|Example of costume designs from a masque.|
Early in his reign, the playful King would participate in smaller masques, such as the time he and a few of his groomsmen "surprised" Queen Katherine of Aragon, dressed as Robin Hood and his band of merry men, inviting the Queen and her ladies to dance. Of course, as any good wife, Katherine was pleasantly shocked to find that the man she had been dancing with was her husband once his mask was removed.
Though these small masques offered quick diversions from the humdrum of court life, most masques were turned into large, and expensive, productions.
|Sketch of a masque performance.|
Below is a clip of this masque from The Tudors:
By Elizabeth I's reign, the masque often emphasized Elizabeth's relationship with her people. One such masque was performed over the course of two weeks for the Queen! A small masque even appears in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Masques continued on through the Stuart era, performed even through the reign of Charles II. However, the tradition eventually died out and are rarely written or performed today. Probably the closest thing we would have to a masque in our time would be a ballet.