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Chapter 12 - ‘Animated Porcelain of the Court’

Stuart Masquers as Magical Automata

from Part III - Reassessing the Stuart Masque

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2019

Sophie Chiari
Affiliation:
Clermont Auvergne University, France
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Summary

This chapter contends that the Stuart court masque provided a scenic environment that was conducive to the display of the supernatural, the most famous example being the antimasque of witches in The Masque of Queens. Zukowska aims to prove that the masque’s basic magical prop, which served to bridge the gap between the metaphysical (the gods and abstractions revealed on stage) and the real (the king and courtiers watching the entertainment), was the masquer. Silent, passive, and styled to look like statues, masquers could only be activated by the king. The Stuart monarch would thus assume the role of a magician infusing life and motion into the inanimate, which was all the more miraculous as he did not even enter the stage. This chapter proposes the reading of the masquer as a mystical automaton, where the performing aristocrat is not only affected by magic but also acts as a tool of spreading it further to the entire court so as to deify it. Particular attention is paid to Campion’s The Lord Hay’s Masque, with its magic wand, charmed grove of dancing tress, and the overwhelming presence of musical magic, as well as Jonson’s magical globes with animated figures.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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