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Influence of the Court-Masques on the Drama, 1608-15

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2020


During the reign of James I., court-masques attained a great importance both as splendid spectacles and in the literature of the time. They were very numerous, were produced at great expense, and engaged the services of the best poets of the day. Usually performed at a marriage, or on some festival like those of the Christmas season, they consisted primarily of two parts, (1) the dramatic dialogue usually setting forth some allegorical or mythological device which formed the basis of an impressive spectacle, and (2) the dances interspersed with songs and accompanied by music. These dances were performed by ladies and gallants of the highest court circles, the queen often participating. In addition to these elements, about the year 1608 a third appeared, the anti-masque, consisting of grotesque dances by ‘antick’ personages. These comic anti-masques at once became exceedingly popular and played no small part in the entertainments. The antic dancers were almost always actors from the public theatres.

Research Article
PMLA , Volume 15 , Issue 1 , 1900 , pp. 114 - 120
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1900

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Note 1 in page 114 For proof of the statements in this paragraph, see Die Englischen Maskenspiele. Alfred Soergel. Halle, 1882.

Note 2 in page 114 See The Two Noble Kinsmen, ed. Harold Littledale, New Shakspere Society. Series II, 7, 8, 15, 1876-85. Mr. Littledale was unacquainted with Dr. Soergel's investigation and gave this borrowing less prominence than it deserves in fixing the date.

Note 1 in page 116 See “Address to the reader,” Alchemist, 4to, 1612.

Note 1 in page 120 Introduction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614.