Inigo Jones designs for masque costumes

Description

Masques were hugely popular as extravagant courtly entertainments in the reign of James I and VI. These two risqué designs for masque costumes were painted in watercolour by the architect, Inigo Jones (1573–1652).

What are masques?

Masques were costly multimedia shows which combined music, dance, stylised language and mime with spectacular costume. Often they had moving sets, requiring complex mechanics, painting, lighting and sound. Though they were performed only once, the cost sometimes ran to thousands of pounds. Their content was allegorical or mythological, with characters representing virtues and vices, gods and goddesses.

Risqué design for an aristocratic lady

No women performed in the public playhouses, but Queen Anna and her noble ladies (as well as noble men) had silent roles in the court masques. This revealing costume, with its wings and transparent top, would have been worn by an aristocratic lady performing at King James’s court around 1610.

Design for a winged fiery spirit

The second image shows the design for a winged fiery spirit from The Lord’s Masque written by Thomas Campion (1567–1620). The masque was performed, alongside The Tempest, as part of the festivities in 1612–13 to celebrate the marriage of James I’s daughter Elizabeth to Frederick the Elector Palatine.

Campion describes the lavish costumes for ‘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. 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:
Drawing of a Lady Masquer; Also a fiery spirit from Thomas Campion's The Lord's Masque performed alongside The Tempest in 1613
Created:
1610 and c. 1613
Format:
Manuscript / Watercolour / Illustration / Image
Creator:
Inigo Jones [designer], Thomas Campion
Copyright:
© Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.
Held by:
Chatsworth, Devonshire collection
Shelfmark:
No.59, No.81

Related articles

Prose and verse in Shakespeare's plays

Article by:
Kim Ballard
Theme:
Poetry

Shakespeare's plays contain both prose and verse. Kim Ballard discusses the playwright's selective use of blank verse, and considers several cases where the choice of prose or verse helps us understand class, character psychology and mood.

Clothing in Elizabethan England

Article by:
Liza Picard
Themes:
Shakespeare’s life and world, Elizabethan England

Liza Picard describes the laws, trends and standards of hygiene that determined who wore what in Elizabethan England.

The Tempest and the literature of wonder

Article by:
Martin Butler
Themes:
Global Shakespeare, Ethnicity and identity, Power, politics and religion, Comedies

Martin Butler shows how Renaissance travel, trade and colonisation shaped the portrayal of Caliban and the Italians in The Tempest.

Related collection items

Related works

The Tempest

Created by: William Shakespeare

Before the action of The Tempest begins, Antonio usurps his brother Prospero as Duke of Milan, with the help of ...