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Elizabethan Masques: Enigma, Intrigue, and Suspense

Jocelyn M. Wigno

Masques, or masquerades as they are additionally known, will always be a popular selection of entertainment as a result of atmosphere of puzzle they create. Masquerades started out in the fifteenth century and are still a favoured theme for parties today, but an abundance of great masques were performed throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. *

The defining characteristic of any respectable masquerade ball is the costumes, particularly the elaborate and fantastical masks found there. People participating in masques always wear a face mask that features, or partially ranges, the face. There are various types of masks. A few of the main varieties of masks are the head mask, the stick-mounted mask, the full-face face mask, and the half-face face mask. *

Stick-mounted masks are, as the name advises, masks mounted on long, slender sticks to become more easily equipped and removed. However, these masks are tiresome to continue holding for long periods of time, and are also usually only used at very short masques or as souvenirs. Brain masks cover the entire face and mind. They're usually of elaborate construction, huge, and covered in complex designs and decorations. This makes it difficult to consume and drink while wearing one, so these masks were limited to the most dedicated of partygoers. Full-face masquerade masks cover the entire face and are attached in the back by way of a string, unlike each day riding masks, which were held to the facial skin by a bead held in the oral cavity. * That is so that the mask can certainly be changed to the top of the head for simple and easy eating and drinking alcohol. These masks as well as half-face masks were the most popular choice because of their easy availability. Half-face masks only cover half the facial skin, usually going out of the mouth area unhindered for quick access. Masquerade masks are vividly decorated in many ways and are often accompanied by a variety of extraordinary costumes. *

The idea of the masquerade ball comes from mummers, mimes who led processions of torches during Xmas and wore outfits called "Guisers" that the tradition of wearing masks stems from. * Mummers got their begin in ancient Egypt, but the first masquerade balls took place in Italy, specifically in metropolis of Florence. *

When masquerade balls first commenced to be performed, they were more like carnivals when compared to a formal dance. Air was filled with the sound of drinking, gaming, and dancing, and everybody, including commoners, could buy a ticket in order to attend. * Top of the classes could easily get away with expressing their political views without repercussions, and avoid the ridicule that would come for even thinking of interacting with those of lower course.

Many criminals would attend masquerade balls so as to use the anonymity to hide their crimes, so it was not unheard of that there would be many robberies and fights at masquerades. The tradition stuck around anyway, and as time transferred, masquerade balls gained more structure. They would typically be organised from late evening to early morning, with music and dance until supper was served. Supper was usually frosty food and wine beverage. There were theatrical shows after supper*

Queen Elizabeth I herself was present at many a masquerade tossed in her honor. She was rumored to be quite fond of them, despite the fact that the central theme of most masques in those days was along the lines of the protective mother nature of men as well as women's innate fragility and demure characteristics. Among the distinguishing characteristics of any masque is the theme. Besides designs of male authority, stories of religious instruction were often prevalent throughout the Elizabethan era, though the testimonies did not have a whole lot regarding the church as they did the Greek and Roman cultures and their ideals. *

Another distinguishing attribute of masquerade balls is the fact that woman of the top classes were allowed to perform in them. Top school women were allowed, but if a lesser class woman attemptedto become a performer at a masque, it could have very lewd connotations. Queen Elizabeth's own mom, Anne Boleyn, made her first appearance to the Tudor court at a Masquerade ball on March 1, 1522.

Works cited

Alchin, Linda. "Elizabethan Masques". Np. Nd. http://www. elizabethan-era. org. uk/elizabethan-masques. htm. reached March 6, 2017

Cassidy, Julie. "Mask". Np. Nd. https://finds. org. uk/repository/artefacts/record/id/402520. seen March 7, 2017

Coper, Steve. "THE ANNALS of the Mummers and Philadelphia Mummery" Np. Nd. http://fralinger. org/about/mummers-history/. seen March 6, 2017

"Elizabethan Masques". Np. Nd. http://www. elizabethanenglandlife. com/elizabethan-masques. html. accessed March 6, 2017

Monson, Toren. "The History of Masquerade Masks". Np. Nd. https://venetianmaskscollections. wordpress. com/2013/05/21/the-history-of-masquerade-masks/. seen March 10, 2017

Walton, Geri. "Masquerade balls". Np. Nd. https://www. geriwalton. com/masquerade-balls. seen March 6, 2017

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