|The English Court Masque|
|Introduction to the Masque
Medieval Staging:The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses
ACT I: The Auditorium
ACT II: The Stage
|The Florimène Source Materials
Original Drawings and Reconstructions
How the Reconstructed Drawings were Developed
|Selected Bibliography of the Masque|
A study of the penultimate masque at the court of England's Charles I in 1635, the Florimène Project, begun in 1988, was an early experiment in what would eventually
become hypertext. Created in IBM's Storyboard Plus , the document branched extensively, and was therefore hierarchical rather than truly hypertextual.
The branching nature of the 1988 project may be seen in the flow chart . The project was designed to be explored through a tutorial for students needing structure and direction, or through a menu which
points to various aspects of the production and enables students to explore the material
in a self-directed manner.
The challenge set for Betsy Byng, Chris Legrand and the other undergraduates who assisted in the development of the Florimène Project was to a create a computer managed document which would make the complex drawings which survive from the production more readily accessible and comprehensible to students of theatre history.
Throughout history, people have used entertainment to while away the tedium of everyday life. During the Classical period in Greece and Rome, for example, entertainments included
singing, dancing and theatrical performances, as well as athletic events, chariot racing and numerous other diversions.
Today we speak of "going to the theatre," or of "going to see a football game." We mean that we are off to watch someone else perform, that we will participate only as observers. During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, however, entertainment often demanded a more universal involvement, calling for the participation of townspeople and courtiers as well as professional actors, dancers and singers.
People might spend weeks or months rehearsing to prepare for and present a play, a musical entertainment or a sporting event. The rehearsal and preparation was considered as much a part of the entertainment as the performance itself.
James Goldman's The Lion in Winter presents a fictional view of Henry II of England and France early in the thirteenth century, making such merriment as part of the Christmas
Elaborate entertainments at the English court were especially popular under Henry VII (reigned 1485 - 1509) and Henry VIII (reigned 1509 - 1547.) Initially called disguisings, entertainments such as these would come to be called masques, after the Italian mascharata.
The court masque became a form in which great beauty and refinement occurred in poetic expression, as well as in the use of music and dance. Scenic and costume spectacle contributed to the splendor of the performances, with costumes often coming from the Royal wardrobe.
The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses
The last "medieval" masque: Maison and platea staging:
As late as 1604, when Samuel Daniel's The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses was presented before the Queen at Hampton Court, maison and platea staging, the staging of Medieval drama, was employed by the masquers.
In this arrangement, small free-standing scenic pieces, or perhaps merely a chair and table or banner, were located around the performance area.
"Now for the introducing this show: it was devised that the Night, represented in a black vesture set with stars, should arise from below and come towards the upper end of the hall to awaken her son Somnus, sleeping in his cave."
In describing what happens next, Samuel Daniel says:
"Iris (the messenger of June) descends from the top of a mountain raised at the lower end of the hall, and marching up to the Temple of Peace . . ."
Night arises from below (through a trap?), comes (crosses) towards the upper end of the hall to a cave in which her son is sleeping. And Iris descends from the top of a mountain located at the lower (opposite?) end of the hall, and marches up to (crosses up to) the Temple of Peace.
The implication of this is that that there were three set pieces -- a mountain, cave and Temple -- as well as a trap through which Night entered.
The plans for this production do not survive. Contemporary French and subsequent English practice suggest an arrangement similar to that in Figure 1, which has been modeled on Le Balet Comique de la Reine (Petit Bourbon, 1581) and on Inigo Jones' Florimène (Whitehall, 1635.)
In 1605 Inigo Jones introduced Italianate staging to the court in his production of Ben Jonson's The Masque of Blackness. On a proscenium stage
at one end of the hall, Jones erected a perspective setting
which made use of wings , borders and a front curtain, an arrangement current in Italy. Jones would continue to produce masques in this manner until the fall of the English monarchy in 1642.