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I OF "MASKS."
Their Long Tradition.
The Mask at the Women's College, per- formed yesterday and to be repeated to-day, happily revives for us a form of entertain- ment that we might well enjoy more often. How many of us realise ' that at one time it bid fair to out-rival the regular drama in England? Yet it is not surprising when re- consider the rich strands of which it was composed, and into what a glowing fabric it could be woven. Mumming, dance, proces- sional pageantry, and song had been practised in England for centuries; but the Mask proper, in which they were blended with allegory and symbolic representation, was of Italian growth. Introduced, it is said, early in Henry VIII's reign, the mask (or masque) had great vogue as a sumptuous entertainment before monarchs and on all ceremonial occasions. It flourished under the succeeding Tudors, but reached Its culmination in the reigns of the first two Stuart kings. The last masque of the Court was held in 1640.
After that, the masque ceased to be a con- stant entertainment. No doubt it was affected by the fortunes of the royal party, or else
MISS BARBARA SMITH,
appearing as the Sibyl in the Women's
the continued lavishness of production made the expense prohibitive. Perhaps the most cogent reason for its decline was that it had come to depend too much upon purely mechani- cal contrivances and ingenious novelties, and that behind thc gorgeous spectacle poetic In- vention, in which English masques had been supreme, was now lacking. In its period of greatness, the mask had been served by Chapman, Ben Jonson, Fletcher, and Davenant. Shakespeare had introduced it into his plays, and Milton had provided the Incomparable example of the pastoral mask in "Comus." No reference to the mask at its zenith in England would be complete without mention of the architect, Inigo Jones, who was responsible for the scenery and costuming of the most celebrated productions. He was to the mask at this time what Bäks' was in our time to the Russian Ballet.
A "SOCIETY" AFFAIR.
The masque all through its development in England preserved lt ; aristocratic complexion. This was due in part to its expensiveness, compared with the extreme simplicity of mounting used for stage plays, and partly to the fact that so often lt was a Court produc- tion, in which noble and even royal actors took the boards. There was limited scope for individual acting, but the persons of the mask required to move with grace and dignity. The circumstances were ideal for the wealthy, noble amateur. Anne of Denmark, queen of James I., was a notable performer; so was Queen Henrietta Marla. Masks were also performed nt the several Inns of Court and at the Universities, in honour of royal visits and other special occasions. Here the present performance at the Women's College links felicitously with tradition.
In the earlier days of the mask, expendi- ture upon performances had been consider- able, but not perhaps excessive. The fur- nishings were sumptuous. We can gain much curious information from the records of the Office of the Revels, which kept strict ac- counts, and from the inventory compiled in 1560 of stuffs in store. We find that "all the blewe and purple clothe of gold" of the "Masque of Mariners" (performed In 1554) was "translated into VI. hungarians garments with long sieves" for the "Masque of Hun- garians" a few years later. Then, a certain amount of "greene clothe of silver," used originally in a "Masjue of Fishermen," was cut in pieces and made over again for a "Maske of Turkes;" and later for another "Maske of Marryners." But Elizabeth practised economy to a point. When we come to Jonson's "Masque of Blackness," we find that the pro- duction cost £3000, and that the "Triumph of Peace," put on by the Inns of Court, is supposed to have cost £20,000. And money in those days was worth, according to some authorities, at least eight times as much as to-day. However, this swollen magnificence, which undoubtedly contributed to the masque's decline, ls not essential to the masque form, as we can prove for ourselves. A revival of this style of entertainment for splendid, official occasions would be a happy idea.