Article Title

Percy MacKaye: Community Drama and the Masque Tradition


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

Professor Walter J. Meserve's observation that "American drama is a most neglected part of the study of American literature"1 is certainly apropos of American pageant drama in general and the American masque in particular. Although a number of pageant dramas and so-called masques have been produced in America, the most salient contribution to this dramatic genre has been made by the poet and playwright Percy MacKaye. Early in the twentieth century he attempted to provide the basis for a national drama by reviving the long-established masque which he sought to utilize as a means of artistic communal expression. In a general way, his contributions to the American masque stand .in relationship to American literature as Ben Jonson's do to English literature, and, like Jonson, MacKaye viewed his masques not as mere spectacles but as dramatic works of art which reflect an artistic and literary purpose. Since Jonson is generally recognized as the master of the masque, an analysis and evaluation of MacKaye's theory and practice in the light of Jonson's is most illuminating and reveals that MacKaye has revived an old literary genre and adapted it to his own democratic ideals and society. In so doing MacKaye attempted to create an interest in a communal, not commercial, art which he hoped might eventually form the basis for a national drama but which more likely helped lay the groundwork for the later success of folk and symphonic drama.

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