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date: 24 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores Ben Jonson’s court masques, suggesting that they may well have constituted a kind of epic project on the poet’s part. The masque was a spectacle of music, costume, choreography, songs, and recited poetry performed before the King and other important spectators such as foreign ambassadors. Jonson’s long career as poet to the kings and queens of the Stuart and Caroline courts led to his being commissioned to write some twenty-eight masques between 1605 and 1631. This chapter considers the extent to which Jonson exploited the masque performance in print, his masque texts as exercise in ekphrasis, the significance of the anti-masque, the role of poets and poetry in the founding of stable government and order, and Jonson’s borrowings from epic.

Keywords: Ben Jonson, court masques, epic, poetry, ekphrasis, anti-masque, poets, posterity, fame

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