126). Then “Wonder must speak or break” (132) and proceeds to catalogue the marvelous visual details of the unfolded spectacle in a rich, fecund language that this masque has not to this point displayed:

                                        what is this? Grows
The wealth of nature here, or art? It shows
As if Favonius, father of the spring,
Who in the verdant meads doth reign sole king,
Had roused him here and shook his feathers, wet
With purple-swelling nectar, and had let
The sweet and fruitful dew fall on the ground
To force out all the flowers that might be found;
.....          I have not seen the place could more surprise;
It looks, methinks, like one of nature's eyes,
Or her whole body set in art. Behold!
How the blue bindweed doth itself enfold
With honeysuckle, and both these entwine
Themselves with bryony and jessamine,
To cast a kind and odoriferous shade.

(132-39, 150-56)

Fant'sy, paradoxically, then chides Wonder for embellishing reality and asserts that the next revelation will amaze him even more: “How better than they are are all things made / By Wonder! But awhile refresh thine eye; / I'll put thee to thy oftener what and why” (157-59). As the promise of spring, heretofore unrealized, breaks forth into a masque (“the masquers discovered as the glories of the spring” [160]), Wonder asks seventeen questions, much as Fant'sy predicted, and among them are these:

Whence is it that the air so sudden clears,
And all things in a moment turn so mild?
Whose breath or beams have got proud Earth with
Of all the treasure that great Nature's worth,
And makes her every minute to bring forth?
How comes it winter is so quite forced hence,
And locked up under ground? that every sense
Hath several objects? …
Whose power is this? what god?

(164-71, 189)

The answer, of course, is James, as Fant'sy confidently explains:

                                                                                                                        Behold a king
Whose presence maketh this perpetual spring,
The glories of which spring grow in that bower,
And are the marks and beauties of his power.


Even the chorus, for whom Wonder once spoke, sings in accordance: “'Tis he, 'tis he, and no power else, / That makes all this what Fant'sy tells” (194-95). Moreover, it is not merely what Fant'sy “tells” that is significant here but what he has staged, for the emphasis on sight reveals the importance of the visual and the marvelous to the display of James's power, or as Goldberg would have it, “the instruments of sight become the objects of sight.”54 In between dances of the main masque, the choir proclaims:

Again, again; you cannot be
Of such a true delight too free,
          Which who once saw would ever see;
And if they could the object prize
Would, while it lasts, not think to rise,
          But wish their bodies all were eyes.


With these answers and assertions, Wonder disappears, never to be heard from again; its function performed, Wonder must not linger asking any further questions. And yet, while we certainly understand the symbolism and the inscription of James's power in the claim that he is the cause of the transformations on stage, we also know that it is the creators of the masque—and especially Inigo Jones—who are responsible for the air's turning so mild in a moment. “The wealth of … art” displayed here leaves Wonder's awe and questioning impressed upon our minds and threatens the certainty that the normal energies of the masque form would lead us to expect.

Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue also features the pattern of wonder. James here is figured as Hesperus, the only one whose light is brighter than that of Charles, his son, who was the featured dancer in this masque. Further, the reward of those who have renounced the raw pleasure of Comus in the antimasque—the pleasure that Hercules fears will “extinguish man” (98)—is entry into Hesperus's garden. The beautiful garden that figures James's court is the site where pleasure and virtue can be reconciled, where dancing can be linked to reason and order, where Jonson can “interweave the curious knot” (225). Orgel sees a middle realm between pleasure and virtue, misrule and order, that recalls Patrizi's potenza ammirativa.55 Wonder, however, seems banished from this middle realm, and the result is actually far from the dynamic marea that Patrizi posited:

Then, as all actions of mankind
          Are but a labyrinth or maze,
So let your dances be entwined,
          Yet not perplex men unto gaze;
But measured, and so numerous too,
          As men may read each act you do,
And when they see the graces meet,
          Admire the wisdom of your feet.
For dancing is an exercise
          Not only shows the mover's wit,
But maketh the beholder wise,
          As he hath power to rise to it.


This song of Daedalus from late in the masque can be read as a paradigm for Jonson's entire masque project: he is desperate to make the spectators understanders. The dances should be intricate but should not provoke the gaze of wonder; they should be “measured” and “numerous” so that they can be clearly “read”; viewers should “admire” the dancing but should be able to note “the wisdom of your [the masquers'] feet,” for the pleasure, beauty, and wonder of the dance exists primarily to make “the beholder wise.” Thus Orgel's “middle realm” claim is made dubious by the privileging of the rational and orderly. Indeed, Daedalus's fourth and final song tells the spectators “To walk with Pleasure, not to dwell” (296). The reconciliation alluded to in the title turns out to be a domestication: of Comus, Pleasure, Marvel.

In News from the New World Jonson takes a slightly different approach to the pattern because wonder is never really let loose in this masque; it is present but is carefully circumscribed. The chief movement is from telling—there is very little showing—what wonder is not to revealing what wonder is. Wonder most definitely is not the marvels contained in wonder pamphlets. In the dispute between the Factor and the Printer over the relative merits of the written and the printed, the Factor expresses his contempt for “your printed conundrums of the serpent in Sussex, or the witches bidding the devil to dinner at Derby—news that, when a man sends them down to the shires where they are said to be done, were never there to be found” (43-47). The Printer defends the pamphlets only by claiming that “they were made for the common people, and why should not they ha' their pleasure in believing of lies are made for them” (48-50). Cheap and mendacious, this popular conception of wonder is mocked.

After this early dispute, both men listen to the Heralds tell of their encounter with moon creatures, and although the Volatees—a lunar breed—perform an antimasque, they clearly evoke neither wonder nor terror. On the contrary, we are told—and the First Herald recognizes how little is shown in this masque when he says, “Yes, faith, 'tis time to exercise their eyes; for their ears begin to be weary” (263-64)—that creatures “rapt above the moon … have remained there entranced certain hours with wonder of the piety, wisdom, majesty reflected by you on them from the divine light to which only you are less” (275-79). These creatures are then presented and continue their marveling ways before being told not to. Having spent all of that time admiring from afar, they must now move to knowledge and certainty:

Howe'er the brightness may amaze,
Move you, and stand not still at gaze,
                              As dazzled with the light;
But with your motions fill the place,
And let their fullness win your grace
                              Till you collect your sight.
So while the warmth you do confess,
And temper of these rays, no less
                              To quicken than refine,
You may be knowledge grow more bold,
And so more able to behold
                              The body whence they shine.


Wonder exists to be dissipated; the creatures must clear amazement from their eyes in preparation for the truth that is James:

Now look and see in yonder throne
How all those beams are cast from one.
                              This is that orb so bright
Has kept your wonder so awake,
Whence you as from a mirror take
                              The sun's reflected light.
Read him as you would do the book
Of all perfection, and but look
                              What his proportions be;
No measure that is thence contrived
Or any motion thence derived,
                              But is pure harmony.


This mostly verbal masque is a fitting one with which to end this consideration of Jonson's model of wonder. We have yet to explain fully the power of spectacle in the masque, and the rest of the chapter explores the threat that it poses to Jonson's model. The impressions of the viewers, the beholders of the shows, serve as our guides as we attempt to determine at least partially the effect that the visual component of the masques had on those who experienced them.56

That the audience marveled more at spectacle than at poetry was not a phenomenon restricted to the masque. Jacques Petit, an eyewitness at an Elizabethan performance of Titus Andronicus, reported that “la monstre a plus valeu q[ue] le suiect.”57 This type of response seems to be fairly typical of the reactions to Jonsonian masques: the spectators were far more likely to be made marvelers than understanders.58 Jonson himself, speaking as a spectator of Hymenaei, emphasized the marvelous: “Such was the exquisite performance, as (beside the pomp, splendor, or what we may call apparelling of such presentments) that alone, had all else been absent, was of power to surprise with delight and steal away the spectators from themselves” (522-26). After seeing The Masque of Beauty, Zorzi Giustiniani noted the “splendour of the spectacle, which was worthy of her Majesty's greatness. The apparatus and the cunning of the stage machinery was a miracle, the abundance and beauty of the lights immense, the music and the dance most sumptuous. But what beggared all else and possibly exceeded the public expectation was the wealth of pearls and jewels that adorned the Queen and her ladies, so abundant and splendid that in everyone's opinion no other court could have displayed such pomp and riches.”59 This emphasis on the spectacular and visual is typical of the responses to the masques. In this instance, though, we see that wonder is actually serving the court, so much so that later in Giustiniani's account the Venetian refers to Queen Anne as “the authoress of the whole”;60 the marvelous has erased not only Jonson but also Jones.

When the accounts are not describing ambassadorial disputes, however, they are focusing, for the most part, on spectacle. John Pory, in a letter to Sir Robert Cotton about Hymenaei, praises both Jones and Jonson but focuses on dancing patterns, costumes, and machinery. Jonson is noted, not for his poetry, but for his turning “the globe of the earth standing behind the altar.”61 The structural dilemmas of Oberon noted above seem not to have played a role in the assessment of the masque. From the “Papers of William Turnbull 1611-12” comes this report: “A dozen satyrs and fauns … then danced a ballet, with appropriate music with a thousand strange gestures, affording great pleasures. This done the rock opened discovering a great throne with countless lights and colours all shifting, a lovely thing to see. … When the queen returned to her place the prince took her for a coranta which was something to see and admire.62

Admiratio seems to have come from the spectacle of the masque and the royalty taking part in it. Occasionally, too, wonder derived from the presence of the spectators: the most marvelous aspect of The Vision of Delight seems to have been that “Pocahuntas” was in attendance.63

It is certainly not too much to say that the intricate wonders of the masque could take the focus away from James, their supposed source and raison d'être. Orazio Busino, the chaplain to the Venetian embassy, describes the king's frustrations with the dances at the end of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue: “Last of all they danced the Spanish dance, one at a time, each with his Lady, and being well nigh tired they began to lag, whereupon the King, who is naturally choleric, got impatient and shouted aloud: ‘Why don't they dance? What did you make me come here for? Devil take you all, dance.’”64 After attracting attention back to himself, James had his anger abated by the Marquis of Buckingham, who proceeded to dazzle the audience with the marvels of his dancing: “cutting a score of lofty and very minute capers,” “he made everyone admire [ammiror] and love [inamorar] him.”65 If Jonson—through Daedalus—had tipped the balance between Pleasure and Virtue toward the latter, James and Buckingham reclaimed prominence for the former and its ally—marvel.

Inigo Jones appears to have sensed that the power of wonder lay in the spectacles that he created and staged. Reading the iconography of Albion's Triumph, Gordon suggests that the figurines of Theory and Practice “celebrate the glory of the architect as well as of the king.”66 More specifically, Richard Southern sees Jones as the pioneer of a method of scene-changing that celebrated its ability to create “movement for marvellous effect”:67

the changing of scenes was intended to be visible; it was part of the show; it came into existence merely to be watched. … [This is] a story of how a marvellous show grew up to become a suite of shows by presenting not one marvel but a number of successive marvels. … and the more complicated the elements grew the more ways were found to change them all by visible transformation as part of the spectacle, instead of covering the stage … with a curtain. … The Renaissance machinist himself had few such reservations [about breaking illusion]. To him scene-change was an aspect of the theatre.68

Jones received praise from his contemporaries and fellow creators—the late Jonson notwithstanding—for being a maker of the marvelous. Extolling Jones for the new scenes he added to Loves Maistresse: or, The Queens Masque (1636), Thomas Heywood expressed awe at Jones's ability to create wonder:

I cannot pretermit to give a due Charractar to that admirable Artist, Mr. Inego Iones, Master surueyor of the Kings worke &c. Who to every Act nay almost to every Sceane, by his excellent Inuentions, gave such an extraordinary Luster; upon every occasion changing the stage, to the admiration of all the Spectators; that, as I must Ingeniously confesse, It was above my apprehension to conceive, so to their sacred Majesties and the rest of the Auditory; It gave so generall a content, that I presume they never parted from any object, presented in that kind, better pleased, or more plenally satisfied.69

In this remarkable passage Heywood describes Jones's ability to evoke wonder even from the source of wonder in the Jonsonian scheme: his marvels are “above … apprehension to conceive” not only for Heywood and “the rest of the Auditory” but also for “their sacred Majesties.” Finally, in audience responses to the scenic wonders of Jones and others, there is evidence of what I have called a wonder shift: from the marvels themselves to the mechanics and production of wonder. Frederico Zuccaro, recounting a visit to a performance of Guarini's L'Idropica at Mantua in 1608, marveled at the intermezzi, but admitted that “not less pleasure did I get from seeing the huge engines, the windlasses, the stout cables, the ropes, and the cords by which the machines are manipulated; and the enormous number of men necessary for working them. … One spark from a lamp, be it remembered, might bring all to ruin. Truly it was extraordinary that no disaster occurred, even although care was taken to provide huge jars, vessels, tubs, and pails of water ready for any emergency.”70 Unlike Francis Bacon's, Zuccaro's wonder was not at all diminished by his being able to go “behind the curtain and adviseth well of the motion.”71

An examination of wonder and the masque is incomplete without an exploration of the significantly different vision revealed in the theory and practice of Samuel Daniel. For his work in the masque evinces not only an alternative view of wonder but also, in Tethys' Festival (1610), a different Inigo Jones, liberated from the constraints of Jonson.

Revealed in his prefaces to both The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses (1604) and Tethys' Festival, Daniel's conception of the masque eschews the Jonsonian requirement that masques be “grounded upon antiquity and solid learnings,” posits a fundamental human ignorance, and champions play and delight over profit in these shows. This stance toward learning is interesting given Daniel's virtually antithetical position in Musophilus. Containing A Generall Defense of all Learning (1599), in which Musophilus, the defender of learning, clearly carries the day over Philocosmus. Of further interest is that, in lines 337-90, Musophilus, in a discussion of Stonehenge, links wonder to ignorance. Perhaps, then, Daniel's views of knowledge and wonder expressed in his masque prefaces can only be applied locally—to the masque form itself. It is possible, however, that Daniel's views of knowledge and wonder changed after 1599. In the 1607 and 1611 versions of Musophilus—the last on which Daniel worked personally—most of the Stonehenge description (lines 343-90), including the harshest words on wonder, is omitted.72

In the address to the countess of Bedford that serves as a preface to The Vision, Daniel attacks “whosoeuer striues to shew most wit about these Pun[c]tillos of Dreames and shewes” because they “are sure sicke of a disease they cannot hide, and would faine haue the world to thinke them very deeply learned in all misteries whatsoeuer” (3:196). Similarly, in “The Preface to the Reader” that precedes Tethys' Festival, Daniel asks,

And shall we who are the poore Inginers for shadowes, & frame onely images of no result, thinke to oppresse the rough censures of those, who notwithstanding all our labour will like according to their taste, or seeke to auoid them by flying to an Army of Authors, as idle as our selues? …

And for these figures of mine, if they come not drawn in all proportions to the life of antiquity (from whose tyrranie, I see no reason why we may not emancipate our inuentions, and be as free as they, to vse our owne images) yet I know them such as were proper to the busines, and discharged those parts for which they serued, with as good correspondencie, as our appointed limitations would permit.


Daniel's approach to the form is one based on emancipation: because he frames “images of no result,” he asserts his claim to a freedom, like that of the ancients, “to vse our owne images.”

Part of what brings Daniel his sense of liberation is the Socratic and Montaignian sense of “our appointed limitations” that he seems to see pervading both the genre and human reason.73 In what almost certainly is a criticism of Jonson, Daniel, in his address to the countess, claims that those who “thinke them very deeply learned in all misteries whatsoeuer … are in a farre worse case then they imagine; Non potest non indoctus esse qui se doctum credit [he cannot be but ignorant who believes himself to be learned]. And let vs labour to shew neuer so much skill or Arte, our weaknesses and ignorance will be seene, whatsoeuer couering vve cast ouer it” (196). Evincing both a skepticism toward the scholarly roots of the masque and a mistrust of knowledge claims in general, Daniel puts forth a theory of the genre that is the opposite of Jonson's. Stressing the importance of delight, spectacle, and marvel, Daniel tells the countess that “in these matters of shewes (though they be that which most entertaine the vvorld) there needs be no such exact sufficiency in this kind. For, Ludit istis animus, non proficit [the mind plays with these things, does not profit from them]” (196). Masques exist to entertain and to evoke wonder, and in his “Preface to the Reader” Daniel seems to recognize that in this genre the poet plays a secondary role to the maker of the marvelous—the “Architect”: “But in these things wherein the onely life consists in shew; the arte and inuention of the Architect giues the greatest grace, and is of most importance: ours, the least part and of least note in the time of the performance thereof; and therefore haue I interserted the description of the artificiall part, which only speakes M. Inago Jones” (307). While John Pitcher is certainly correct in challenging the notion that this passage represents “a straightforward capitulation to Jones,”74 the passage does suggest Daniel's apparent recognition that a destabilizing wonder lies at the heart of the masque and that spectacle is far more likely than poetry to convey the marvelous.

As we might expect from the theory of emancipation and delight examined above, the wonder generated in Daniel's masques comes from within the pieces themselves; while James and the court are to benefit from the wondrous occurrences, they are not the source of the marvelous. It follows, then, that reason and order do not rule here as they do in a Jonsonian masque. In The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, Sybilla is visited in a dream by Iris, the daughter of Wonder, and is left bereft “of all, saue admiration and amazement” (199). Epistemological confusion reigns, and sounding like Wonder in The Vision of Delight, Sybilla tries to account for the marvel she has witnessed: “What haue I seene? where am I or do I see at all? or am I any where? was this Iris (the Messenger of Iuno) or else but a fantasme or imagination? will the diuine Goddesses vouchsafe to visit this poore Temple? it can be but a dreame: yet so great Powers haue blest as humble roofes, and vse, out of no other respect, then their owne gracefulnes, to shine vvhere they will. But what Prospectiue is this? or what shall I herein see? Oh admirable Powers! what sights are these?” (200). The vision that follows makes up the bulk of the masque, with each goddess representing a quality that Sybilla (and Daniel) hopes James's new reign will contain—from “Kingdomes large” to “might / And power by Sea” (203-4). The masque, instead of being a confirmation of certainty, ends up being a prayer of sorts, a benison for the future:

O Powers of powers, grant to our vowes we pray
That these faire blessing which we now erect
In Figures left vs here, in substance may
Be those great props of glory and respect.


Instead of being laughed offstage as her father was in The Vision of Delight, however, Iris closes the masque with another blessing, hopeful and wondering, but not certain: “And no doubt, but that in respect of the persons vnder whose beautiful couerings they haue thus presented themselues, these Deities will be pleased the rather at their inuocation (knowing all their desires to be such) as euermore to grace this glorious Monarchy with the Reall effects of these blessings represented” (205). Unlike a Jonsonian masque, a masque of Daniel does not necessarily end with an intermingling of ideal/fictive and real. Fiction is very separate, and it clearly remains to be seen in 1604 whether the “Real effects” will match the “blessings represented.”

Tethys' Festival, a masque commemorating the investiture of Prince Henry as Prince of Wales, represents Daniel and Jones's celebration of the power of wonder. The first scene takes place in a port or haven and introduces Zephyrus, played by Charles, then the Duke of York, along with eight Naiads and two Tritons. One of the Tritons announces the imminent arrival of Tethys and her nymphs, a dance follows, and then Tethys and her nymphs are revealed in a scene change so dazzling that Daniel describes it “in the language of their Architector who contriued it, and speakes in his owne mestier to such as are vnderstanders & louers of that design”: “First at the opening of the heauens appeared 3 circles of lights and glasses, one with[in] another, and came downe in a straight motion fiue foote, and then began to mooue circularly: which lights and motion so occupied the eyes of the spectators, that the manner of altering the Scene was scarcely discerned: for in a moment the whole face of it was changed, the Port vanished, and Tethys with her Nymphes appeared in their seuerall cauerns gloriously alone” (315-16). Whether this passage and the next few pages of technical description are Jones's actual words or Daniel's paraphrase is of little significance for our purposes: Daniel has given Jones a voice, a prominent place in the text of the masque—in paradoxical recognition that the essence of the masque lies beyond words.

And this is the theme of the two major songs that follow, in which Daniel seems to recognize both the limitations of the form—and perhaps all representational attempts—and the power of wonder to affect human beings, if only for a fleeting moment:

If ioy had other figure
                    Then soundes, and wordes, and motion,
To intimate the measure,
                    And height of our deuotion;
                    This day it had beene show'd.
                    But what it can, it doth performe,
Since nature hath bestowed
                    No other letter,
                    To expresse it better,
                    Then in this forme;
Our motions, soundes, and wordes,
                    Tun'd to accordes;
Must shew the well-set partes,
Of our affections and our harts.
Are they shadowes that we see?
And can shadowes pleasure giue?
                    Pleasures onely shadowes bee
                    Cast by bodies we conceiue,
                    And are made the thinges we deeme,
                    In those figures which they seeme.
But these pleasures vanish fast,
Which by shadowes are exprest:
                    Pleasures are not, if they last,
                    In their passing, is their best.
                    Glory is most bright and gay
                    In a flash, and so away.
Feed apace then greedy eyes
On the wonder you behold.
                    Take it sodaine as it flies
                    Though you take it not to hold:
When your eyes haue done their part,
Thought must lengthen it in the hart.


While these remarkable songs ally Daniel with Shakespeare's Prospero and with Hymen in As You Like It, they also link Daniel to a Longinian/Patrizian epistemology and poetics, with their appreciation that “Glory is most bright and gay / In a flash, and so away”: instability, flux, and transience are posited as the basis for any aesthetic or intellectual appreciation that we may have.75 Limited though it may be to “motions, soundes, and wordes,” staged wonder becomes one of the ways we can have access to passing pleasures and truths.

Daniel closes Tethys' Festival in a way that further separates him from Aristotle and Jonson and further links him to Patrizi and Shakespeare. After Tethys and her nymphs have vanished, a Triton announces that Mercury would like to see them again. Mercury then descends “most artificially” (322) and asks Zephyrus—now referred to as the “Duke of Yorke”—and six noblemen to “bring backe the Queene and her Ladies in their owne forme” (322). When the women are revealed out of costume, they are in the masque's third scene, “a most pleasant and artificiall grove” (323). Although this final move may seem to approach a Jonsonian blending of fictive and real, it is much more stark and illusion-baring. Like the end of Daniel's The Vision, this closing juxtaposes ideal and actual, revealing the difference between them. Moreover, Daniel and Jones make no suggestion that wonder comes from any place but the theatrical experience: the court has a long way to go before it can approach the power of transformation that was displayed before it.76

Daniel's work in the masque constitutes an alternative conception of the form in general and of wonder in particular. Instead of evoking wonder only to link it to James and therefore dissipate it into extreme order and certainty, Daniel, like Patrizi, champions the marvelous and the maker of wonders, in this case Inigo Jones. In doing so, he puts forth a vision of art, knowledge, and politics that recognizes wonder, uncertainty, and disequilibrium as the foundations for any lasting insight. Like Patrizi and, as we are about to see, Shakespeare, Daniel seems to suggest that once a marvelous revelation has been witnessed, it can last only as long as “thought length[ens] it in the hart” of the individual spectator.


  1. On pageantry, see Anglo, Spectacle; Bergeron, English Civic Pageantry 1558-1642; Montrose, “‘Eliza, Queene of Shepheardes’”; Yates, Astraea; and Young, Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments. On the relationship between politics and theater, see Geertz, Local Knowledge, 121-46, esp. 121-29; Goldberg, James I; Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations; Marcus, Politics of Mirth; Mullaney, Place of the Stage; Orgel, Illusion of Power; Pye, Regal Phantasm; Strong, Art and Power; and Tennenhouse, Power on Display. For a refreshingly different approach to the Jonsonian masque, see Prescott, “The Stuart Masque and Pantagruel's Dreams.”

  2. Jonson himself linked wonder to the antimasque, describing his first one—in the Masque of Queens—as a “spectacle of strangeness, producing multiplicity of gesture.” See Jonson's preface to Masque of Queens, 17-18, in Complete Masques, ed. Orgel, 123. All subsequent citations from Jonson's masques are taken from this edition, which is henceforth referred to as cm.

  3. Orgel, Jonsonian Masque, 123.

  4. Goldberg, James I, 67.

  5. Parry, Golden Age Restor'd, 41. See also Orgel, Illusion of Power, 37. Thomas Greene connects “magic and festivity” in a related way: “If magic by definition is the imitation through signs of that which the manipulator wants to bring about, then the recovery of cosmic harmony was the persistent, supreme end of aristocratic magic” (“Magic and Festivity at the Renaissance Court,” 645).

  6. Marcus, Politics of Mirth, 9-10.

  7. Orgel, in cm, 13.

  8. Orgel and Strong, Inigo Jones, 5. In defense of his claim of Jonson's reverence for the image, Orgel cites one passage from the Discoveries: “it doth so enter, and penetrate the inmost affection (being done by an excellent Artificer) as sometimes it orecomes the power of speech and oratory.” See Discoveries, 1526-28, in Ben Jonson, ed. Herford and Simpson, 8:610; this edition of Jonson's work is henceforth referred to as bj. For more characteristic views of Jonson on words and images, see Discoveries, 1509-21 and 2128-29, in bj 8:609-10, 628.

  9. Orgel's recent work, however, suggests that he now recognizes disjunction where he earlier saw harmony; see his “The Poetics of Incomprehensibility.” See also Siemon, Shakespearean Iconoclasm, 9-10.

  10. See also Dolora Cunningham, who in “The Jonsonian Masque as a Literary Form” applies the Aristotelian/Jonsonian view of wonder to the masques and, not surprisingly, finds order, containment, and profit to be their realized goals. An interesting note is that, nearly thirty years later, when writing about wonder in Shakespearean comedy (“Wonder and Love in the Romantic Comedies”), Cunningham recognizes wonder as a figure that has an epistemologically destabilizing effect on the audience. In Shakespeare, then, she recognizes a different view of wonder. Time may have altered her vision of the possibilities of the marvelous, or perhaps her two essays are themselves evidence that these two views of wonder—epitomized dramatically by Jonson and Shakespeare—could have existed simultaneously in the Renaissance.

  11. Parry, Golden Age Restor'd, 49-50. Orgel discusses the difficulty of theatrical containment in “Making Greatness Familiar” (in Pageantry in the Shakespearean Theater, ed. Bergeron, 19-25, esp. 23-25).

  12. Welsford, The Court Masque: A Study in the Relationship between Poetry and the Revels, 3-18.

  13. Orgel, Jonsonian Masque, 6-7.

  14. Shearman, Mannerism, 104. Shearman's entire discussion of the intermezzi is helpful (104-12). Helen Cooper sees the origin of such an evolution in both the medieval morality plays and the Elizabethan royal pageants; see her “Location and Meaning,” in Court Masque, ed. Lindley, 135-48.

  15. Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 61-62. There is, of course, a contemporary analogy between the intermezzi and both the interludes of the boy theaters and the jigs of the adult stage. See also Kernodle, From Art to Theatre, esp. 212-14.

  16. Cited in Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 62. See also Shearman, Mannerism, 105.

  17. See Welsford, The Court Masque, 186.

  18. Thomas Greene, Light in Troy, 231, 237.

  19. I follow Glynne Wickham in considering “emblem” more or less synonymous with “device,” “impresa,” “insignia,” and “ensign” (see his Early English Stages 3:65). In her Protestant Poetics, Barbara Lewalski notes the subtle distinction that sometimes existed in the period between “emblem,” possessing a general application to mankind—and “impresa,” possessing a more esoteric and mysterious quality. She goes on to admit, however, that these distinctions often were blurred, especially in England (181-83). See also Gilman, Iconoclasm and Poetry, 87; Grieco, “Georgette de Montenay”; and Hagstrum, Sister Arts, 57-100.

  20. Colie, Resources of Kind, ed. Lewalski, 37.

  21. Wickham, Early English Stages 3:66. In “The Poetics of Incomprehensibility,” Orgel writes: “The discontinuity between image and text in Renaissance iconographic structures has in recent years become a commonplace; symbolic imagery was not a universal language—on the contrary, it was radically indeterminate and always depended on explanation to establish its meaning” (436). In “Of Experience” (3.13), Montaigne avers: “Apollo revealed this clearly enough, always speaking to us equivocally, obscurely, and obliquely, not satisfying us, but keeping our minds interested and busy” (in Complete Essays, trans. Frame, 818).

    For a classic example of the wondrous potency of the veiled symbol in the Neoplatonic mystical tradition, see Nicholas of Cusa, De visione Dei (The Vision of God) 6.22, trans. Salter, 26-27. For sustained discussions of this tradition, see Bath, Speaking Pictures, 1-56; Cope, The Theater and the Dream, esp. 14-28; Gombrich, Symbolic Images, 123-95, esp. 146-78; and Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, 218-35.

  22. On the potential political power inherent in mystery and obscurity, see Yates, Astraea, 29-87, esp. 86-87. More recently see Donaldson, Machiavelli, esp. 141-85; and Hart, Art and Magic, esp. 12-59. See also Victoria Kahn, Machiavellian Rhetoric, which explores Giovanni Botero's discussion of the political uses of mystery and the marvelous (75-84).

  23. Gordon, Renaissance Imagination, ed. Orgel, 90. Gordon notes in this chapter—titled “The Quarrel between Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones”—that although Alberti and Leonardo had made this argument over a hundred years before, art theorists like Scamozzi and Lomazzo, contemporaries of Inigo Jones, still felt it necessary to support their forebears' defense of the visual arts. See Alberti, On Painting (1435), trans. Grayson, ed. Kemp. For Leonardo's paragone, see Leonardo on Painting, ed. Kemp, 20-46. See also Blunt, Artistic Theory, 48-57.

  24. Gombrich, Symbolic Images, 165, 167.

  25. Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 155. See also “The Roiall Intertainement of the French Prince at Antwerpe” (1581), in Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland: spectacles of state can “drive the beholder into an astonishment, setting him after a sort besides himselfe” (3:466).

  26. Gilman connects Jonson's Epigrammes with a “blind” emblem-book tradition. Emblem books of this kind contained poetry and mottos but no engravings (see Iconoclasm and Poetry, 89-90). Gilman more generally sees Jonson's nondramatic poetry as characterized by an “imperialism of the word” (54).

  27. Jonson's obsession with the reception of his Works, published in 1616, is well-known. On Jonson's attempt to control his texts, his readers, and his reputation, see Murray, “From Foul Sheets to Legitimate Model.” See also Loewenstein, Responsive Reading; Newton, “Ben Jonson and the (Re-)Invention of the Book,” in Classic and Cavalier, ed. Summers and Pebworth, 31-55; and Orgel, “What Is a Text?” in Staging the Renaissance, ed. Kastan and Stallybrass, 83-87, esp. 84-85.

  28. Jonson, preface to Love's Triumph through Callipolis, in cm, 454.

  29. Jonson, preface to Masque of Blackness, 1-12, in cm, 47. The clearest evidence of Jonson's revising in an attempt to save the masque for posterity can be found in his notes to Masque of Queens (1609). In his Oxford master's thesis, “Spectacular Selves,” J. M. Simon notes the intrusive effect of Jonson's marginalia in the 1616 Works version of this masque, as Jonson's learning impinges upon—and threatens to interrupt—his artistic work. To this formal point, I would add a thematic one: chronicling in these notes his sources for the iconographic and verbal portrayal of witchcraft in this masque, Jonson performs an act of domestication, attempting to bind and contain the often inscrutable practice of witchcraft. For Jonson's notes, see cm, 526-47.

  30. For an example of Jonson's privileging words over images in the context of the emblem, see Poetaster 5.3.57 and 78-82 (in bj 4:299), where Horace distinguishes between the “imperfect body” (image) and the “soule” (verbal accompaniment or “distich”).

  31. Jonson, Hymenaei, 1-17, in cm, 75-76.

  32. Hymenaei, 522-29, 533-35, in cm, 94.

  33. Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice, 139. Barish's comment comes in a reference to the publication of Jonson's Works, which Barish claims enabled Jonson's theatrical pieces “to transcend the imperfection of performance” (139). Expanding on this point, Murray notes the antitheatricality of Jonson's meticulous care with his texts in the print shop, seemingly concerned with “linguistic and rhetorical clarity, which interests favor literary standards over theatrical wonder” (“From Foul Sheets to Legitimate Model,” 654).

  34. Jonson, Discoveries, 1514-16, 2128-29, in bj 8:610, 628.

  35. Jonson, prologue to The Staple of Newes, in bj 6:282.

  36. Jonson, Discoveries, 1404-13, in bj 8:606.

  37. See Gordon, Renaissance Imagination, 294 n.1.

  38. Jonson, “An Expostulacion,” 29-52, in bj 8:403-4.

  39. Here, presumably, Jonson speaks of “sense” not in reference to the sensual—and thus distinguished from “understanding”—but to meaning, purpose, knowledge.

  40. Armstrong, “Ben Jonson and Jacobean Stagecraft,” in Jacobean Theatre, ed. Brown and Harris, 51. See also Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice: “his reform aims precisely to detheatricalize theater, to strip it of … not only its gaudiness and bustle but also its licentious ways with time and space, and its casual recourse to the astounding and the marvellous” (136).

  41. Jonson, “An Expostulacion,” 86-92, in bj 8:405-6.

  42. See Gordon, Renaissance Imagination, 87-89.

  43. Renaissance Imagination, 96.

  44. Orgel is unconvincing in his attempt to smooth over these differences. Explaining the lack of stage descriptions in later masques, he claims: “the integration of setting with text in the masques is amply indicated by the fact that descriptions of the stage … are no longer necessary for the masque to express its meaning. But ironically, this is also the first step toward the poet's becoming superfluous” (bj, 25). The second sentence, more than noting irony, points out the fragility of the “integration” mentioned in the first.

  45. Jonson, Love's Triumph, 144-45, in cm, 459.

  46. In the introduction to his Court Masque Lindley explains: “the [masque] writers [had an] uneasy awareness that the court audience was not, on the whole, ‘studious’ or sensitive to the aspect of the masque genre that later literary critics find most amenable to discussion. It is indeed symptomatic that there is scarcely any contemporary comment on the iconology of masques, but abundant testimony to the splendour of the ‘outward show’” (6).

  47. See Orgel, Jonsonian Masque, 83.

  48. Jonson, Oberon, 100-109, in cm, 163. All subsequent citations from cm are annotated within the text by line numbers only.

  49. See Jonson, Prince Henry's Barriers, 21, in cm, 143. Orgel notes that “claimes Arthurs seate” was a commonly cited anagram for “Charles Iames Stuart” (see cm, 143).

  50. See Parry, Golden Age Restor'd, 74-75; and Strong, Henry Prince of Wales, 172.

  51. Orgel, Jonsonian Masque, 89.

  52. Tilley, A Dictionary of the Proverbs, 749.

  53. Orgel, cm, 486.

  54. Goldberg, James I, 62.

  55. Orgel, Jonsonian Masque, 190.

  56. On the audience in the age of Shakespeare and Jonson—with a special focus on the tension between “audience” and “spectators,” see Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London, 85-97. For a recent treatment of the importance of the spectator to Renaissance art, see Shearman, Only Connect, esp. 10-58.

  57. Petit, cited in Ungerer, “An Unrecorded Elizabethan Performance,” 102.

  58. See Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London, 86-87.

  59. Giustiniani, cited in bj 10:457.

  60. Giustiniani, bj 10:457.

  61. Pory, cited in bj 10:466.

  62. “Papers of William Turnbull,” cited in bj 10:466, 522-23; emphasis mine.

  63. See John Chamberlain's letter to Dudley Carleton, letter 257, 18 January 1617, in Letters, ed. McLure, 2:49. McLure incorrectly identifies the masque as Christmas His Masque. Also cited in bj 10:568-69.

  64. Busino, cited in Bentley, Jacobean and Caroline Stage 4:670. See also C.S.P. Venetian (1617-19), 113-14.

  65. Busino, cited in Jacobean and Caroline Stage 4:671. Also in Orgel and Strong, Inigo Jones, 283; Busino's Italian text is in Inigo Jones at 281, and in bj at 10:583.

  66. Gordon, Renaissance Imagination, 88.

  67. Southern, Changeable Scenery, 32.

  68. Changeable Scenery, 17-18. This displaying of scene change is the rule—and Southern gives several examples from the masques of curtains' being used for revelations but not for disguising scene changes (19). In support of Southern's position is Nicola Sabbatini's Practica di fabricar Scene e Machine ne' Teatri (Ravenna, 1638). Lily B. Campbell paraphrases Sabbatini: “the shifting or changing of scenes was a spectacular device, desired because of its showy and startling possibilities” (Scenes and Machines on the English Stage, 151). An exception to this rule can be found in the comments attributed to Inigo Jones, who apparently sought to hide scene changes. See Tethys' Festival, in Daniel, Complete Works, ed. Grosart, 3:315-16; subsequent citations from the works of Daniel that are taken from this edition are annotated in the text by page numbers only. I address this issue in the section on Daniel below.

  69. Heywood, Loves Maistresse, A2r-v.

  70. Zuccaro, Il Passagio per Italia, cited in Nicoll, Stuart Masques, 126. For a similar fascination with both stage marvels and their wondrous construction, see Sebastiano Serlio's First Booke of Architecture (1545; English edition, 1611), 24r. For a helpful discussion of Serlio, see Strong, Art and Power, 39.

  71. Bacon, Advancement of Learning 1, in Works 3:268.

  72. See Daniel, Musophilus, ed. Himelick, esp. 71-72 and 99-106; and Daniel, Poems and a Defence of Rhyme, ed. Sprague, 206.

  73. For a brief discussion of this tradition, see chap. 6 below.

  74. Pitcher, “‘In Those Figures Which They Seeme,’” in The Court Masque, ed. Lindley, 45.

  75. See also Alberti, who prefers “those in painting which leave more for the mind to discover than is actually apparent to the eye” (On Painting, trans. Grayson, ed. Kemp, 77). For an intriguing recent reading that links both this masque and this second song from Daniel's Tethys' Festival to the philosophy of Giordano Bruno, see Gatti, “Giordano Bruno,” 818-20.

  76. Pitcher writes in “‘In Those Figures Which They Seeme’”: “Only by restoring Time, not eliminating it, could the celebration of a prince also contribute to his education. At the moment of his accession, he must accept that he will be replaced. And only by maintaining the distinction between the court and its fictional better selves, or its masques, could the prince acknowledge the mutability of all reigns: an Ideal court was, after all, only an Ideal” (Court Masque, ed. Lindley, 44).

Timothy Raylor (essay date 2000)

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SOURCE: “The Masque,” in The Essex House Masque of 1621: Viscount Doncaster and the Jacobean Masque, Duquesne University Press, 2000, pp. 70-119.

[In the following excerpt, Raylor discusses the function and sources of the Jacobean masque by examining the specifics of Viscount Doncaster's presentation of The Essex House Masquefor King James and the French Ambassador.]


Having feasted and sampled the delicacies of the first banquet, Doncaster and his guests would have retired upstairs to the “large roome” set aside for the masque. Such retirement—often to the chamber adjoining the hall—was a traditional procedure in the case of an entertainment following a banquet, allowing, in this case, for the supper to be cleared and the second banquet set out.1 From Chamberlain's remarks and a conjectural plan of Essex House in 1640, we may infer that the supper was held in the Low or Long Gallery on the third floor of the eastern extension of the house and the masque danced in the Great or High Gallery on the floor above it.2 The plan shows a long, narrow room about 25 feet wide, while Ogilby and Morgan in their late seventeenth century plan depict one double that size. The latter plan, astonishingly, would yield a masquing space barely inferior to that of the Whitehall Banqueting House itself; but if, as seems reasonable, we presume that the former gives a more accurate depiction of the layout in 1621, we would expect the gallery to have afforded a stage narrower by over a half, and presumably therefore also proportionately shallower, than the norm of 40 by 28 feet—a stage measured, most likely, in the teens.3

Whatever the precise size of the stage, the room could easily have been arranged in the traditional manner, with the royal state facing the stage and dancing area, and the spectators arranged in seats around the walls. Once the king and his guests had taken up their proper places, a master of ceremonies representing the inventors and sponsor probably appeared to read or distribute copies of “The Argument,” which explained the fable or conceit of the masque. This was a conventional prelude, employed by Jonson and other writers to counteract the fact that spectators often had very little idea what it was they were supposed to be watching.4 Then the masque began.

Tellus (the earth-spirit), bent upon avenging the defeat of the Titans, vows to plague the gods with a new race of earth-born Giants. Confident of her success, she summons her creatures to a joyful holiday revel with a song: an unspecified number of antimasquers appear and dance (lines 18-34). The song mentions a tree, mines, a lion, an ape, a sheep, a boar, and a stag (although only the mines are referred to in the plural, we might presume, given the presentation of the dance as a revel, that the creatures danced in pairs—either by species, or, to emblematize the disorder of the dance, with one another). After the song and dance they all vanish and a cave appears, out of which rushes the second antimasque: a group of “.9. giants the supposed sonnes and champions of the earth; warlikely arrayed” (lines 37-38). One of them delivers a lengthy speech threatening the beautiful young ladies in the audience (lines 62-64) and vowing vengeance, rape, and murder upon the gods (lines 40-83). A “warrelike dance … performed to loud musicke” follows, after which “they … fall of by degrees, and clime to theire places” (lines 84-86), beginning their assault upon the heavens. That assault is cut short by the entry of Pallas, who turns them to stone through the power of her Gorgon's head. “Thus I locke up your madnesse,” she announces, as she goes about “Returninge Earth her one” (lines 88, 115). Pallas then delivers a speech justifying the reluctance of the gods to intervene in the rebellion. The gods, she claims, had intended to delay the operation of fate, allowing the rebels to run their course and repent of themselves, but the threat to such beauties among the spectators encouraged them to intervene. She warns the audience not to mistake clemency for weakness, reorders the stars, and then vanishes (lines 88-122). A second song is heard, warning any too-forward lover to expect a similar stony fate from his mistress's glance, thereby shifting the ground of the rebellion from the political to the sexual sphere (lines 124-43). What looked at first like an instance of political rebellion becomes an example of ill-mannered courtship. The second antimasque, which might be entitled “Giants Made Stone,” is now over.

Those spectators familiar with the conventions of the court masque would have expected the revelation of the main masque to follow immediately, featuring a new setting and new performers. The situation here was similar to that of The Golden Age Restored (1616), in which Pallas had put paid to the rebellion of the Iron Age by turning the rebels to stone, and had then descended with Astraea as the scene changed. But something very unusual now takes place—something the conventional vocabulary of masque criticism, with its emphasis on the structural opposition of masque and antimasque, does not readily account for. After the song, Prometheus appears bearing his stolen fire: he comments on its heavenly origin, outlines its ingredients (including the lights of both sun and moon: both lust and chastity), and explains that he plans to use it to bring the petrified Giants to life as men, to “Deale soule into cold stone, and raise up man / Out of a punishment” (lines 175-76): to “beget / Obedient life; and manners … refine” (lines 177-78). In a breathtaking extension of the metamorphic technique employed in the earlier masques with which Doncaster was associated, the antimasquers are once more transformed. But this transformation is not to be achieved without assistance. As he makes his exit, Prometheus corrects the traditional version of the legend, and appeals for the approval and aid of the “Divinest powers” in the audience in raising life from the stones. After his departure a third song is heard, urging the spectators to look “with desire,” and fan the heavenly fire with their breath. In a moment of potent magic, heightened by the accompaniment of music and light, the anti-masquers are revealed as the masquers, and Hermione-like, the stones begin to move.

The text is not specific about what exactly happens here, or about what, precisely, was represented in the main masque, but the absence of any accompanying explanation must mean that it was immediately identifiable and unambiguous. The conventional association of the number nine with the Worthies coincides with the appearance of the Worthies in a number of recent masques and with the impeccable character of the reformed antimasquers, to allow us to speculate that the main masque consisted of a tableau in which the masquers were “discovered,” no doubt in a scene of light, as the Nine Worthies: those ancient heroes whom “the young world, / In her unstable youth, did then produce.”5 The text that precedes and accompanies the discovery suggests that the masquers are discovered as stones, statue-like in their immobility, and that they are gradually brought to life through the art of Prometheus and the power of the spectators. The gradual and visible animation of the statuesque masquers is (as we shall soon see) an essential part of the meaning of the masque.

The discovery of a masque of Worthies closely parallels that of Middleton's Inner Temple Masque, or Masque of Heroes (1619), in which nine “Heroes deified for their virtues” were discovered “sitting in arches of clouds.6 The Essex House Worthies are not primarily presented as heroic warriors; they are beautiful, obedient, and well-mannered objects of desire—an adjustment that follows the presentation of the Giants' rebellion as a sexual transgression, and prepares the way for their dancing of the main masque and the revels. The main masque being danced, a fourth song “invites them to the Ladyes” (line 216): invites the masquers to pick partners from the audience and dance the revels. Their performance of the measured steps of the dance expresses the smooth, harmonious operation of a universe governed once more by virtuous love (lines 217-34).

What the spectators at Essex House witnessed was not, as in Lord Hay's Masque, The Lords' Masque, or Lovers Made Men, a single transformation following an earlier, reported metamorphosis, but a double transformation: not “Lovers Made Men,” but “Giants Made Stones Made Men.” Doncaster had once more succeeded in providing “something Novel, neat, and unusual, that others might admire.”


The masque possesses the philosophical seriousness and the elevated tone of the most dignified of the court masques; it is far removed from the whimsical inconsequence and bawdiness of the private theatricals. Its fable is manufactured from two distinct myths: the rebellion of the Giants against the gods, and the creation of man by Prometheus. While almost any Renaissance compendium of classical mythology might have served as a source for such material, the prime locus for the association of the two tales appears to be The Library of Apollodorus, where they are narrated in adjacent chapters (1.6-7). But no connection is there established between them other than the implied point that Prometheus was one of the Titans who had earlier rebelled against the gods—a point made more explicitly in the Theogony of Hesiod.

The treatment of the rebellion in the second antimasque reveals a further debt to the Gigantomachia of Claudian. In Apollodorus's version, Earth was so angered by the gods' treatment of the Titans, her offspring, that with the aid of Coelus she produced the Giants to wreak her revenge; the gods with the help of Hercules then defeated them. From Claudian is imported the creation of the Giants by Earth alone, the use of the name “Tellus” to refer to her, and the Giants' defeat by Pallas, using the Gorgon's head. The masque also imitates from Claudian Tellus's rousing speech to the Giants prior to their attack, a loose variation of which is placed in the mouth of one of the Giants themselves.7

An iconographic analogue, if not actually a source, for Pallas's petrifaction of the Giants may be found in Barthelemy Aneau's Picta Poesis (Lyon, 1552), which includes an emblem showing Pallas turning men to stone with the Gorgon's head—stupefying them through the combined force of arms and letters.8 The employment of this trope in the masque is heavily indebted to Jonson's use of Pallas and her shield to crush the rebellion of the Iron Age in The Golden Age Restored—a scene which was itself closely based upon Claudian's Gigantomachia.9 At the time of The Essex House Masque, moreover, Pallas and the Gorgon's head, and possibly the Gigantomachy, were icons of some topicality at court.

During the winter of 1620-21, Anthony Van Dyck was in London, engaged upon projects for the king.10 During this period he was working on The Continence of Scipio, a painting that entered the collection of the marquess of Buckingham, and which appears to represent Buckingham in the figure of the bridegroom. In the lower left corner of this painting is a fragment of a classical frieze depicting two Gorgon heads (a third adorns a ewer on its lower right side): these heads, with their Minervan associations, clearly allude to the moral and political wisdom of the continent Scipio, who chose to restore a captured bride to her betrothed. In 1972 the very frieze fragment depicted in the painting was discovered during building work on the site of Arundel House, the residence of Lord Arundel, and home to his collection of antique sculpture.11 The discovery prompted a debate over the ownership of the frieze and the commissioning of the portrait—a debate that remains unresolved.12 For our purposes the value of the frieze lies in the fact that it was clearly a curiosity at court at the time of the masque, and was incorporated into a painting which spoke to the politics of the period.13 Just how it did so is arguable; but it seems certain that it appealed to the royal self-presentation, in which the monarch was figured in Minervan terms.14 More precisely, in its representation of Scipio restoring the captured bride, virtue intact, to her betrothed, the painting appears to allude to the king's part in securing the agreement of the Manners family to a match between Buckingham and their daughter, Katherine, in the summer of 1620.15 There may, moreover, be an allusion in the three Gorgon heads to the foreign policy of the period. In his 1609 account of the central classical myths, Bacon had interpreted the legend of Perseus and Medusa as a lesson in the handling of warfare: Perseus's journey implied a warning against attacking neighbouring states; his success suggested the need for a just cause in warfare; and the fact that Perseus attacked the only mortal one of the three Gorgons implied a warning against embarking upon wars which could not be won.16 Such a message would have offered confirmation and support for James's wary approach to the Bohemian problem.

Contemporary understanding of the provenance of the frieze sheds further light upon the genesis and topicality of the fable of The Essex House Masque. Among those who saw the frieze at Arundel House (although we do not know when) was Lord Arundel's longstanding associate in the study of antiquities, Inigo Jones, who noted in the margin of his copy of Vitruvius that “the Antike freeze with gorgons heads” came from “the temble of Pallas” in Smyrna: an identification which brings out the Minervan associations implicit in Van Dyck's portrait.17 The temple to which Jones refers was the Trajeneum at Pergamon, from which Arundel acquired additional frieze fragments depicting the Gigantomachy—the very topic animated in the first part of The Essex House Masque.18 Although we should perhaps attribute Arundel's acquisition of these fragments to the efforts of his indefatigable agent William Petty in the mid-1620s, it is clear from Van Dyck's painting that at least one fragment thought to come from the temple was known at court by the winter of 1620, as was its Minervan context: it is therefore possible that its depiction of the Gigantomachy was also known.19

The second part of The Essex House Masque concerns the creation of man by Prometheus. The version of the legend presented here is highly unusual. In the masque Prometheus creates man not from clay but from rock—the very stone into which the Giants had earlier been transformed. This is an Orphic Prometheus, an Amphion who, to the accompaniment of music, makes stones to move; as a motif, it inverts the wild, anti-Orphic revel of Tellus. The use of such a figure may have been prompted by the appearance of Orpheus in Buckingham's masque of the previous winter, in which he had lamented the loss of Eurydice with the exclamation: “I would Transforme the rest to Stoanes.”20 There may be an iconographic context for the device in an illustration frequently reproduced in early Italian editions of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which depicts Prometheus raising man from a rock.21 But there is also perhaps a jokingly competitive compliment to Arundel, whose growing collection of antique sculpture was housed in the long gallery at the nearby Arundel House. This reference suggests that, while Arundel's gallery may have contained an impressive array of ancient statues, Doncaster's, by contrast, contained stones that could dance. As a conceit for a masque, the animation of petrified figures is probably indebted most directly to The Lords' Masque of Campion and Jones (1613), which had featured the animation of eight “women-statues” through the agency of Prometheus and his heavenly fire.22 The French Ballet des Argonautes (1614) had, however, featured rocks (men thus transformed by the enchantress, Circe) moving at the sound of Amphion's music, and yielding up dancers to the king and queen.23

A further variant on the myth, amounting to a full-scale revision, lies in Prometheus's search for divine approval for his use of the heavenly fire. Contemporary mythographers and masque writers were keen to present Prometheus as a figure of wisdom rather than rebellion, as a benefactor who introduced divine wisdom to humanity (and paid the price through his continued torture).24 In The Lords' Masque, Campion and Jones had even gone so far as to associate Prometheus with the Worthies by presenting him “attyred as one of the ancient Heroes.25The Essex House Masque, however, takes such revisionism to its conclusion. Despite the implication in “The Argument” that the spectators are witnesses to an act of rebellion (lines 14-16), Prometheus's action, though undertaken furtively and against the wishes of the gods (lines 146-51), is here ultimately given divine sanction (that of the royal spectators), as a result of Prometheus's assurance that “the life I give / Shall weare in servinge you by whom I live” (lines 184-85); incredibly, Prometheus himself goes unpunished. This is no dramatic oversight, but a stunning reversal: “The Argument” reminds the spectators of the conventional interpretation of the legend, thus priming them for the astonishing revision to come. In retrospect, it becomes clear that the warning offered in “The Argument” that man “never should aspire / To such forbidden height” refers not to the work of Prometheus, but to the rebellion of the Giants.


In its blending of the Gigantomachy with the revised myth of Prometheus, the masque deftly manufactures a new fable—a fable, it may be added, of considerable intellectual coherence. Its thesis might be expressed as “obedience through wisdom and love.” This thesis operates on both macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, as a fully integrated natural, moral, and political allegory.

In the wild and discordant dance presented in the first antimasque we witness the rampant disorderliness of mere nature, liberated from divine control. In the second antimasque we move from disorder to outright rebellion. The natural philosophical context is provided by Natalis Comes in his account of the Titans:

Quidam elementorum mutationes per hanc fabulam explicasse antiquos crediderunt, ac Titanes vocarunt illa elementa, quae terrestre quiddam & crastum intra se continerent, quae vi corporum superiorum inferius assidue detrudantur. Nam vapores semper sursum vi solis attrahuntur, qui vbi ad superiora peruenerint, virtute diuinorum corporum vel soluuntur in purissima elementa, vel repelluntur inferius, quae dimicatio est sempiterna …26

Certain ones believed that the ancients explained the mutation of elements by this fable, naming Titans those elements which contained within themselves anything earthy and dense, which are continually driven downwards by the force of superior bodies. For exhalations are always attracted upward by the virtue of the sun, which, when they arrive at the upper regions, are either dissolved by the power of the divine bodies into the most refined elements or pushed back lower, which struggle is perpetual.

That the Giants are to be seen as terrestrial exhalations akin to, though not identical with, an earthquake (line 28) is suggested by Tellus, in her injunction to the hollows of the earth to move (line 27). George Sandys noted a similar reading of the Gigantomachy as a volcanic eruption: “the Gyants are those windes that struggle in the cavernes of the Earth; which not finding a way inforce it; vomiting fire, and casting up stones against heaven or Jupiter.27 It follows from these readings that Pallas's assertion that the rebellion would have burned itself out in its own good time was well grounded in contemporary natural philosophy. The Giants, as exhalations of earth, attracted by the power of the sun, are consigned to the region of air. On meeting the borders of the heavens (represented by Pallas) they are pushed back to earth, cooling and petrifying in the process, and forming mountains. Their assault is doomed to fail.28 The celestial fire of Prometheus creates man from rock by purging it of the dross of earth, its grosser elements (extreme density, moistness, and coldness), and inspiring it with the animating heat and light of the heavens. The result is not a complete purgation of the material, but an apt balance between the terrestrial and the divine.

Prometheus is not concerned just to animate the stones; he is also concerned to explain, for the benefit of the audience, the several ingredients of the stolen fire. His list expresses the harmony of natural and supernatural, super- and sublunary heat and light compounded in the fire. It also reveals the extent to which the masque is steeped in neoplatonic learning. These ingredients are enumerated in descending order, moving from the circumference toward the center of the Ptolemaic universe. Prometheus ranges from the fixed stars, to the sun, then to the planet Venus, and next to the moon. Moving below the sphere of the moon, he enumerates various meteorological phenomena associated with the regions of fire and air: comets (a question is raised about their precise location), thunderbolts, shooting stars, and sparks—phenomena associated with the aerial region, traditionally thought to be governed by Juno (this is the meaning of the reference to the “sparkes of Junoes Jealousy” in line 173).29 The soul is thus composed, in Platonic fashion, of heat and light both material and spiritual, the former serving to allay the purity of the latter.30 Those ingredients are harmoniously blended astrological influences. The excessive heat and dryness of the sun are tempered by the moisture and coolness of “the chast / Light of the winter moone” (lines 166-67). Similarly, the benign influence of Venus offsets the malignity of Mars. The reference to “the lusting lookes of Venus, by which shee / Intreated Mars first to Adultery” (lines 164-65) should be read not morally but astrologically: Venus's “lusting lookes” are those influences by which, in favorable aspect, she attracts Mars. Her coolness, moisture, and temperateness balance his heat, dryness, and ardor; together they fuse the masculine and feminine principles, yielding a harmonious blend of qualities, especially suited to love and procreation.31 As Leone Ebreo put it: “although the heat of Mars is excessive in ardour, Venus with her sober coolness tempers and proportions him to these operations.”32 The result of all this mingling of qualities in the soul is the “moderate heat” with which Prometheus can create temperate life, mediating between the extreme ardor of the Giants and the extreme inertia of the stones. Earth, water, air, and fire are now happily blended.

The physical process thus described involves a moral dimension. In the moral sphere, the opening antimasque displays the human psyche ungoverned by divine love and wisdom. It affords a grotesque inversion of the conventional image of Orpheus charming rocks, trees, and beasts with his song—an image taken to refer to the calming of passions by music.33 This image had earlier been enacted in a harmonious dance of beasts in The Lords' Masque.34 Rather than calming the passions, however, Tellus whips them up, and the hint of golden-age harmoniousness in the lion's dancing with the lamb (or sheep), only emphasizes the topsy-turvy quality of the revel. Traditional number and animal symbolism underscore the materiality of the revelers. The five beasts named as dancers may allude to the five senses. Four of those named were, moreover, conventionally connected with the four temperaments and their associated elements: the lion (fire), the ape (air), the lamb (water), and the pig (earth—though here it is a boar. The rebellion of the Giants was widely conflated with that of the Titans and taken to signify the oppression of knowledge and virtue by the gross, material body.35 Pallas was conventionally thought to represent divine wisdom, the power of which was expressed by the Gorgon's head on her shield.36 Her ability to quash native instincts led to her depiction as the guardian of virgins.37 Her defeat of the Giants thus represented the triumph of divine wisdom or reason over material appetite, and the power of virginity over lust.38 The action of Prometheus brings the masque to its conclusion by illustrating the infusion of wisdom and love into the body by means of the soul.39 This was a conventional reading: according to George Sandys, for example, “Prometheus signifies Providence, and Minerva Heavenly Wisdome: by Gods providence therefore and wisdome Man was created. The celestiall fire is his soule inspired from above.”40 The peculiar character of this Prometheus, moreover, establishes a precisely pointed relationship between the anti-Orphic Tellus and the Orphic Prometheus, just as the divine wisdom of Pallas opposed the earthy irrationality of Tellus. Such relationships express the philosophical coherence of the masque.

The political significance of the fable emerges from its natural and moral meanings. The Giants are rebels: “too potent subjects,” as Sandys put it, “or the tumultuary vulgar; rebelling against their Princes, called Gods, as his substitutes: who by their disloyaltie and insolencies violate all lawes both of God and man, and profane whatsoever is sacred.”41 They are drawn by the attractive light of the royal sun to the forbidden reaches of the sky; deluded by the sun's power into dreaming of an existence beyond their proper sphere.42 Their defeat by Pallas represents the inevitable triumph of royal wisdom, and the reestablishment of the natural political order. Rebellion is thus shown to be an inevitable but temporary byproduct of virtuous rule.

A glance at these complementary lines of interpretation makes it clear why the myth of Prometheus should be so readily blended with that of the rebellion of the Giants. In marrying the two myths what has the poet done other than tease out a latent symbolic connection between them? In depicting the creation of man from the petrified Giants, the masque retains its commitment to the view that Prometheus fashioned man out of earth, for that is what the Giants are (“sonnes and champions of the earth,” lines 37-38). In restoring them to life through the infusion into the terrestrial body of a divine soul, Prometheus completes the work of Pallas (with whom he is conventionally associated), so redeeming earth and thereby producing the civilized, obedient, semidivine race of men (lines 177-86). The masquers' dancing with the ladies in the audience expresses the ordering power of divine love: what they had earlier uncivilly attempted (through their assault on the gods and their attempted rape of Pallas), they now lawfully achieve. And their dancing guarantees the continued realization of such plenitude, for the divine fire is rekindled by every lady's touch (lines 223-28), and any potential vacuum is immediately filled by the dancers who, through their motion, merge with the music to become part of the heavenly harmony—“A paire / Like aire” (lines 231-32).43


In its structure and spectacle, the masque builds upon the strengths of earlier Doncastrian productions. While Lord Hay's Masque had, with its elaborate scene changes and fantastic costumes, been a triumph of spectacle, its dramatic construction was not as elegantly economical as that of Lovers Made Men. But what the later masque gained in coherence it lost in spectacle, lacking even a rudimentary scene change. The Essex House Masque attempts to outdo these earlier masques; and it does so without losing the structural economy of Lovers Made Men. This achievement is made possible by an unprecedented spectacular innovation: the Doncastrian signature of transforming the antimasquers is used here not once, but twice. The establishment of a credible intellectual and dramatic connection between those two transformations yields a coherent action.

The careful disposition of the parts of the masque reveals a confident and innovative handling of generic convention, and a sensitive response to the constraints and opportunities of the occasion. Its arrangement of parts offers variety within repetition:

Song + Dance (First antimasque)
Speech + Dance (Second antimasque)
Speech (Pallas)
Speech (Prometheus)
Song + Dance (Main masque)
Song + Dance (Revels)

As an interlude between two banquets, the masque needed to be brief; as a prelude to the revels it needed to introduce dancing as an expression of lawful love. The latter requirement is met by the transformation of the performers from fighters to lovers, and therefore dancers (dancing being an expression of the universal ordering power of love). The former is satisfied by the dramatic economy of the masque, and by the exploitation of a structural consequence of the use of the same performers throughout. Instead of performing the usual three masque dances (entry, main dance, and revels), the masquers perform only a main dance that leads directly to the revels.44 This elegant compression helps to unify the action by underscoring the point that the second antimasque is in this case the masquers' entry. It also expresses in structural terms the philosophical balance between the two worlds of the masque, with the two masque dances mirroring the two antimasques. Such mirroring extends to the careful balancing of complimentary parts of the masque. The structural antithesis between the rebellious speech of the Giant and the restorative speech of Prometheus is reinforced by the fact the two speeches are of identical length (each is 44 lines long).

Mirroring is, however, too static a term to suggest the fluidity of movement involved in the masque, which exhibits not a static opposition, but a unified progression from the world of the antimasque to that of the masque. It transcends the condition of argument and approaches that of narrative. The narrative proper begins with the entry dance of the Giants; it pivots on their petrifaction by Pallas; and is requited by their subsequent animation by Prometheus. The fact that Tellus's antimasque was not fully integrated into the narrative was noticed by contemporaries, one of whom appeared to regard it as an independent attraction, claiming that the evening's entertainment consisted of a feast “accompanied with a danse, a maske, & a banquet.”45 Perhaps the text's reference to the first antimasquers as “Antemaskers,” and the absence of any description of the Giants is significant, suggesting that the first dance is merely an ante-masque: a dance before the masque.46 But the first “Antemaske” is nonetheless, like the antimasques of Jonson, fully integrated into the broad thematic and structural sweep of the entertainment, with its movement toward the revels. This movement is clearly signaled by Tellus's topsy-turvy presentation of her antimasque as a victory revel (like Jonson's Oberon, this masque begins and ends with a revel).47 The entertainment opens with the animation of stones by Tellus (the mines of the first antimasque) and it concludes with the animation of stones by Prometheus. The action moves from macrocosmic disorder (Tellus's illegitimate and premature holiday “revell,” involving nature's creatures) to microcosmic rebellion (the Giants' rebellion), through the creation of microcosmic order (the petrification and reanimation of the Giants) to the establishment of macrocosmic order (the revels proper, in which the dancing of masquers and spectators communicates the newfound harmony to the court and, by implication, the country at large). It might be expressed thus:

Antirevel—Antimasque—Transformation / Transformation—Masque—Revel.

The amatory trajectory here established was continued beyond the revels in the second banquet, which made lavish use of the aphrodisiac ambergris, from which Venus was reputedly born.48

The masque thus appears, in typically Doncastrian manner, to be triadic in structure. A three-step counter movement answers a three-stage opening movement. This triadic principle permeates the masque. Three speakers deliver three speeches at key points in the narrative; that narrative is punctuated by songs. Although there are four, rather than three, songs, the two masque songs (those that accompany the revelation of the masque and the revels) each possess three stanzas and feature three rhymes. As a structuring unit of the cosmos, the triad gives rise to the number nine in which the Giants and ultimately the Worthies appear.49 In such a context, the number nine is auspicious in that it suggests both the created universe (with its nine spheres) and the human soul (with its nine senses) and the perfect end of effort (in that it is the last of the digits). It suggests, in sum, the plenitude of creation, brought to fruition by Prometheus.50

The retention of the same performers as both Giants and Worthies contributes to the unity of the narrative, as does the construction of roles appropriate to their dignities. While their status might prohibit courtiers from taking speaking roles or appearing in the antimasques of official court productions, in private theatricals they frequently did so.51 Even in private, however, there were limits to the kind of roles they might adopt: the ghostly lovers of Lovers Made Men are victims and not, like the Giants of The Essex House Masque, rebels. But young gentlemen without official court positions might, on account of their insignificance and relative anonymity, be given greater liberty in role-playing: they might be presented as rebels and then reformed. The precise character of that reformation is once again an index of the liberty of the occasion, demonstrating the extent to which the inventors of The Essex House Masque were not bound to regard the occasion as an official court masque. As in Lovers Made Men, the movement of the masque is a moderate one. The masquers are made men, not gods; the masque moves toward mortal perfection.


Although the question of why the masque settles for so moderate a movement may in part be answered by reference to the dignities of the performers, it must also be explained by reference to the way in which the masque responds to and makes use of its spectators. The difficulty here was that although the masque was not presented at court, and could not therefore command the full political and aesthetic weight of an official production, the king was nonetheless present; he could not be ignored. But nor would it be appropriate to center the entire fiction upon him. Doncaster's reception of the embassy was, from the king's point of view, designed to offer unofficial encouragement to the French to advance their marriage proposals without revealing his own involvement in doing so to the Spanish. The inventors finessed this problem with considerable success. Like Lovers Made Men, the transformation of antimasquers into masquers is effected not by direct appeal to the royal presence, but by the action of agents internal to the fiction: Pallas petrifies the rebels and Prometheus animates them. Such agents needed to be figures of sufficient weight to impel the transformations, and that weight is generated in part by their mythic associations and in part by their conventional association with King James. Pallas was widely associated with his wisdom, while the “Promethean fire” of his gaze had been celebrated by Jonson in The Masque of Beauty. But for all that Pallas and Prometheus might be associated with the monarch, they could not, given his presence in the audience, be completely identified with him (even James could not be both spectator and participant). The masque could not therefore rely exclusively upon these conventional associations to provide the justification for its actions.

Given the gender and character of the masquers, it was only apt that the masque should, in its construction of a suitable impetus for the unfolding action, exploit the presence of ladies in the audience. The appearance of Pallas is attributed to the gods' concern for the gathered “Glories” of the court, those fragile beauties who (unlike the gods themselves) are threatened by the intrusion of the lustful rebels. The narrative aptness of this impetus may be gauged by contrasting it with The Golden Age Restored, in which Pallas permits the rebellion of the Iron Age to unfold, and appears only when she decides it is time for the rebels to learn that their adversaries are unconquerable: “‘Twas time t52 In The Golden Age Restored, Pallas's behavior is motivated solely by the dramatist's desire to express a philosophical point;53 in The Essex House Masque that point is prompted by the logic of the occasion—by a just interlocking of the spectators with the fiction.

The credit for the animation of the stony Giants is divided between the art of Prometheus and the power of the spectators. Although his artistry and stolen fire impel the transformation, the masque asserts that art alone is insufficiently powerful to complete it. Prometheus appeals to the “Divinest powers” in the audience to “spare a saving glaunce / This worke of life to reskue; if mischaunce / Dare to attempt it” (lines 186-88). While this appears to offer the spectators only a limited, watchdog role in the process, their centrality is underscored both by Prometheus's departure from the stage prior to the transformation, and by the song announcing it—a song that presumably represents Prometheus's art in operation. The song requires the audience to “Calmely looke and with desire / Ad to the fire,” on the grounds that “all the art / Cannot impart / So much thereof as you” (lines 192-93, 196-98). As the masque is discovered, the song remarks: “Then veiw the spring of man begun / By your one sun” (lines 208-09). What is this life-giving sun?

A productive ambiguity is at work here, which depends upon the openendedness of the referent. Is this sun something every member of the audience possesses? Or is it something singular? The image of the sun is conventionally associated with the eyes. In this respect two different yet complementary sources are implied. Read in a Petrarchan context, the image suggests the life- or death-giving eyes of the beautiful ladies in the audience—the “Divinest powers” to whom Prometheus appeals for support in his quest, and in whose service the newly created lovers will expend themselves. A device of this sort was employed in the French ballet, Les Fées de la Forest de Saint-Germain (1625), in which men begin to dance “comme des demy-Dieux” due to the magical gaze of the ladies in the audience.54 But there was another conventional source for such glances—a source that could be implied but not named. In the Jacobean court masque, the impetus for the transformation was invariably the monarch, whose gaze, in the language of Jacobean kingship (absolutist in tone, if not in fact), gave or withdrew life: “So breakes the sunne earths rugged chaines, / Wherein rude winter bound her vaines,” comments the song accompanying the transformation of the Irish ambassadors in The Irish Masque (lines 187-88).55 The ladies of the court are not, then, the only ones invited to gaze with desire on the young men performing the masque. The suggestion is not explicit—that would be unthinkably tactless—but it is hinted at in the openended language of the discovery song. The spectators—male monarch and female beauties—are thus dramatically integrated into the action of the masque. They are the impetus for the transformation, which they impel by doing exactly what spectators do naturally—by gazing. The lighting effects accompanying the discovery no doubt demonstrated visually the implicit assertion that heavenly love on earth flows directly from the heart of the Jacobean court, which alone has the power to transform depraved and rebellious monsters into the greatest heroes.

But how, exactly, does the gaze of the spectators help Prometheus to animate the stones? To answer this question, we turn once more to the neoplatonic background of the masque. In order to aid the animation, the spectators are invited to gaze with desire on the masquers, but they are warned to do so calmly:

Calmely looke and with desire
                              Ad to the fire
Which your breathinges must fan higher

(lines 192-94)

This is an important injunction. Although the medium of sight was, in Ficinian terms, one of the most refined and elevated of the senses, it was still a sense; inadequately regulated, it could prompt an appetite to satisfy the baser senses—could lead, that is, to the depravity of lust.56 This was what had happened when the Giants saw the beauties of the audience: “no beauty, which youre eyes / Have mark'd content in, but shall proove a prize,” crowed the lead Giant (lines 62-63).57 In yet another of the masque's structural parallelisms, the very beauties once threatened by the Giants in the antimasque become the means of the Giants' redemption in the masque. Those beauties are asked to gaze on the masquers calmly, and with desire or, in other words, with love. In neoplatonic terms, this is a natural process: beauty inspires the desire that is love.58 The once monstrous Giants, now possessed of a divine soul (the Promethean fire), have become virtuous and therefore beautiful. Love is aroused by the spectators' apprehension of that beauty.59 Their love is then expressed, still through the medium of sight, to the beloved.

But why is this necessary to Prometheus's project? Prometheus is concerned lest the heavenly fire be extinguished. He has good reason for concern. The celestial fire has been dragged down to earth from its proper sphere, and is to be merged not even with a beast—as in a regular human birth—but with its opposite—with cold, heavy, and inert stone.60 There is a real danger that the stone might prove too recalcitrant for the fire, expunging it. Here the spectators assist, not merely by fanning it with their breath but, more importantly, by stimulating through their gaze a motion to love and therefore heat on the part of the masquers.61 This is a vital contribution to the animation because Prometheus's quest to vivify the stones through the celestial fire of the soul is nothing more than the stimulation in them of this same motion toward the good, the divine.62 The spectators therefore bring the masque to fruition by following their own natures: by gazing lovingly, and with beauty, on the handsome young masquers who return their gaze.

The language of neoplatonic philosophy affords principles to account for this animation of the Giants; but when stones start to move, we know we are in the presence of magic. The only question is—magic of what kind? It has sometimes been suggested that the court entertainments of the Renaissance exhibited a species of astral magic described at length in the third book of Ficino's De Triplici Vita. In such magic, the operator harnessed favorable planetary influences through charms and talismans, gems and odors, through spells and musical incantations.63 Dame Frances Yates argued that the “Magnificences” staged in Paris in 1581 were in fact “a vast moving talisman, formed of figures in different colours moving amongst incantatory scenes designed to draw down favourable influences on the French monarchy.”64 She and her followers have advanced the same view of the English court masque; but it has not commanded universal assent.65 Stephen Orgel objects that contemporary commentators tended to account for masques in rational or scientific terms; he suggests that we read them as models or metaphors for the natural and supernatural forces they imitate.66The Essex House Masque does not provide evidence to settle this debate. We know too little about its performance—about the tone of its music, the shape of its dances, the color of its costumes—to be certain how far it might have been constructed as a talisman. But that some attempt—or at least an allusion to the attempt—to draw down astral forces takes place in the masque seems certain. Pallas concludes her speech by calling on the disordered stars to rearrange themselves in favorable aspects:

                              shine agen
Not cold; and carelessly; but so as when
You courted Nature in your youth; and gave
Thankfull aspects for those faire lookes you have.

(lines 119-22)

In his account of the ingredients of his heavenly fire, Prometheus refers to Venus in her benign aspect countering and attracting Mars: “The lusting lookes of Venus, by which shee / Intreated Mars first to Adultery” (lines 164-65). The reference to Mars seems slightly gratuitous until we contemplate the positions of the stars at the time of the masque and discover that Mars had just entered Scorpio, his mansion, and was thus set to exercise his most malign influence for the coming months.67 That this may be an actual appeal to Venus to offset that malignity by adopting a benign aspect on Mars is thus a tantalizing possibility—especially given the fact that Venus was, at the time of the masque, not in favorable aspect with Mars. Perhaps the employment of ambergris in the evening's entertainment should also be seen in this light, as a further attempt to offset the malignity of Mars through its solar and jovial resonances?68 Is it possible that the numerological structure of the masque also possesses a talismanic dimension? These are tantalizing prospects, but we lack sufficient evidence to explore them.

If a masque should be judged by the extent to which it unifies its disparate elements into a coherent fiction and breaks down the barrier between performers and spectators, integrating them into a single awe-inspiring action, The Essex House Masque must be allowed to stand high in the annals of achievement. Its spectacular effects—dancing trees, opening caves, masquers coming to life—may have been conventional, but rarely were they so admirably woven together into a single, coherent fable as here. It can stand alongside the unperformed Neptune's Triumph as a model for the genre.69 One might object that the moderateness of its movement—toward humanity, rather than divinity—deprives it of the overwhelming emotional power of the greatest court masques. Perhaps. One has to concede, however, that few works combine so delicately, with such narrative aptness, that extraordinary blend of light, music, poetry, and motion, which defines the Stuart court masque.



The Essex House Masque manages to weave together in a remarkably coherent fashion a number of different, even competing, policy imperatives. It hints at both the desirability of a French marriage alliance and the possibility of English military intervention in defense of European Protestantism. It does so without explicitly undermining either James's pacifism, Louis's desire to suppress the Huguenots, or Spanish priority in the marriage stakes. This does not, however, mean it can be regarded as a diplomatic success. In the short term it may have had some effect in persuading Cadenet that he should urge his monarch to reach a peaceful settlement with the Huguenots; but Cadenet had barely left England with this policy in mind before a rapidly dispatched French mission to Madrid pulled off a settlement of the Valteline conflict, leaving Louis free to turn on the Huguenots.70 As Edward Herbert, the English ambassador in Paris, noted in a letter to Buckingham of 15 February 1621, the question was no longer “whether a warre shall be made, but where, when, and how.”71

From the king's point of view the more important auditors were not the French but the Spanish. The masque needed to persuade them of his resolve with regard to the Palatinate and of the seriousness of his interest in the French proposal. While one or two minor intelligencers may have been thrown into a momentary flutter by the English reception of the embassy and the Spanish ambassador himself “not a litle injealoused” at Cadenet's reception, the wily Gondomar was not fooled for long. He soon reasserted his authority by forcing the king to reprimand or dismiss various loyal servants whom he deemed too sympathetic to French interests: Doncaster was scolded, and Sir Robert Naunton was accused of raising the specter of a French marriage and was hurriedly dismissed—despite the fact that he had been operating under the king's instructions.72 Perhaps the most incisive contemporary comment on the evening was that of Girolamo Lando, the Venetian ambassador. Having noted the enormous expense of the entertainment, Lando concluded that, “whereas the French ambassador has enjoyed these airy demonstrations, the Spaniard has what is more solid and important, being more influential then ever over his Majesty or over those who guide him, making use for his own advantage of festivities, masques and all distractions from business.”73 The French themselves soon realized the true state of affairs. Ambassador Tillières noted in his Mémoires that the English plan had all along been “de contenter l'Espagne en choses solides, voulait satisfaire notre légereté avec des apparences sans fruit.”74

Just as the masque achieved little or nothing for the king, so it was an expensive diplomatic disaster for Doncaster: it achieved none of his goals, and only served to confirm his already unrivaled position as a host of entertainments of unparalleled extravagance. Indeed, the evening's entertainment was regarded as so stunning that it became, for a time, the standard by which such receptions were judged.75 As soon as the embassy departed, the king reverted to his pro-Spanish policy, and no serious intervention on behalf of the Palatinate was forthcoming. Prophetic hopes of the Parliament of 1621 were not realized. It did not, like the reformed antimasquers, keep “within the compass of dutifull subjects,” and the king quickly tired of its intrusive, demanding, and uncooperative spirit, and dissolved it within the year.76 Even the noble academy, despite being an idea that genuinely appealed to James, was never formally instituted.77 One might, of course, feel that Doncaster had the last laugh; for a French marriage was eventually arranged, and Doncaster was instrumental in negotiating it; but that was years later, and under dramatically changed circumstances—circumstances that Doncaster and his masque had no effect in bringing about. Perhaps the most appropriate judgment on the success of the masque is to note the fact that Doncaster seems never to have sponsored another one.

Finally, the literary politics in which the masque was engaged had their influence, which we may trace in Ben Jonson's royal entertainment of the following summer, The Gypsies Metamorphosed. One of the obstacles to our understanding of that entertainment is the lack of any clear sense of why the gypsies change. Not only does the metamorphosis fail to grow naturally and inevitably out of the action of the masque, but Jonson is at pains to point up its arbitrariness and inexplicability. In an epilogue added to the printed text he drew attention to the problem, suggesting that his own inadequacies were to blame:

You have beheld (and with delight) theire change,
And how they came transformed may thinck it strange,
It being a thing not touched at by our Poet;
Good Ben slept there, or else forgot
to showe it.(78)

Critics have been understandably reluctant to take such a statement at face value, not least because in this work above all others the poet seems so supremely in command of his material, so keenly aware of what he is about.79 If we pause to reconsider the problem in the light of both The Essex House Masque and the recently discovered masque text emanating from the Buckingham circle in this period, two things become clear. First, there was at this time an outburst of privately sponsored masquing among leading courtiers (probably as a result of the king's financial difficulties)—an outburst that threatened, or appeared to threaten, Jonson's preeminence as a deviser of court masques. Jonson was scoffed at in the anonymous masque uncovered by James Knowles, and sniped at in The Essex House Masque. Second, these new masques were obsessed with the idea of metamorphosis: the text discovered by Knowles turns upon a metamorphosis of spirits into courtiers, and The Essex House Masque features no less than two transformations. We know that when Jonson felt threatened by rival writers or unwelcome developments in masquing he habitually incorporated critiques or parodies of them into his masques. We think of Vangoose and his ludicrous antimasques in The Masque of Augurs; of Jonson's mockery of Jones in Love's Welcome at Bolsover; of his parody of Campion in The Irish Masque at Court; or, indeed, of his response to Robert White's Cupid's Banishment in Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue.80 In the light of this practice, it seems reasonable to suggest that the arbitrary metamorphosis of the gypsies and Jonson's comic self-deprecation about it should be interpreted as a parody of current masque fashions. The Gypsies Metamorphosed was Jonson's attempt to brush aside his rivals and reassert his own preeminence in the masque. While he may, in the short term, have lost the commissions for Buckingham's extravaganzas of 1623 and 1624 to John Maynard, if we contemplate the erasure of his rivals from the received history of the masque, and the oblivion from which The Essex House Masque has only now emerged, we must conclude that, in the long run, he did rather a good job.81


  1. Glynne Wickham, Early English Stages 1300-1660, Vol. 2: 1576-1660 (London: RKP, 1963), 199-200.

  2. Kingsford, “Essex House,” 21-30. The other possible locations—the Great Chamber over the Hall in the southern extension of the house and the two-storeyed Banqueting House in the southeastern corner of the garden—are less probable, for Chamberlain employs the term “gallerie” to describe the room. The Banqueting House would in any case have been too small to accommodate the kind of table arrangement described by Chamberlain: in a 1590 inventory it is described as containing only a single round table; Kingsford, “Essex House,” 23, 51. A gallery had likewise been the setting for the 1607 entertainment of the king and queen at Theobalds; Ben Jonson, 7:154.

  3. Allardyce Nicoll, Stuart Masques and the Renaissance Stage (London: Harrap, 1938), 33-37; Bentley, Jacobean and Caroline Stage, 6:263-64; Glynne Wickham, Early English Stages 1300-1600, Vol. 2.2: 1576-1660 (London: RKP, 1972), 155.

  4. A prose argument was issued to accompany The Masque of Queens (Ben Jonson, 7:318-19); and the distribution of an argument and its reading by the poet were built into the action of the unperformed Neptune's Triumph; Ben Jonson, 7:682, 685, 686 (lines 7-8, 125-26, 130-57). Thomas Carew issued a “Designe” to accompany the performance of Coelum Britannicum; The Poems of Thomas Carew with his Masque Coelum Britannicum, ed. Rhodes Dunlap (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949), 274-75, and Hieronimo presented the more important visitors with an argument of his play in The Spanish Tragedy; Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, ed. Philip Edwards (London: Methuen, 1959), 110 (4.3.5-6). Such texts are discussed by Martin Butler in “Politics and the Masque: Salmacida Spolia,” in Thomas Healy and Jonathan Sawday, eds. Literature and the English Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 59-74 (74, note 35).

  5. Middleton and Rowley, A Courtly Masque, lines 252-53.

  6. Spencer and Wells, gen. eds., A Book of Masques, 267 (lines 323-24).

  7. Cf. Claudian, Gigantomachia, lines 29-32; Essex House Masque, lines 77-81. For further details of parallels and similarities, see the Explanatory Notes to the text of the masque.

  8. Aneau's volume was known in England: Jonson imitated a poem from it in The Forest; Ben Jonson, 11:38.

  9. Ben Jonson, 10:558 (note on lines 23-24). A burlesque version of the story formed the subject of a college play of the period—Gigantomachia, or Worke for Jupiter; Malone Society, “Jacobean Academic Plays,” Collections 14 (1988): 98-112. In France, an Intramède du Combat des Dieux et des Géants, featuring Jupiter, Pallas, and Mercury, had been presented as an interlude to Nicholas Montreiul's L'Arimene (1596); Henri Prunières, Le Ballet de Cour en France avant Benserade et Lully (1914; reprint, New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970), 147.

  10. Christopher White, Anthony Van Dyck: Thomas Howard The Earl of Arundel (Malibu, Calif.: Getty Museum, 1995), 58-59.

  11. It was identified by John Harris, “The Link between a Roman second-century sculptor, Van Dyck, Inigo Jones and Queen Henrietta Maria,” Burlington Magazine 115 (1973): 526-30.

  12. Harris concluded that the frieze must have belonged to Buckingham at the time of the portrait. Graham Parry and David Howarth objected that since Buckingham was not interested in collecting antique sculpture in 1620 the frieze must have been owned by Arundel, and that the painting must therefore have been commissioned by him for Buckingham, probably as a wedding gift; Parry, The Golden Age Restor'd, 139; Howarth, Lord Arundel and his Circle, 156-57; Ron Harvie, who presumes that the frieze was in Buckingham's collection at the time, speculates that the painting may have been a present from King James; “A Present from ‘Dear Dad’?: Van Dyck's The Continence of Scipio,Apollo 138 (1993): 224-26; and Christopher White suggests that the incorporation of his own frieze in a painting destined for a rival collector would have been unthinkably tactless on Arundel's part: he concludes that the frieze must therefore have been Buckingham's at the time, moving to Arundel House after his assassination in 1628, and that the painting was commissioned by Buckingham himself; Anthony Van Dyck: Thomas Howard The Earl of Arundel, 59-62.

  13. Howarth, Lord Arundel and his Circle, 197.

  14. See, for example, James's dedicatory sonnet to The Essayes of a Prentise, in the Divine Art of Poesie (1584), in The Poems of James VI. of Scotland, ed. James Craigie, 2 vols., Scottish Text Society, 3d series, 22 and 26 (Edinburgh, 1955 and 1958), 1:3; Francis Bacon's letter to James of 1611; The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, 14 vols. (London, 1857-74), 11:242; and the ceiling of the Whitehall Banqueting House, discussed by D. J. Gordon, “Rubens and the Whitehall Ceiling,” in The Renaissance Imagination, ed. Stephen Orgel (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1975), 24-50, and Parry, The Golden Age Restor'd, 32-37.

  15. Harvie, “A Present from ‘Dear Dad’?”; David Kunzle, “Van Dyck's Continence of Scipio as a Metaphor of Statecraft at the Early Stuart Court,” in John Onians, ed., Sight and Insight: Essays on Art and Culture in Honour of E. H. Gombrich at 85 (London: Phaidon, 1994), 168-89 (173).

  16. Kunzle, “Van Dyck's Continence of Scipio,” 176; Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum (London, 1609), chapter 7.

  17. Quoted in Harris, “The Link between a Roman second-century sculptor,” 529. See also the parallel note in Jones's copy of Palladio's I Quattro Libri (1601); Inigo Jones on Palladio, ed. Bruce Allsopp, 2 vols. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Oriel Press, 1970), 2:42. This note postdates the masque: it follows an entry of 23 July 1633.

  18. D. E. L. Haynes, The Arundel Marbles (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1975), 38-39; plates 14a-b; Haynes, “The Fawley Court Relief,” Apollo 96 (1972): 6-10.

  19. Haynes, The Arundel Marbles, 6; Adolf Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, trans. C. A. M. Fennell (Cambridge, 1882), 192, 196. The fragment, in fact, appears to come from another source in Asia Minor; Haynes, The Arundel Marbles, 20; plate 9.

  20. Quoted from Knowles, “The ‘Running Masque’ Recovered?”

  21. This illustration was reproduced in several Italian editions of the Metamorphoses; see Olga Raggio, “The Myth of Prometheus: Its Survival and Metamorphoses up to the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 21 (1958): 44-62, plate 8f; Georges Duplessis, Essai Bibliographice sur les Différentes Éditions des Œuvres d'Ovid Ornées de Planches Publiées aux XVe et XVIe Siècles (Paris, 1889), 17, 23-24; numbers 17, 59, 62.

  22. Works of Campion, 255. See also the animation of statues in Francis Beaumont's Masque of the Inner Temple (1613).

  23. Prunières, Le Ballet de Cour, 149; Lacroix, ed., Ballets et Mascarades, 2:3-4.

  24. On the development of the myth and its various versions, see Raggio, “The Myth of Prometheus”; Raymond Trousson, Le Thème de Prométheé dans la Littérature Européenne, 2 vols. (Geneva: Droz, 1964), 1:85-141; Carl Kerényi, Prometheus: Archetypal Image of Human Existence, trans. Ralph Manheim (1963; Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1997).

  25. Works of Campion, 252.

  26. Natalis Comitis Mythologiæ sive Explicationum Fabularum Libri X (Venice, 1581), 6.20. Thanks to Jackson Bryce for making sense of my attempt to translate this passage.

  27. George Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz'd, and Represented in Figures, ed. Karl K. Hulley and Stanley T. Vandersall (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1970), 62.

  28. S. K. Heninger, Jr., A Handbook of Renaissance Meteorology (Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 1960), 37-46.

  29. Heninger, Handbook, 45-46, 73-74, 96-97.

  30. Plato, Timaeus, 41c-e; cf. Marsilio Ficino, De Amore, 4.4.

  31. J. C. Eade, The Forgotten Sky: A Guide to Astrology in English Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 66; Marsilio Ficino, De Amore, 5.8; Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and trans. Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark (Binghamton, N. Y.: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1989), 270-71, 292-93 (3.6, 11); George Chapman, Andromeda Liberata, lines 298-344; The Poems of George Chapman, ed. Phyllis Brooks Bartlett (New York: MLA; London: Oxford UP, 1941), 316-17; Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, rev. ed. (New York and London: Norton, 1968), 85-96; Raymond B. Waddington, The Mind's Empire: Myth and Form in George Chapman's Narrative Poems (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 201-03.

  32. Leone Ebreo, The Philosophy of Love (Dialoghi d'Amore), trans. F. Friedberg-Seeley and Jean H. Barnes (London: Soncino, 1937), 170, 175-76.

  33. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1.23-31; Ovid, Metamorphoses, 10.86-144.

  34. Eyewitness accounts of the masque note that it opened with a dance of animals orchestrated by Orpheus and featuring a camel, a bear, and a hound; Andrew J. Sabol, ed., A Score for The Lords' Masque by Thomas Campion (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1993), 24-25, 326-27.

  35. Natalis Comitis Mythologiæ, 6.20; Bernardus Silvestris, Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil's Aeneid, trans. and ed. Earl G. Schreiber and Thomas E. Maresca (Lincoln, Nebr., and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 76-77. On the common conflation of the Titans and the Giants, see DeWitt T. Starnes and Ernest William Talbert, Classical Myth and Legend in Renaissance Dictionaries: A Study of Renaissance Dictionaries in their Relation to the Classical Learning of Contemporary English Writers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1955), 154-58.

  36. Natalis Comitis Mythologiæ, 4.5.

  37. Omnia Andreæ Alciati V. C. Emblemata (Antwerp, 1573), 93-95; number 22.

  38. Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis Englished, 250.

  39. See Raggio, “The Myth of Prometheus”; Trousson, Le Thème de Prométheé, 1:85-141; Boccaccio on Poetry, trans. Charles G. Osgood (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1930), xxiv-xxv; Natalis Comitis Mythologiæ, 4.6; Francis Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum, chapter 26; Charles W. Lemmi, The Classic Deities in Bacon: A Study in Mythological Symbolism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1933), 128-40; Starnes and Talbert, Classical Myth and Legend, 154-58.

  40. Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis Englished, 58.

  41. Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis Englished, 61.

  42. This political interpretation may be paralleled in other writings of the period: cf. George Chapman, The Tragedy of Charles Duke of Byron, 5.3.42-50, ed. John B. Gabel, in The Plays of George Chapman. The Tragedies with Sir Gyles Goosecappe: A Critical Edition, gen. ed. Allan Holaday (Cambridge: Brewer, 1987); Heninger, Handbook, 184-85.

  43. On the intellectual background of this celebration of the inseparability of motion, dance, music, and love, see Gretchen Ludke Finney, Musical Backgrounds for English Literature: 1580-1650 (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, [1962]), 1-139.

  44. Andrew J. Sabol, ed., Four Hundred Songs and Dances from the Stuart Masque (Providence, R. I.: Brown University Press, 1978), 9-12.

  45. Jean Beaulieu to William Trumbull, 11/21 January 1620/21; BL, Trumbull Correspondence, ms vii, number 2.

  46. On the distinction between ante- and anti-masque, see Welsford, The Court Masque, 184, 190-91.

  47. Orgel, The Jonsonian Masque, 86.

  48. Jennifer Stead, “Bowers of Bliss: The Banquet Setting,” in C. Anne Wilson, ed., “Banquetting Stuffe”: The Fare and Social Background of the Tudor and Stuart Banquet (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 115-57 (148); Ben Jonson, 7:698 (Neptune's Triumph, lines 494-95).

  49. S. K. Heninger, Jr., Touches of Sweet Harmony: Pythagorean Cosmology and Renaissance Poetics (San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1974), 150-51.

  50. Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, 2.9.22; Alastair Fowler, Spenser and the Numbers of Time (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1964), 55-56, 273-74; Works of Campion, 213, note 13.

  51. Butler, “Jonson's News from the New World,” 164-65; Ben Jonson, 2:314; Ben Jonson, Complete Masques, 5.

  52. Ben Jonson, 7:423.

  53. Jonson, Complete Masques, 26.

  54. Lacroix, ed., Ballets et Mascarades, 3:47.

  55. See also Jonson's News from the New World (1620), lines 320-62, in which the monarch is figured as the source of light and motion (Ben Jonson, 7:523-24); Vaughan Hart, Art and Magic in the Court of the Stuarts (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 155-59; Meagher, Method and Meaning in Jonson's Masques, chapter 5 (107-24); cf. the manner in which the royal gaze reanimates 12 knights turned into statues by the enchantress Alcina in the Ballet de Monseigneur le duc de Vendome (1610); Lacroix, ed., Ballets et Mascarades, 1:204, 261. The traditional assumption that the king's politics were absolutist has been challenged by Glenn Burgess, Absolute Monarchy and the Stuart Constitution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), 40-43. But see also J. P. Sommerville, “James I and the divine right of kings: English politics and continental theory,” and Paul Christianson, “Royal and parliamentary voices on the ancient constitution, c. 1604-1621,” in Linda Levy Peck, ed., The Mental World of the Jacobean Court (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 55-70, 71-95.

  56. Ficino, De Amore, 1.4.

  57. The gustatory and tactile imagery that laces his speech registers his sensual depravity: see, for example, “Make temperance drunke,” “Binde truth apprentise” (lines 71-72).

  58. De Amore, 1.4.

  59. Ficino, De Amore, 6.6, 7.10; Michael J. B. Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of His Phaedrus Commentary, Its Sources and Genesis (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1984), 56-57, 191.

  60. On the difficulty of the soul's descent, see Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, 165-84.

  61. Plato, Phaedrus, 255c; Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer, ed. and trans. Michael J. B. Allen (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1981), 188; Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, 195.

  62. Plato, Phaedrus, 245c-246a; Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer, 86-97.

  63. D. P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella (London: Warburg Institute, 1958), 3-24; Ficino, Three Books on Life.

  64. Frances A. Yates, Astraea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century (London and New York: RKP, 1975), 159-62.

  65. Yates advanced this view of the Stuart masque in Theatre of the World (London and New York: RKP, 1969), 86; Douglas Brooks-Davies elaborated on it in The Mercurian Monarch: Magical Politics from Spenser to Pope (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983), chapter 2 (85-123); and Vaughan Hart reiterated it almost verbatim in Art and Magic in the Court of the Stuarts, 187 (cf. 17, 20).

  66. The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1975), 55-58; cf. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 120.

  67. William D. Stahlman and Owen Gingerich, Solar and Planetary Longitudes for Years-2500 to +2000 by 10-Day Intervals (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1963), 504; Eade, The Forgotten Sky, 61.

  68. Ficino, Three Books on Life, 248 (3.1), 296 (3.11).

  69. Orgel, The Jonsonian Masque, 99.

  70. Carter, Secret Diplomacy, 211-12. Cadenet was clearly impressed by his reception in England; PRO, SP 78/69, fols. 4r, 37r; SP 84/99, fol. 95r.

  71. British Library, Harleian ms 1581, fol. 17v. See also Chamberlain, 2:339.

  72. Schreiber, 35-36; Schreiber, The Political Career of Sir Robert Naunton, 68-84; Butler, “Ben Jonson's Pan's Anniversary,” 389, note 38; PRO, SP 84/99, fol. 4r; BL, Trumbull Correspondence, ms vii, number 2.

  73. CSPVen. 1619-1621, 533-34.

  74. Mémoires Inédits du Comte Leveneur de Tillières, 31; quoted in Canova-Green, 43.

  75. Chamberlain, 2:432.

  76. Zaller, The Parliament of 1621, 37, et passim; Conrad Russell, Parliaments and English Politics 1621-1629 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 85-144; Adams, “Foreign Policy and the Parliaments of 1621 and 1624,” 159-64.

  77. The scheme did not die completely, however: a similar academy, the Musaeum Minervae, was established by Sir Francis Kynaston in 1635; G. H. Turnbull, “Samuel Hartlib's Connection with Sir Francis Kynaston's ‘Musaeum Minervae,’” Notes & Queries 197 (1952): 33-37.

  78. Ben Jonson, 7:615 (lines 1475-78).

  79. Ben Jonson, 2:315; Dale J. B. Randall, Jonson's Gypsies Unmasked: Background and Theme of The Gypsies Metamorphos'd (Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 1975), 143-52.

  80. On the response to Campion, see David Lindley, “Embarrassing Ben: The Masques for Francis Howard,” English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 343-59; on that to White, see Robert C. Evans, Jonson and the Contexts of His Time (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1994), 95-115.

  81. McGee and Meagher, “Preliminary Checklist,” 115, 121. See also Knowles, “Change Partners and Dance”; John Orrell, “Buckingham's Patronage of the Dramatic Arts: The Crowe Accounts,” Records of the Early English Drama Newsletter 2 (1980): 8-17.

Note on Dates, Transcriptions, and Abbreviations

In the body of the text all dates are given in Old Style, but the year is taken to begin on 1 January. In the notes, in references to documents where confusion might exist (letters sent from the continent and dated both Old and New Style, or documents dated between 1 January and 25 March), both forms are given.

Except where indicated, the following conventions apply to my handling of quotations from seventeenth century texts: the interchangeable letters i/j and u/v are regularized according to modern usage; long and short “s” are not distinguished; brevigraphs and conventional contractions are silently expanded; other abbreviations are expanded in square brackets. Titles of masques by Jonson and Campion are presented in their familiar, modernized forms.

The following abbreviations are employed throughout the work:

BL: British Library

Canova-Green: Marie-Claude Canova-Green. La politique-spectacle au grand siècle: les rapports franco-anglais. Paris, Seattle, and Tübingen: Biblio 17, 1993.

Chamberlain: The Letters of John Chamberlain. Ed. Norman Egbert McClure. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 12. 2 vols. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1939.

CSPVen.: Calendar of State Papers, Venetian Series

Ben Jonson: Ben Jonson. Ed. C. H. Herford, Percy and Evelyn Simpson. 11 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925–52.

Orgel and Strong: Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong. Inigo Jones: The Theatre of the Stuart Court. 2 vols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press; London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1973.

PRO: Public Record Office

Works Cited

British Library. Harleian ms 1581, fol. 17. Edward Herbert to George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham, 15 February 1621.

———. (Uncatalogued). Trumbull Correspondence.

Public Record Office, London. SP 78/69. State Papers, Jacobean.

———. SP 84/99. State Papers, Jacobean.

Adams, Simon. “Foreign Policy and the Parliaments of 1621 and 1624.” In Kevin Sharpe, ed., Faction and Parliament: Essays on Early Stuart History, 139-71. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978. Reprint, London and New York: Methuen, 1985.

Alciati, Andrea. Omnia Andreæ Alciati V. C. Emblemata. Antwerp, 1573.

Allen, Michael J. B. The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of His Phaedrus Commentary, Its Sources and Genesis. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1984.

Aneau, Barthelemy. Picta Poesis. Lyons, 1552.

Bacon, Francis. De Sapientia Veterum. London, 1609.

———. The Works of Francis Bacon. Ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath. 14 vols. London, 1857-74.

Bentley, Gerald Eades. The Jacobean and Caroline Stage. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941-68.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Boccaccio on Poetry. Trans. Charles G. Osgood. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1930.

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Criticism: Development Of The Masque


Criticism: Race And Gender In The Masque