The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn

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The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn was a Jacobean era masque, written by George Chapman, and with costumes, sets, and stage effects designed by Inigo Jones. It was performed in the Great Hall of Whitehall Palace[1] on 15 February 1613, as one item in the elaborate festivities surrounding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I, to Frederick V, Elector Palatine in the Rhineland.

Exoticism[edit]

The masque had a Virginia theme; Chapman had been a follower of the Prince of Wales, Prince Henry, before Henry's death in November 1612, and Henry had been a strong backer of the movement to colonize the New World. The principal masquers were stylized as Native Americans, "Princes of Virginia," though without much representative accuracy: they were dressed in "cloth of silver embroidered with gold," with olive-colored masks, though they were also lavishly feathered and equipped with ornaments "imitating Indian work" — an attempt at an effect "altogether estrangeful and Indian-like." The conceit was that these sun-worshippers had come to honor the wedding couple and to accept Christianity.

The show[edit]

The celebration began with a torchlit parade down Chancery Lane, headed by fifty gentlemen on horseback, followed by the figures of the anti-masque, boys dressed as baboons in "Neapolitan suits and great ruffs," and the musicians and masquers in chariots.[2] At Whitehall, Jones's stage set was a golden mountain. Next to it on either side were a silver temple, octagonal and domed, and a hollow tree — representing the poles of experience of masque and anti-masque: temple for the masquers, tree for the "baboons." The presenters were figures of classical mythology and personifications typical of the masque form: Plutus; a personified Honor, with Eunomia, one of the three Hours, as her priestess; and Capriccio, a Commedia dell'arte-style figure. The golden rock moved forward toward the viewers, then split open to release the anti-masquers. Later the top of the mountain opened to reveal the principal masquers and a crew of torchbearers. The torchbearers danced with torches lit at both ends; then the masquers danced their dances, finally joined by the audience. The general reaction was highly positive, giving the masque a reputation as one of the best-received works of its type in the Stuart era.

Sponsorship[edit]

The masque was sponsored by two of the four Inns of Court, those mentioned in the title. (The other two Inns of Court sponsored their own wedding tribute, The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, by Francis Beaumont.) The records of Lincoln's Inn show that the Inn spent just over £1086 on the masque, charging its members fees ranging from £1 10 shillings to £4 to pay the bill. The records of the Middle Temple are not as complete in their details, though its share of the total bill was likely equal, and its charges were probably very similar. Chapman was paid £100 for his masque, while Robert Johnson earned £45 for his music.[3]

Publication[edit]

The masque was entered into the Stationers' Register on 27 February 1613; the quarto edition that followed, printed by George Eld for the bookseller George Norton, is undated, but probably was issued as promptly as possible after the masque's performance, to capitalize on public interest. A second edition, also undated, was later issued by Norton.[4] Chapman dedicated the work to Sir Edward Phelips, the Master of the Rolls, who along with Henry Hobart the Attorney General had been responsible for selecting Chapman as the author and for driving the whole project to a successful completion.

Credits[edit]

Unlike Ben Jonson, Inigo Jones's most common literary partner in masquing, Chapman was a close friend of Jones, and did not engage in the kind of ego competition that Jonson maintained with Jones for some two decades. The masque's printed text shows that Chapman let Jones — a man of no small ego himself — take the lead in grabbing credit; the title page states that the work was "Invented and fashioned, with the ground and special structure of the whole work, by our kingdom's most artful and ingenious architect Inigo Jones. Supplied, applied, digested and written by George Chapman."[5][6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chapman's masque was not staged in the Whitehall Banqueting House, the normal venue for Court masques, since that facility was set up for Francis Beaumont's The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, which was scheduled for the next day though actually performed on Feb. 20.
  2. ^ Leapman, pp. 130–1.
  3. ^ Chambers, Vol. 3, p. 262.
  4. ^ Chambers, Vol. 3, pp. 260–1.
  5. ^ Chambers, Vol. 3, p. 260 (spelling and punctuation modernized).
  6. ^ Leapman, p. 132.

Sources[edit]

  • Chambers, E. K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
  • Leapman, Michael. Inigo: The Troubled Life of Inigo Jones, Architect of the English Renaissance. London, Headline Book Publishing, 2003.