Mary Sullivan.

Court masques of James I: their influence on Shakespeare and the public theatres online

. (page 14 of 24)
Online LibraryMary SullivanCourt masques of James I: their influence on Shakespeare and the public theatres → online text (page 14 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


who permitted a production to be presented before the
King was not the only tribunal to which dramatic
efforts were subjected, for the royal family was not
slow in showing its pleasure or disfavour toward a
product while it was being presented or afterward.
A play or a masque that pleased was often produced
more tjian once; those that failed to give satisfaction
were so strongly censured after they were over, or were

* " Monsieur,

" Ce Ballet dont vous n'avez deja que trop oui parler; a ete ce
qui entierement occupe* 1e Bureau en cette Cour, & devant & depuis
mes precedentes." 29 Janvier, 1608, de la Boderie, Ambassades, iii, 42.

Cf. also Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xiii, letter of Foscarini,
2 September, 1613.

•See supra, 65-6. 'See supra. «See supra 121.



Digitized by



Google



160 Court Masques of James I

received with such signs of disfavour while they were
being produced, the presentation being positively
broken off at times by royal displeasure, that producers
of literature learned to be wary.

To take examples from the reigns of James and his
predecessor; Queen Elizabeth visited Cambridge in
1564, where according to custom she was entertained
with debates, plays, etc., but whether she had a fore-
taste of its character, or for some other cause, she
failed to find time to see one dramatic endeavour,
especially prepared, with much effort, for her pleasure.
The players were so disappointed that they followed
her on her journey toward London until finally she was
induced to listen to them at her first stopping place.
Those Cambridge men had occasion to know Elizabeth's
attitude toward Catholicism but they failed to follow
the political situation sufficiently to realise how little
the English Queen dared, at this time, to disregard the
feelings of Philip, "His Catholic Majesty." Elizabeth
knew that the Spanish Ambassador was astutely
reading every clue to her feelings, ready to use any
argument to her Catholic subjects against her. So
when the Cambridge players attempted to entertain her
with a production which outraged the feelings of Spain
and the English Catholics, the Queen was enraged. In
the midst of the performance, she threw aside all cere-
mony and abruptly left the room in a towering passion.
Elizabeth had a reputation for vigorous and even unpol-
ished English when her temper demanded it, and on this
occasion she is credited with " using strong language ,f as
she left the room taking with her all the torch-bearers
and leaving players and audience in total darkness. x

* "When the Queen was at Cambridge they represented comedies
and held scientific disputations, and an argument on religion in which



Digitized by



Google



Influence upon Literature 161

The report of this was not only widely circulated
through the realm but to all the courts of Europe, as
indeed it is possible Elizabeth intended it should be,
by ambassadors and strangers in England and by
England's ambassadors abroad. After such drastic
treatment, it would be strange if any man would risk
incurring the odium which rested upon the University
and more especially upon the writers and actors for
all time to come. 1

the man who defended Catholicism was attacked by those who presided,
in order to avoid having to give him the prize. The Queen made a
speech praising the acts and exercises, and they wished to give her
another representation which she refused in order to be no longer
delayed. Those who were so anxious for her to hear it, followed her
to her first stopping-place and so importuned her that at last she
consented.

" The actors came in dressed as some of the imprisoned Bishops.
First came the bishop of London carrying a lamb in his hands as
if he were eating it as he walked along, and then others with de-
vices, one being in the figure of a dog with the Host in his mouth.
They write that the Queen was so angry that she at once entered her
chamber using strong language and the men who held the torches,
it being night, left them in the dark, and so ended the thoughtless
and scandalous representations; London 19th August 1564." Guzman
de Silva, Spanish Ambassador in London, to King Philip II, in Calendar
of State Papers Spanish, cci, 375.

1 Actors did not suffer alone from Royal criticism or interruption.
Guzman de Silva writes to Philip II, 12 March, 1565, "On the following
day, Ash Wednesday, she [Elizabeth] went into a great courtyard
where on occasions such as this the sermon is preached, so that the
people on all sides may hear, as great crowds go, although the Queen
tells me that more go to see her than to hear the sermon. The preacher
was the dean of St. Paul's, who has replaced the one now in prison from
whom he must be very different in person and doctrine. After preach-
ing for some time he began to speak ill of a book written by a Catholic,
who is in Louvain, in praise of the cross and went on to abuse images.
As soon as he commenced the Queen said ' Do not talk about that.'
The preacher, as I am told, could not have heard her and went on,
whereupon the Queen raised her voice and pointedly said to him, ' Leave
that, it has nothing to do with the subject, and the matter, is thread-



Digitized by



Google



162 Court Masques of James I

In the early years of the reign of Elizabeth, when she
was encouraging overtures from all the marriageable
men of the courts of Europe as well as of her own
country, and playing them off against each other with
such excellent success; when either in turn or in con-
junction the suits of the King of Spain, the King of
Prance, Don Carlos, the Archduke of Austria, the Duke
of Anjou or of Alengon, the Danish or Swedish princes,
with Leicester, Raleigh, Arran and others were being
preferred, it would be strange if so popular and roman-
tic a topic, one of such universal interest in the speech
of every one, should fail to get into literature. In
fact we find Elizabeth herself, on one occasion, pub-
lishing her refusal of the advances of the King of
Sweden by making fun of his ambassadors "in masques
in their own presence," until they left the Court,
" aggrieved and offended,' 9 because the ridicule was
encouraged "by the Queen more than by anybody. " x

bare.'" Public Record Office, Calendar of State Papers Spanish,

00,405.

C/.alsotftf., 286, and State Papers Domestic James J, 140, No. 13.

Near the close of James's reign, Chamberlain wrote to his friend
Carleton: "Many of our churchmen are hardly held in and their
tongues ytch to be talking infomuch that Dr. Buerard the preacher at
S* Martins in the field is committed for fayeng fomewhat more then he
fhold; and on fonday laft at the parish church next to vs, another
went fo far that the parfon of the church caufed the clerke to fing him
downe w* a pfalme before he had half don. "

1 "The King of Sweden's ambassadors who have arrived are being
treated by the Queen in a manner that does away with any doubt about
her marrying their master, for they are being made fun of in masques
in their own presence. " The Bishop of Aquila to Philip II (1559), in
Calendar of State Papers Spanish, cci, 91.

" The Swedish ambassadors are leaving much aggrieved and offended,
as I believe it was brought to their notice that they were being made
fun of in the palace and by the Queen more than by anybody. I do not
think it matters much whether they depart pleased or displeased.' 9
Ibia\ t cci, 93.



Digitized by



Google



Influence upon Literature 163

Nor was Elizabeth averse to recognising references to
her own marriage. Guzman de Silva writes King
Philip II of one famous diversion prepared for Queen
Elizabeth in 1565 by Leicester in which part of the
entertainment consisted of a comedy.

The plot was founded on the question of marriage dis-
cussed between Juno and Diana, Juno advocating marriage
and Diana chastity. Jupiter gave a verdict in favour of
matrimony after many things had passed on both sides
in defence of the respective arguments. The Queen turned
to me and said, "This is all against me." After the
comedy there was a masquerade of satyrs or wild gods,
who danced with the ladies, and when this was finished
there entered 10 parties of 12 gentlemen each, the same
who had fought in the foot tourney, and these, all armed
as they were, danced with the ladies, — a very novel ball,
surely. x

Naturally the marriages of Royalty were of universal
interest everywhere and we find the Venetian Ambas-
sador in Prance reporting similar conditions concerning
allusions in masques given by the French Court. a

James, too, though he was neither so willing as
Elizabeth to subordinate his own pleasure to state
needs nor so wise in discerning those needs, influenced
dramatic productions by his requirements or behaviour.
But we find an author sometimes pleasing his audience

1 Calendar of State Papers Spanish, cci, 404.

• "Last week the king's sister gave a masque which proved a most
brilliant function. It constituted practically a triumph upon her
marriage, allusions being made to her journey in the music and cere-
monies. All the ambassadors were invited but owing to difficulties of
precedence only the Nuncio, Spain and I attended. " Pietro Contarini,
Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate, 31 March,
1615, in Calendar of Stale Papers Venetian, xiii, 394.

Cf. also supra, 67.



Digitized by



Google



164 Court Masques of James I

without pleasing James and at other times pleasing
the King without satisfying all his guests. We re-
member the second production of Pleasure Reconciled
to Virtue which brought applause from the audience
and condemnation from politicians for the ridicule of
the Welch. * The Irish Masque * and News from the New
World Discovered in the Moon 1 brought similar criticism
because of the unwise treatment of Irish and Puritans,
but the summary punishment meted out to men like
Jonson and his fellows who amused themselves with
references to the Scots, warned every one from that
subject. «

On one occasion James sent word to Cambridge that
the length of a play to be given in his honour must be
reduced from "fix or feuen hours to four or five."
At another time, James showed his annoyance so much
over the tediousness of "a comedie of the manage of
the Arts" by "Dr. Corbet dean of Christchurch"
that the author was "flouted" with verses made and
cried out by boys on the street. s

When James gave his only daughter, Elizabeth, in
marriage to the Count Palatine of the Rhine, Bacon saw
an opportunity for achieving a popularity heretofore
scarcely within his reach and ingratiating himself with
Royalty for all time by means of a complimentary

1 See supra, 119. * See supra, 92.

> See supra, 126. * See Eastward Hoe.

< "Here be certain verfes made of Dr. Corbet deane of Christchurch
who preaching before the king at Woodftocke last fommer was fo
grauelled that he was faine to geue ouer, neither had he better lucke in
his play then in his preaching, for thincking to mend the matter, w A
a comedie of the manage of the Arts yt proued fo tedious as well for
the matter as the action, that the king indured yt w th great impatience
wherupon the very boyes and children flouted yt w* h a rime. " Cham-
berlain to Carleton, 26 February, 1622, in State Papers Domestic James I,
cxxvii, No. 101.



Digitized by



Google



Influence upon Literature 165

masque which would represent the union of the Thames
and the Rhine. It was a topic ambitiously conceived
and executed with no regard for effort or expense.
All London, with unsubdued excitement and satisfac-
tion, watched the magnificent naval display which her-
alded the masquers to the Palace. But the masquers
came at an inopportune time; James had already given
two nights to revelry and he was too tired to be inter-
ested in a third. Bacon was placed in a most embarrass-
ing predicament — so near to fame, he saw himself the
butt of ridicule of enemies and the object of the com-
plaints of knights and others whose money he had so
lavishly expended. He begged humbly and pathetically
that James would not bury him "quicke" by refusing
to see the masque now all ready, but the weary King's
only answer was the flippant remark that "then they
must burie him quicke for he could last no longer."
If James could be so thoughtless as not to notify
Bacon and his masquers of his inability to see their
masque before all the device had been exposed, it is
scarcely to be expected that he would be more consider-
ate during a masquing performance. We find him inter-
rupting The Masque of the Knights of India and China
and making merry with Philip Herbert, who was repre-
senting "a colt of Bufephalus race, " and insisting upon
this colt dancing as well as " Bankes his horfe.' ' x At the
presentation of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, the first
masque of his son Charles, we remember, James cried out
in dreadful temper, " Why don *t they dance? What did
you make me come here for? Devil take youall, dance." a

1 Appendix 3.

Cf. "To Bankes for teaching of a little naig to vaut be his highnes
coraand, M in accounts, etc., (Exchequer Q. R.), B. 433, No. 8.
'Supra, 116.



Digitized by



Google



166 Court Masques of James I

If James had no more regard for the production of
his own son , who had always been a favourite and whom
he was at that moment recommending to the Spanish
Ambassador, the chief guest of the evening, for a marriage
alliance with Spain, it is scarcely to be expected that
those who had no such claims upon him would fare
better. The comments of the time show how Ben
Jonson and Inigo Jones suffered for their share in the
failure of this evening, and we have already traced
the means through which they attempted to remedy
the mistake.

Evidences of the manner in which James and his
guests received dramatic productions might be many
times multiplied, but these should be sufficient to in-
dicate what path producers of literature were forced
to follow. J Those who were astute readers of men and
times did not need to suffer the embarrassment of the
Cambridge men or of Ben Jonson. It was well known
throughout the realm what were the likes and dislikes
of the reigning sovereign and wise authors avoided
or condemned the one while recommending the other.
James's own article 8 on the subject as well as his pro-
hibition of its use in the Court a advertised widely his
dislike for tobacco, which during his reign was growing
into such popular favour as to have its own titular
deity in literature, Kawasha, god of tobacco. 4 James
visited Oxford in company with the Queen and Prince
in 1605, where he heard disputations on tobacco which

x Cf. supra, 124 «.

* See A Counicrblaste to Tobacco, supposed to have been written by
James. I.

* " A proclamation to teftrayne the takinge of Tobacko in y* Cb. r ,"
in Lord Steward's Records Miscellaneous, No. 226, 359.

* See Fortunate Isles, The Gypsies Metamorphosed, and masques
passim.



Digitized by



Google



Influence upon Literature 167

he very much approved. The students on that occa-
sion played Daniel's Queen's Arcadia, into which the
poet inserted two pages on the pernicious effects of
tobacco, apparently for the King's benefit.

It was early known that James was a serious advo-
cate of peace and the masques of his reign are filled
with references to the King in his capacity of peace-
maker. 1 Scarcely a document, touching the personal
life of James, has come down to us which does not
mention the King's fondness for the chase.* The
masques and other species of literature teem with
praise of that pastime and of the sovereign in the ca-
pacity of hunter. 3

A literary production which had for its patrons an
audience like that of the Court of King James was not
destined to be wholly satisfying from the point of view
of literature. When the most important personage in
the audience was the host of the evening, entertaining,
as his guests, representatives of continental competitors
whose chief duty on the occasion of a masque was
to advertise the importance of their several countries
by eliciting favours from their host and to watch every
movement which would give indication of diplomatic
policy; when the masquers themselves were members of
the Royal family on the alert to pay diplomatic com-
pliment where England most needed it; when the
dramatic entertainment was preceded by a dinner, in-
terrupted for refreshments, and closed with a banquet
that was usually attacked with a boisterousness that

1 See Samuel Daniel, Masque of the Twelve Goddesses, Ben Jonson
The Gipsies Metamorphosed, and the masques of Jonson, passim.

9 Cf . Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xii, 106, State Papers Miscel-
laneous, Domestic and Foreign, B. 36.

* Cf. Ben Jonson, Works, masques, passim.



Digitized by



Google



168 Court Masques of James I

overturned the tables and destroyed all the dishes, 1
an author could hardly hope for hard thinking, especially
if the condition of the audience is to be judged by the

* See supra, 28.

Cf. also " The Prince's Creation was upon Monday laft [4 June, 16 10]
. . . The next day was graced with a most glorious mafke, which
was double. In the first, came first in the little Duke of Yorke be-
tween two great Sea slaves, the cheefef t of Neptune's Servants, attended
upon by twelve little Ladies, all of them the Daughters of Earls or
Barons. By one of these men a speech was made unto the King and
Prince expreffing the Conceipt of the mafke; by the other a sword
worth 20,000 crowns at the leaft was put into the Duke of York's
hands who prefented the fame unto the Prince his Brother from the
first of thofe Ladies which were to follow in the next maske. This
done, the Duke returned into his former Place in mid ft of the stage,
and the little Ladies performed their dance to the amazement of all
the Beholders, confidering the tendernefs of their years and the many
intricate changes of the Dance, which was fo difpofed that which way
foever the changes went the little Duke was ftill found to be in
the midft of thefe little Dancers. Thefe light Skirmifhers having
done their devoir in came the Princeffes; firft the Queen, next the
Lady Elizabeth's Grace, then the Lady Arabella, the Counteffes of
Arundel, Derby, Effex, Dorfet and Montgomery, the Lady Hadington,
the Lady Elizabeth Grey, the Lady Windfor, the Lady Katherine Peter,
the Lady Elizabeth Guilford, and the Lady Mary Win tour. By that
time thefe had done, it was high time to go to Bed, for it was within
half an Hour of the Sun's not fetting, but rifing: Howbeit a farther
Time was to be fpent in viewing and fcrambling at one of the moft
magnificent Banquets that I have feen. The Ambaffadors of Spaine,
of Venice, and of the Low Countries were prefent at this and all the
reft of thefe glorious Sights, and in truth fo they were. " In Ralph
Winwood, Memorials (1725), 180-1. Cf. also supra, passim.

But the English were not the only people open to censure for their
manners at table. Lady Cobham writes home from Paris in 1580 and
after describing a masque given in the Court she says: "then went the
king vppe into an other goodly chamber, whear ftood a great longe
borde furnifhed w* h a great number of bannketing difhes veary cury-
oufly and cunningly wrought, in the fame chamber ftoode alfo a cub-
bard furnifhed w* h chriftall glaffes fett in goulde, fo ftrandge and fo
many faf fions as I have nott fene the lyke euery table had dyverce
coverd paynes veary exelent and fynely wrought, the wich being taken
of they fell to the bankett, fome did eat and fome did putt more into



Digitized by



Google



Influence upon Literature 169

amount of wine charged to "the kinges mouth" 1 and
his behaviour on other occasions. a

Prom the perusal of the conditions of the Court
socially and politically, it is not far to seek the reasons
why the dramatic was the favourite form of literary
entertainment and why of the dramatic the masque
should be most popular. James's Court needed pro-
ductions of strong dramatic effect, strengthened by
historic allusions, songs and dancing, or masques in
which the dazzling splendour of jewelled costumes and
the intricate steps of the dance made highest bids for
favour. It is not strange then that the masque should
be composed of animated dialogue interspersed with
surprises in the shape of the grotesque or the comic,
brilliant spectacles and dance. Nor is it surprising



their pocketts than into their bellyes, fo at the lafte all was gone, then
the king after the bankett was ended faluted the Imbafadaures and
departed, the throng was fo great that the king himfelfe could not paf fe
oute in a great whyle. " In State Papers, Foreign, Elisabeth, lxvii, 24.

1 ' ' Mr. Chancellour . I would be very glad for our better vnderstand-
inge of some meanes to stay the rage of this expence, (especially in the
Househould), that you would command Mr Fanchawes clerke, to give
you an abstract of her ma" charge in the three last yeares and of
the kinges in the three later yeares endinge at Michaelmas last wherein
amonge other things, I desyre to know pticulerly what hath been the
quantitye of wynes of all sorts, w* h I doe the rathe vppon this occaf ion
because an officer of the Howse, did yesterday confefs vnto me that there
is allowed 60 tonnes only for the kinges mouth R. Salisb: [ury] 16
Sept. 1608. " In Lord Steward's Records Miscellaneous, No. 30, 100.

9 See supra, 116.

Cf. also "While he [James l\ was drinking his eighth glass the Dutch
Commissioners entered the halland came one by one to loss his Majesty's
hand. He did not move or say anything but simply raised his hat from
time to time, putting it on again at once, " in Calendar of State Papers
Venetian, xv, 558.

Allan B. Hinds, commenting on the above in ibid., Introduction,
xlvii, says, "He may not have felt equal to doing more, for he was at
his eighth glass, and James liked his wines strong. "



Digitized by



Google



170 Court Masques of James I

that occasions of unusual frivolity should have en-
couraged the anti-masque until it threatened to usurp
the more serious production of which it was intended to
be only an inferior part.

If to-day, when the courts of Europe have lost much
of their central power, they still remain in many things
models upon which those in the ranks base the propriety
of their behaviour, it is not strange that the great
masques of the Court during the reign of James pro-
duced masques and masquing occasions in great num-
bers among the nobles and men of great wealth below
the Court. 1 When the King was to be entertained in
the homes of noblemen, it was natural that the species
of entertainment practised at the Court should be
copied for his pleasure. There were occasions when
James found his own means for entertainment insuffi-
cient; then he ordered his subjects to furnish him at
their own cost. a Here again they naturally followed
Court custom.

Crowds followed the magnificent processions which
ushered the masquers to the Court, cheering and excited
so that they almost crushed the masquers and guests
and put the "whiteftaves" to the test to save even
the Royal family themselves from discomfort.* But
accommodations were so small and the masques so
exclusive that on occasions like the presenting of News
from the New World Discovered in the Moon, every one
below a baron was excluded. 4 Naturally all turned
homeward full of the one topic of conversation, and the
magnificent spectacle, denied them, came all the more

1 Masques below the Court for political and social purposes are of suf-
ficient number and of sufficient importance to warrant another volume.
It is impossible to more than merely note their existence in the present
discussion.

' See supra, 92. * Cf. supra, 28 also 76. « Cf. supra, 126.



Digitized by



Google



Influence upon Literature 171

to be desired, therefore members of the nobility,
societies and people of great wealth, unable to see the
Court masques, prepared masques for their own en-
tertainment and the entertainment of their friends.
Sometimes the King was invited or came of his own
accord, sometimes a great ambassador or politician was
the guest of honour, and often the masques were "tried
out" before select little gatherings with the hopes that
they would prove fitting for presentation before his
Majesty later. But these masques were of course, in
most cases, less costly than the Court masques, upon
which they were modelled. However, they became so
numerous that many houses sprang up in the city


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryMary SullivanCourt masques of James I: their influence on Shakespeare and the public theatres → online text (page 14 of 24)