The Masque Criticism: Sources And Structure - Essay

Judith Dundas (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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...

(The entire section is 5040 words.)

Eugene M. Waith (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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...

(The entire section is 7725 words.)

Judith Dundas (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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...

(The entire section is 7139 words.)

Barbara D. Palmer (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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...

(The entire section is 7879 words.)

Peter G. Platt (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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...

(The entire section is 11845 words.)

Timothy Raylor (essay date 2000)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

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 entire section is 12965 words.)