The Masque of Queens, 1609
This chapter focuses on The Masque of Queens, which formally introduces the theory of antimasque to the English audience. The masque can be seen as a pivotal work in Jonson's career: crowning the experimentalism of the earlier masques with a new firmness of technique and execution at the same time as it paved the way for the new, more ‘dramatic’, concept of masque that formed the focus of his experimentation before the publication of the 1616 Folio. Its ‘fable’ and overall shape are comparatively simple. The whole clearly breaks into two main sections: the antimasque (which extends to 1. 254; MQ,1. 343), and the masque itself (11.255– 372; MQ, 11.367–773). The fact that the antimasque is concerned with the machinations of twelve witches who plan to bring chaos into a world bereft of virtue, while the masque proper frightens the witches away by the appearance of twelve famous and virtuous Queens, may perhaps alert us – even at this stage – to the possible symbolic correspondence of line number and character number, since the line total for the whole masque (372 lines of spoken and sung text) submits to simple division by twelve (12 × 31).
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