Ben Jonson: The Masque of Blackness

(861 words)

The first true court masque was The Masque of Blackness which Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones presented on Twelfth Night in 1605 for James I. It was Queen Anne who introduced the masque to the Jacobean court. Elizabeth I is said to have sent one to Anne and James as a wedding gift, and it is known that Anne’s brother, the King of Denmark, had similar entertainments at his court. Jonson wrote that she asked him to write one in which she could appear as a black woman, “because it was her Majesty’s will to have them blackamoors at first”. At the time there was an interest in, and a curiosity about, Africa and about the North American Indians. They were considered romantically exotic, noble, yet savage and culturally inferior. …

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Lewcock, Dawn. "The Masque of Blackness". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 May 2007
[, accessed 01 October 2016.]

Related Groups

  1. English Renaissance Theatre - Jacobean