Sunday, August 04, 2019

Question from Bertha - Tudor masques

Where might I find examples of Tudor masques? I'm hoping to get enough information to include a fictitious masque in some writing that feels like it could fit in with the others. Currently, I'm going through the excerpts from Shakespearean plays that have them, starting with Henry VIII. I've also seen the masques featured in The Tudors. Specifically, I'm most interested in masques from Henry VIII's reign. Thanks so much!


PhD Historian said...

I did a quick search of the Bibliography of British and Irish History, and it appears that virtually everything that has been written in the past ten years about masques focuses on the Stuart period rather than the Tudor. And a search of Early English Books Online likewise produces results only for the period after 1590, with nothing for the early Tudor period. Masques were also sometimes called revels, especially at the royal court, but once again very little has been written about revels before the reign of Elizabeth I. In my experience as a historian, such lack of scholarship is usually due to inadequate source material. I am guessing (and it is just a guess) that very few texts for masques have survived from the Henrician period. In fact, I can find only one writer of masques from the early Tudor period who is mentioned by name: John Skelton (d.1529).

Oddly enough, I find more for Scotland than for England. The poems of William Dunbar (d.1520) were apparently sometimes performed as masques before the Scottish royal court, and the texts of those poems have survived. You can find them on the website under the title "The poems of William Dunbar, now first collected, with notes, and a memoir of his life," edited by David Laing (Edinburgh, 1834).

(NB: Trust NOTHING that you saw on Showtime's "The Tudors." That detestable program made a mockery of history.)

Bertha said...

Thank you so much for your comprehensive answer! I'll be reading a few poems of William Dunbar right away and seeing if I can find anything written by John Skelton. It's interesting that in my cursory googling, I've found lots of articles that mention there "are" sources without giving them. I'm perfectly happy to adopt Scottish sources.

(As for "The Tudor's," you're right that it takes many historical liberties – I should have indicated it was more a reference for how history can be used to inform fiction rather than a historical resource in of itself.)

Mallory said...

This might be too late to be helpful, but Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy by Sydney Anglo might have some information that could help you. It covers a lot of thematic elements in Tudor pageants and festivals. It's a pretty dense read, though.