What is a Masque? What role does it play in The Tempest?

A Masque is the dramatic presentation comprising of declamation, dialogue, music, dance and exotic scenery. It mostly appeared in Elizabethan times and was usually enacted by nobles, royalty, King and queen.

It was a popular form of entertainment in the seventeenth century, particularly at the court of Queen Elizabeth. The masques also helped in recapturing the past. The performance of masque was a commonplace event at marriages and festivals. These were performed by professional singers and musicians with contributions from the Monarch and the courtiers.

Some characteristics of masque were:

  1. Rhymed verse.
  2. Performed at marriages and festivals.
  3. Mythical or mythological or metaphorical.
  4. Shorter than regular drama.

Prospero’s masque was focused on pastoral motifs, with reapers and nymphs celebrating the fertility of land. It was put up in honour of the forthcoming marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. Nymphs and reapers danced in costly costumes presenting a lovely pageant. It was written in rhymed verse and took place in open air. The characters were mythological and the whole show represented a majestic vision.

The masque took place in Act IV and is connected with the story of play as it marks the celebration of engagement and forthcoming wedding of the young couple.

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