masque

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masque (or mask or maske). An aristocratic ceremonial entertainment in the 17th cent., consisting of a combination of poetry, vocal and instr. mus., dancing, acting, costume, pageantry, and scenic decoration, applied to the representation of allegorical and mythological subjects. It was much cultivated in It., from which country Eng. seems to have learnt it, then carrying it to a very high pitch of artistic elaboration. It developed from the intermedii and from mystery plays. In Elizabethan times, among the authors employed was Ben Jonson, a supreme master of the Eng. masque; he sometimes enjoyed the collab. of Inigo Jones as designer of the decorations and machinery. Among composers of masque mus. were Campion, Coprario, Lanier, and the younger Ferrabosco. From a literary point of view the most famous masque is Milton's Comus (1634); for this the mus. was supplied by Henry Lawes, but the finest masques of this period had music by his brother William. Masques continued under the Puritan régime of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, some being arr., by authority, for entertainment of distinguished foreign visitors. After the Restoration, masque episodes were popular in plays, and music for them was composed by John Blow, Pelham Humfrey, Louis Grabu, and Henry Purcell. A late example is Arne's Alfred (1740), written for perf. in the Prince of Wales's garden: from it comes the song Rule, Britannia!

In the 20th cent. Vaughan Williams described his ballet Job as a ‘masque for dancing’, to indicate that 19th-cent. type of choreog. would not be appropriate. Lambert's Summer's Last Will and Testament is described as a masque.

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masque / mask/ • n. 1. a form of amateur dramatic entertainment, popular among the nobility in 16th- and 17th-century England, which consisted of dancing and acting performed by masked players. ∎  a masked ball. 2. variant spelling of mask (sense 1). DERIVATIVES: mas·quer / ˈmaskər/ n.

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masque Dramatic presentation that originated in Italy but became popular in the English court and the great houses of the nobility during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The masque consisted of verse, comedy and, as an essential feature, a dance for a group of masked revellers. The earliest masque text is Proteus and the Adamantine Rock, performed at Gray's Inn in 1594 in honour of Queen Elizabeth I.

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masque masked ball; histrionic entertainment consisting of dancing and dumb show XVI; dramatic composition for an entertainment of this kind XVII. var. of MASK, the F. sp. being now restricted to these senses.

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masque a form of amateur dramatic entertainment, popular among the nobility in 16th- and 17th-century England, which consisted of dancing and acting performed by masked players, originally in dumbshow and later with metrical dialogue.

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