The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment that flourished in 16th- and early 17th-century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio (a public version of the masque was the pageant). A masque involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design, in which the architectural framing and costumes might be designed by a renowned architect, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. Professional actors and musicians were hired for the speaking and singing parts. Often, the masquers who did not speak or sing were courtiers: King James I’s queen consort, Anne of Denmark, frequently danced with her ladies in masques between 1603 and 1611, and Henry VIII and Charles I performed in the masques at their courts. In the tradition of masque, Louis XIV danced in ballets at Versailles with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Elizabethan Era Very worthwhile web page with information on various aspects of the Elizabethan Masque, from staging and costumes to composers and women actors.
Florimène Project Brief discussion of Masque with an interesting floorplan of a typical medieval English Masque.
Internet Shakespeare Editions Brief overview of early Masques for the Elizabethan and Stuart theatre.
Luminarium Editions Full text of Thomas Campion’s Lord’s Masque (1613).
Theatre Database Very good article on Court comedies and Masques during the Elizabethan era.
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