Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 896. Saturday, 4 December 1993.
From: James McKenna <MCKENNJI@UCBEH>
Date: Friday, 03 Dec 1993 21:48:29 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Query about masques
I'm doing some work on Jonson's masques with Inigo Jones, the early ones in
particular, and I'm finding lots by Stephen Orgel, and not much by anyone else.
This is okay, since Orgel's analysis is beautiful, but I'm finding what looks
like a circularity in Orgel's arguments about the masques, and I'd like to see
what some other minds have thought.
The problem I've encountered is that Orgel neatly defines away ambiguity in the
masques by claiming that they a priori support and justify the monarchy. But
what is Jonson doing writing these flat praises for James and the monarchy at
the same time he is utterly deflating every other human pretension? I begin to
hear echoes of Tillyard in his argument as it expands. That's not bad in
itself, but I thought our ideas had gotten dicier since Tillyard.
Ben Jonson wrote a _lot_ of masques at the same time he was
writing his plays. His poetry is a little easier to justify with the plays
because of its famous ambiguity. The masques, however, _appear_ to be
unambiguous, just like Orgel says they are. What do we do with a guy who
writes _Epicoene_ and _The Masque of Queens_ in the same year (1609)? As Orgel
points out, masque "is the opposite of satire."
I can think of some ways to fit all this together, but it's so weird that I'd
love to see what someone else thinks. If you've got any ideas or have seen
some somewhere, write me on the list or privately.