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

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they "dress grandly and in colours, so that they all
seem (were it possible), more like princes, or rather
comedians." Now one needs only to examine the
wardrobe accounts of the Royal family to discover what
was the dress of princes. a The English Court, in which
a different costume was required for each day, was at
the time the talk of the world for its extravagant dress,

1 See Sidney Lee, Life of William Shakespeare (1899), 39 note.
1 Cf. Department of Lord Chamberlain, Class Miscellaneous 5, No.
127, 304 tt passim.



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1 84 Court Masques of James I

and by comparison with these we should be able to
judge what must have been the dress of actors if they
were dressed better.

There is still much uncertainty concerning the fre-
quent appearance and social position of women actors
on the public stage during the Jacobean reign. It
may be worth while to suggest the query as to what
was the influence upon the public stage of having such
women as the beautiful and graceful Queen Anne, her
daughter Elizabeth and the noblewomen of the Court
taking the parts of women in the private theatricals
in the Court. How would audiences accustomed to
such actresses accept the interpretation of the same or
similar parts given by boys? Or how would Shake-
speare and his fellows who watched and acted with such
actresses be pleased with a boy's interpretation of an
Imogen, a Portia, or a Juliet? What influence did such
presentations have on the final acceptance of women
actors in public theatres?

Similar queries force themselves upon us concerning
the public stage. On the opposite page will be found
a photograph of one of the plans made by Inigo Jones
for a masquing performance in Whitehall. If the
reader will take the trouble to compare this plan with
the plans for the Fortune and the Blackfriars theatres
by C. W. Wallace in Nebraska University Studies (April-
July, 1908), 50, or with any other reliable plans for the
public theatres of Shakespeare's day, he will note that
after the removal of the platform upon which the royal
"state" was placed for the accommodation of the King
and his ambassador guests, the remainder of the house
conforms with remarkable similarity to the plans for
the stage and for the seating of audiences in the public
theatres.



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Influence upon Literature 185

We find the stage at one end of the hall with a
carpeted space in front for the dances of the brilliantly
dressed masquers and those of the audience whom they
favoured with an invitation to be their partners. All
about the three sides of the room were the boxes of the
embassies and important nobles; above these, balconies
or "scaffolds, " where sometimes partitions were neces-
sary to keep the invited foreigners from engaging in
fistic disputes during the performance. In the centre
of the hall, the point of interest toward which the eyes
of all the audience and of the masquers were turned, on
a raised platform, under a splendid gold-embroidered
canopy between the stools for the ambassador guests,
was the bedecked and bejewelled James in his chair of
state.

A few comments of contemporary writers may help
to enliven the picture. Busino remarks:

Whilst waiting for the king we amused ourselves by
admiring the decorations and beauty of the house with its
two orders of columns, one above the other, their distance
from the wall equalling the breadth of the passage, that of
the second row being upheld by Doric pillars, while above
these rise Ionic columns supporting the roof. The whole is
of wood, including even the shafts, which are carved and
gilt with much skill. From the roof of these hang festoons
and angels in relief with two rows of lights. x

Campion describes another occasion as follows:

The greate Hall (wherein the Maske was prefented)
receiued this diuifion, and order: The vpper part where the
cloth & chaire of State were plac't, had fcaffoldes and feates
on eyther fide continued to the skreene; right before it

1 In Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xv, hi.



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186 Court Masques of James I

was made a partition for the daunting place; on the right
hand whereof were conforted ten Mufitions, with Baffe
and Meane Lutes, a Bandora, a double Sack-bott, and an
Harpficord, with two treble Violins; on the other fide
f omewhat neerer the skreene were plac't 9 Violins and three
Lutes, and to anfwere both the conforts (as it were in a
triangle) fixe Cornets and fixe chappell voyces, were feated
almoft right againft them, in a place railed higher in refpect
of the pearcing found of thofe Inftruments: eighteen foote
from the skreen, on another stage was railed higher by a
yearde then that which was prepared for dancing: This
higher stage was all enclofed with a double vale, fo artifi-
cially painted, that it f eemed as if darke cloudes had hung
before it: within that fhrowde was concealed a greene
valley, with greene trees round about it and in the midst
of them nine golden trees of fifteene foot high with armes
and braunches very glorious to behold: From the which
groue toward the State was made a broade defcent to the
daunting place, iuft in the midft of it; on either hand were
two afcents, like the fides of two hilles, dreft with fhrubbes
and trees; that on the right hand leading to the bowre of
Flora: the other to the houf e of night; which bowre and
houfe were plac 9 t oppofite at either end of the skrene and
betweene them both was railed a hill, hanging like a cliff
ouer the groue belowe and on the top of it a goodly large
tree was fet, fuppofed to be the tree of Diana; behind the
which toward the window was a fmall defcent, with an
other fpreading hill that climed vp to the toppe of the
window, with many trees on the height of it, whereby thofe
that played on Hoboyes at the Kings entrance into the hall
were fhadowed: The bowre of Flora was very fpatious,
garnifht with all kind of flowers, and flowrie branches with
lights in them; the houfe of night ample and ftately, with
blacke pillars, whereon many starres of gold were fixt:
within it when it was emptie, appeared nothing but cloudes
and ftarres, and on the top of it ftood three Turrets vnder-
propt with fmall blacke ftarred pillers, the middlemoft



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Influence upon Literature 187

being higheft and greateft, the other two of equall propor-
tion: about it were plac 9 t on wyer artificial Battes, and
Owels, continually mouing: with many other inuentions;
the which for breuite fakes I paf f e by with filence. *

Girolamo Lando reports on 17 January, 1619-20, that
the Prince's masque just recently produced "lasted
more than three hours." 9 We remember that on
another occasion the Venetian Ambassador testified
that the disgruntled "Duke of Hoist" stood up the
three hours which the masque and "ballo" lasted 1 and
Busino chronicles the fact that Pleasure Reconciled
to Virtue gave continuous entertainment from "the
sixth hour of the night" until half-past two in the morn-
ing. On many other occasions it was "within half
an Hour of the Sun's not letting but rifing " 4 before the

1 Thomas Campion, The Description of a Maske Prefented before the
Kintes Maieftie, at White-Hall on Twelfth Night laft, in honour of the
Lord Hayes and his Bride (1607), A 4.

Cf. also Thomas Birch, Court and Times of James the First (1848), 1, 42.

Cf. also "makinge readie the hall & greete chamber for playes and
fhewes at divers tymes . . . framinge and fettinge vpp of a greate
ftage in the banquettinge houfe xl foote fquare and iiij°* foote in heigh te
w* wheeles to goe on, makinge and fetting vpp twoe pticons there
xlviij foote longe the pece w* h a retourne at one ende, framinge and
fettinge vpp of an other ftage, a greate halpace and degrees in the
faide banquettinge houfe for people to Gtt on to fee mafkes & fhowes
before the King and Quene w** paintinge the roofe overheade w**
clowdes and other devyces," in Audit Office, Works, B. 3418, R. 37, a
Bill presented 5 Apr., 1608, for works at . . . Whitehall.

' See Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xvi, 138.

» See supra, 24. « See supra, 168.

Cf. also, " Oxfords Triumph, In the Royall entertainment of his
mofte Excellent Maieftie, the Queene, and the Prince: the 27 of
Auguft laft 1605.

"vpon Tuefday the 27 of auguft . . .

"After Supper his Majeftie, the Queene, and Prince, with the Noble-
men, had a Comedie played before them in Latine in Christ-Church
Hall, which continued the fpace of three houres and more" (B. 3).



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1 88 Court Masques of James I

merry revellers dispersed, though most of the masques
cover but a few pages of print. * The dances of the anti-
masquers, which were varied and numerous, followed by
the dance of the masquers alone, probably consumed
much time. Just how much or what part of the night
was consumed by the final dance of the masquers and
their partners from the audience is not yet known.
Nor have we so far any means of discovering just how
King James, who seems never to have danced, spent
all the hours of the long evening, nor what other diver-
sion, if any, held the remainder of the audience who
were neither masquers nor partners in the dance.

The present treatment makes no claim to answering
all the queries raised with the many more that might be
raised. The world must await with patience the result
of the diligent research which will some day enable us
to know more of the theatres in which Shakespeare
played and the audiences who listened to him. If the
present effort has thrown a single ray of light upon the
surroundings of the great literary artist whose name is
for ever linked to the time of Elizabeth and James I, or
if it has even raised a question which will lead to the
discovery of any real truth, however small, concerning
Shakespeare's time, it has done its work.

"Vpon Wednefday at night after (upper, there was a Tragedie fet
out by Magdalen Colledge men, acted before his Majeftie in Chrift-
Church Hall, which was verie long, for it continued from nine till one
of the clocke, the fubiect whereof was Aiax and vlif ses. But the deuice
was fo coftly and curious in fetting the fame foorth, that it was not
thought tedious, but the King fhowed himfelfe verie well pleafed,
and content with it."

1 It does n't seem likely that the masques presented in the court on
the same evening as a play could have been so lengthy.



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Appendix



189



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Appendix



"I wrote to you of the reason of the delay of Taxis' [the Spanish
Ambassador] audience; it remaineth to tell how jovially he behaveth
himself in the interim. He hath brought great store of Spanish gloves,
hawk's hoods, leather for jerkins, and moreover a perfumer; these
delicacies he bestoweth amongst our Lords and Ladies, I will not say
with a hope to effeminate the one sex, but certainly with a hope to grow
gracious with the other, as he already is. The curiosity of our sex drew
many Ladies and gentlewomen to gaze at him betwixt his landing place
and Oxford his abiding place; which he, desirous to satisfy (I will not
say nourish the vice) made his coach stay, and took occasion with petty
gifts and courtesies to win soon won affections; who accompanying his
manner with Monsieur de Rosy's [M. Rosny, French Ambassador
Extraordinary] hold him their far welcome guest." Lady Arabella
Stuart to Shrewsbury, 16 September (0. S. 6) 1603, in Edmund Lodge,
Illustrations, iii, 26.



"But I should before have mentioned the Presents which I made in
England in the name of his most Christian Majesty [King Henry IV].
That to King James was fix fine horses richly caparisoned; to which
Henry also added another Gift, which ought to be efteemed still more
considerable: this was the person of Saint-Anthony, in all refpects
the bef t and mof t compleat horfeman of the Age. That to the Queen of
England was a large and mof t beautiful Venetian Glaf s, the Golden
frame of which was covered with diamonds; and that to the Prince of
Wales, was a Golden Lance and Helmet, alfo enriched with diamonds;
a fencing-master and a vaulter. The Duke of Lenox, the Earl of
Northumberland, in a word all thof e whom I have occasionally men-
tioned befides fome others, were prefented, fome with Boxes, and others
with Buttons, caps of Feathers, Rings, and chains of Gold and Dia-
monds: Several Ladies alfo received Rings and Pearl Necklaces. The
value of all thef e pref ents, including twelve hundred crowns which I left

191



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192 Court Masques of James I

with Beaumont, to be diftributed in certain places amounted to fixty
thousand crowns. Henry's views in making fo many rich Prefents, a
considerable part of which were even continued as penfions, to fome
Englifh Lords were to retain them and attach them more f trongly in
his interests." Duke of Sulley, Memoirs, (printed in Dublin, 1757).
198-9.

" I rendered his Britifh Majefty my thanks in a fecond Letter: and to
employ all forts of counter-Batteries againft the Spaniards, who fet
no bounds to their PreTents: we imitated them in this refpect, and even
gave Penfions to all the moft diftinguifhed Perfons in the Court of King
James. " Ibid., 211. Cf. also supra, 4.

3
"On Newyeares night we had a play of Robin goode-fellow and a
mafke brought in by a magicien of China. There was a heaven built
at the lower end of the hall owt of w*? 1 owr magicien came downe and
after he had made a long fleepy fpeech to the K: of the nature of the
cuntry from whence he came comparing it w^ owrs for f trength and
plenty, he fayde he had broughte in cloudes certain Indian and China
Knights to fee the magnificency of this court, and theruppon a trauers
was drawne and the maskers feen fitting in a voulty place w^ 1 theyr
torchbearers and other lights w c . h was no vupleafing fpectacle. The
mafkers were brought in by two boyes and two mufitiens who began
w^ 1 a fong and whilf t that went forward they presented themselves to
thek: The first gave the k: an Imprefa inafhield w^afonet in a paper
to exprese his deuice and pref ented a Jewell of 40,ooo£ valew wr the
K: is to buy of Peter Van Lore, but that is more than euery man knew
and it made a faire fhew to the French Ambafsadors eye whofe master
would have bin well pleaf ed with f uch a mafkers present but not at that
prif e. The rest in theyr order deliuered theyr f cutchins w*?* letters and
there was no great stay at any of them f aue onely at one who was putt
to the interpretaoh of his deuife. It was a faire horfe colt in a faire
greene field w^ he meant to be a colt of Bufephalus race and had this
virtu of his fire that none could mount him but one as great at lest as
Alexander. The k: made himself merry w*! 1 threatening to fend this
colt to the f table and he could not breake loofe till he promised to dance
as well as Bankes his horfe. The first meaf ure was full of changes and
feemed confuted but was well gone through w*? 1 all, and for the ordinary
meafures they tooke owt the Q: &c." Carleton to Chamberlain, 15
Jan., 1603, in State Papers Domestic, James J, No. 21.

4
"Sire;

" Et d'autant que le soir auparavant jl m'avoit fait lTionneur de
m'inviter au Dimanche a Souper avec luy en priv6 dans fa chambre,



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Appendix 193

et que j'avois differ^ de luy promettre jusques a ceque je luy eusse fait
entendre le sujet qui me tenoit en suspens, je luy dis que m'apperce-
vant bien de 1'artifice de quel ques vns de sa cour pousser et gagner de
rambassadeur d'espagne qui luy avoient conseilie sous couleur de pre-
eminence mal fondee de me prier pour voir le premier Ballet a fin que
plus Justement jls luy reservassent la place en celuy de la Reine qui
se devoit danser au vendredy dernier jour des festes de Noel selon
la facon d'ang? et le plus honnorable tout pour la ceremonie qui f 'y
obserue de tout temps publiquement. " Letter from M. Beaumont
to the French King, 13 January, 1604, in British Museum, Manuscript
Room, Kings MSS., ooriv, f. 675.



" Je luy envoiay le Sieur de Hatteville auquel jl [Jas. I] promit en
mon nom avec vne extreme franchise ceque depuis lapresdinee jl me
confirma a moy mfime, lorsque luy declarant comme je ne pouvois
souffrir destre exclus par ledT ambassad? et le grand jnterest que j'avois
pour la reputation de vdtre majesty a ne luy laisser prendre aucun
avantage Sur moy, jl m'assura qu'il avoit le matin expressm* pour ce
f ujet demande a la Reine f i elle etoit point engage de promesse avec
luy, et que ledT Dame ayant repondu que non mais que feulement ledT
ambassadeur luy avoit fait tesmoigner vn extreme desir de voir son
Ballet, alors il lavoit priee dene luy point promettre davantage qu'il
etoit aussi malaise que luy et moy y fussions ensemble comme il jugeoit
peut seant et raisonnable de men esconduire pour les considerations que
je luy avois raportees nean m oins afin que la Reine eut lememe f ujet
de fexcuser de son coste* qu'il me conseilloit de Ten requerir par cour-
toisie a quoy je consenty volontiers mais avec cette condition que de
rechef il me donneroit Sa parole D'autant que pour suivant cette chose
par droit et non par faveur je ne me pouvois avec mon honneur mettre
au hazard en estant refuse par la Reine d'en estre esconduit par luy et
perdre mon Rang ainsy il me promit denouveau, et fur fa promesse, je
priaylaReinelaquellenevoulantnirejetterniaccorderma demandeme
dit assez jndifferemment qu'elle fen remettoit a la volonte du Roy,
ceque luy ayant depuis raporte il me reitera encore de rechef Sa parole et
m'assura que fi rambassadeur d'Espagne venoit a le prier a pres moy
detre audTBallet de la Reine qu'il luy laisseroit la liberte de S'ytrouver,
Sur quoy je luy dis qu'encore que je ne doutasse point qua l'exemple des
autres Ministres d'Espagne qui navoent jamais dispute a Rome la pre-
eminence qu'en fuyant jl sezcuseroit plutdt que de comparoistre,
Que neantmoins fil etoit si outre cuide al'Espagnol que derien pretendre
en cette rencontre Sur ma place que je le tuerois a Ses pieds au hazard
de ma vie, De Sorte que je partis le dit Jour du Dimanche au soir avec
cette assurance Laquelle je garday jusque au mercredy XV e I N - S -J



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194 Court Masques of James I

ettsuivant que le Sieur Cecil m'ayant convfc a fouper en presence des
Sieurs Admiral Comte de Suffoc comte de nencher et Mfllord Henry
hannard me declara que le Roy estoit a grand perplexity d'autant qu'il
scavoit la promesse qu'il m'avoit faite. Et que d'ailleurs la Reine
protestoit dene vouloir danser son Ballet que rambassadeur d'Espagne
n'y fat present, auquelle eUe S'estoit secrettement engageede parole. "
Beaumont to Henry IV, 23 January, 1604 (N. S.) King's MSS.,
cxxiv, £. 706.

6

" jeme suis resom de ma part oonttnuer avec le Roy et eux la memo
facon de vivre que j'ay fait jusques j'cy Dimanche dernier L'Ambassa-
deur d'Espagne fut au Ballet de la Reme selon son desir et souper avec
le Roy en sa cfaambre centre la promesse qu'il m'avoit donne du con-
traire ceque vous ajouterez s'il vous plaist a lliistoire jl estoit vetu de
rouge et dansa la gaillarde fort gaiement en jeune homme de vingt
ans aussy en avoitil fubit, car la feste fe faisant pour luy et la Reine
portait en sa faveur vne escharpe et vne banderoUe rouge ainsy qui
morisset vous content qui y fut present et lequel fur cette occasion j'ay
pris la liberty sous votre faveur de gratifier de ce voiage vous f upliant
de la meme renvoyer au plutost et me mandre par luy si lore que le
Sieur Dannal sera arrive" je donneray le portrait de la Reine car vu ceque
s'est pass6, je me resout d'attendre la volonte* de sadT majesty. " Letter
of Beaumont to Villeroy, 23 Jan., 1604/5 in King's MSS., cxxiv, f . 720.



"Et certe je ne doute aucunement de son [James I] inclination et
bonne fay jacoit que je sois averty de divers endrois que je ne m'y
dois pas fier a laenircomme j'ay en occasion de fairecy de van t pour 1' au-
torite* et puissance qu'ont les Espagnols Sur ses volontez Lesquels
ballacent clairement du coste* d'Espagne comme vous aves eprouve"
enla journee du Ballet de la Reine LaqueUe s'est tant declaree et engagee
en cette occasion que je dois dovenavant non feulement tenir ses vceux
pour suspects, Mais aussy desirer que Son autorit^ et puissance Soit
contrepoisee et refrenee par la prudence de son Mary et de ceux qui
vraiement affectionnent sa prosperity. " King Henry IV to Beaumont,
2.* fevrier, 1604, in King's MSS., 124, f. 728.

8

"Me prometant Quand toute l'angleterre et l'ecosse seroient con-
jurez et bandez pour nous desunir qu'il ne permettra jamais que cela
advienne, Monstrez luy aussy que j'ay bien pris le traittement et
l'honneur qu'il vous a fait le jour des Rois sans faire paroistre aucun



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Appendix 195

ressentiment de n'avoir assists au Ballet ou bien ne luy parlez plus du
tout ni aux siens de ce qui s'est passe* si vous jugez qu'il soit plus apropos. "
Ibid.,L 730.



" Ce que vous avez a faire est de oontenuer de vous tenir le plus pres
de ce Prince que vous pourrez, et si vous jugez qu'il en soit capable et
ne puissiez remettre l'esprit de la Reine luy donner doucement jalousie
de son Intelligence avec lez Espagnols et leurs adherans afin de luy
ouvrir les yeux et luy faire reconnoistre et aprenender les jnconveniens
qui en peuvent arriver a sa personne a sa reputation et a son etat" —
Ibid., f. 736— Villeroy to Beaumont, 2 Feb., 1604.

10

14 2 maskes were famous th'one acted by noble and prindpall men on
New Yeares daye, th'other by the Queene and 1 1 honorable Ladyes
the fonday after twelfe daye. The French Ambassador was prefent
at the first and the Spanish f olemply invited come to the second albeit
much against the french his will who labored all he coulde to have
crossed hym. All the embassadors were feasted at Courte this Xptmas
first the Spanish and Sauoyan 2 the french and florentine 3 the Poloman
and Venetian and all highly pleased but the French who is malecontent
to see the Spaniard fo kyndly vsed, and it is plainly perceaued that he
and the florentine and in some sort the Venetian labour all they can
vnderhand to diueste vs from makinge Pease w th Spaine and for that
purpose the Duke of florenze maketh overture of a marriage for our
Prince w^ a daughter and a million in dowrye, but if money may suffice
it is deemed the Kinge of Spaine will double or treble the million w^ a
daughter of Sauoy f o as other good condicons may be concluded for
reducing the Hollanders to obedience and ease of the Catholics at home."
Letter of Ortellio Renzo, 31 Jan., 1603, O. S., State Papers Domestic,
James J, vi, No. 37. "alors il me repartit derechef qu'il luy sembloit
que au me faire tort je pouvois me trouver au Ballet de la Reine avec
ramhassadr d'Espagne au Rang ni ceremonie estans tour deux comme
jnconnus et que jaurois de mon cost6 celuy de Florence et luy celuy de
Savoie. " Beaumont to Henry IV, 23 Jan., 1604, [N. S.J Kinfs MSS.,
cxxiv, f. 706.

11
"Monsieur: —

II y a quelques jours qu'il m'envoya dire sur ce que Monsieur L'-
ambassadeur d'Espagne l'avoit prie de luy permettre de voir vn ballet
qui se faisoit le jour des noces du S* Philippe Hebbert ; que si j'y voulois
venir jnconnu, et non comme Ambassadeur, qu'il donneroit ordre que
j'y aurois vne bonne place, mais comme je trouvay cette sermonce fort



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196 Court Masques of James I

inciviHe et extraordinaire, aussi je pensay de m'excuser assez a propos,
stir vn fascheux mal, lequel m'a retenu en la chambre depuis quinze
jours, et depius je n'ay point este" invito a aucun festin, ainsi que 1'-
annee passee, et ne crois pas nonplus de l'estre pour le superbe Ballet
que la Reine s'apreste de f aire ; dont je ne me soucierois pas plus que de
raison en mon particulier, si ce n'estoit que ce changement de facon et
de traitement tesmoigne a tout le monde quelque mespris envers sa
Majesty." Beaumont to Villeroy, 12 (O. S. 2), Jan. 1605, in Kind's
MSS. t cxxvii, f. 1 16.

12

" Sir Lewis Lewkenor presently went to visit the French Ambassador
who having got wind of what the Spaniard was about, received Lewkenor
very haughtily. Lewkenor said he had come on behalf of his Majesty
to enquire how the Ambassador was, and to say how much his Majesty
regretted that the Ambassador would be prevented from attending the


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Online LibraryMary SullivanCourt masques of James I: their influence on Shakespeare and the public theatres → online text (page 16 of 24)