Article Title

"Those Beautiful Characters of Sense": Classical Deities and the Court Masque


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The flight into the imagination which was implicit in the whole production of court masques took courage from two sources, classical allusion and moral significance. However fantastic the thinly spun plots or however marvellous the stage machinery and costuming, these received some sort of anchoring to reality through recognizable myths and morally sound principles. The didactic no less than the political function of these myths has been stressed in recent criticism; in the words of Stephen Orgel, the masque fictions served to create "heroic roles for the leaders of society."1 Such an interpretation tends to emphasize the political and ethical goals of the masque, its "Platonic Politics," at the expense perhaps of the aesthetic purpose, the kind of enjoyment offered by an art that is above all ornamental-an art that, for the sake of pleasure, imposes a decorative form even upon the moral message and makes pattern an imperative. To this requirement, myth itself, without losing dignity, must conform; so Daedalus as dancing master instructs the court in the virtuous life, "And doth in sacred harmony comprise/ His precepts."2

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.