Campion's The Lord's Masque, 1613


This book contains The Lord’s Maske written by the poet and musician, Thomas Campion (1567–1620). It was performed, alongside The Tempest, as part of the extravagant festivities in 1612–13 to celebrate the marriage of James I’s daughter Elizabeth to Frederick the Elector Palatine.


Masques were hugely popular as courtly entertainments in the reign of James I. These elaborate productions often included silent roles to be performed by noblemen and (more notably) women of the court, for an elite audience of their peers. As costly multimedia shows, they combined music, dance, stylised language and mime with spectacular risqué costumes and moving sets, requiring complex mechanics, painting, lighting and sound. Their content was allegorical or mythological, with characters representing virtues and vices, gods and goddesses.

Theatrical Art and costume design

As in many masques of the era, the costumes and set of The Lord’s Maske were designed by the architect, Inigo Jones. Campion celebrates Jones’s ‘Arte’ and ‘extraordinarie … skill’ in making the stars move and vanish (sig. C4r). This might remind us of the magical ‘Art’ used by Prospero to raise the ‘sea-storm’ in the first scene of The Tempest.

Campion also describes the lavish costumes worn by ‘eight Maskers’ who appear in ‘Cloth of Silver, embossed with flames of Embroidery’ and crowns of flames made of ‘Gold-plate’ and topped with a ‘Feather of Silke’. They are followed by ‘Sixteene Pages like fierie spirits’ dressed in clothes ‘composed of flames, with fierie Wings and Bases, bearing in either hand a Torch of Virgine Waxe ’(sig. C4r).

Masque elements in The Tempest

The Tempest incorporates a formal masque-like scene involving the classical goddesses Iris, Ceres and Juno to celebrate the love of Miranda and Ferdinand in Act 4, Scene 1. The original audience might have been alert to the highly political problem of marriage alliances in Jacobean England. At the time Shakespeare was writing the play, James I was arranging marriages for both his daughter Elizabeth and his son Henry, just as King Alonso of Naples negotiates the union between Claribel and the King of Tunis (2.1.97–136), as well as Ferdinand and Miranda.

More broadly, there are also elements of masque in the theatrical illusions staged by Prospero and Ariel, particularly the banquet in Act 3, Scene 3 – with its dance, music and theatrical ‘device’ to make the food disappear. The play is exceptional for Shakespeare in its precise stage directions and extensive use of sound effects and music – from ‘the tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning’ at the opening to the ‘noises, / Sounds, and sweet airs’ of the island (3.2.135–36), the banquet’s ‘solemn and strange music’ (Act 3, Scene 3), and the songs of Ariel.

Full title:
Description … of the Lords Maske, presented … on the Mariage night of the … Count Palatine, and the … Ladie Elizabeth
1613, London
Book / Quarto
Thomas Campion
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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