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Inigo Jones FTW

Back in the Jacobean period, the early seventeenth century, Shakespeare was seeming a bit old-fashioned to the lord and ladies in the expensive seats. They wanted a little pomp and spectacle — well, a lot of pomp and spectacle actually — and they got it in the form of the court masque. The masques were little dramas that combined song and dances and a lot of stage machinery that allow gods and goddesses to descend from the heights. The stage machinery was usually designed by the king’s architect, Inigo Jones. The words were usually written by the foremost playwright of the day, Ben Jonson. Inigo and Ben had a falling out: Jonson said the words were the most important thing in a masque, but Jones said they were secondary to the spectacle.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Grammys, but I watched some of it this year. Talk about big productions! (Tacky, but big.) Clearly the Jones school of thought has triumphed.

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Image (detail) via USA Today, “Pink Sings, Spins, Sprays”

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2 Comments

  1. Ah, nice analogy. One wonders if, behind the scenes, the players were as drunk and disorderly as described here by Sir John Harrington – describing the goings-on during the visit of Queen Anne’s brother Christian I

    Now did enter, in rich dress, Hope, Faith, and Charity: Hope did assay to speak, but wine rendered her endeavours so feeble that she withdrew, and hoped the King would excuse her brevity: Faith was then all alone, for I am certain she was not joyned with good works, and left the court in a staggering condition. Charity came to the King’s feet, and seemed to cover the multitude of sins her sisters had committed; in some sorte she made obeysance and brought giftes, but said she would return home again, as there was no gift which heaven had not already given his Majesty. She then returned to Hope and Faith, who were both sick and spewing in the lower hall. Next came Victory, in bright armour, and presented a rich sword to the King, who did not accept it, but put it by with his hand; and she, by a strange medley of versification, did endeavour to make suit to the King. But Victory did not triumph long; for, after much lamentable utterance, she was led away like a silly captive, and laid to sleep in the outer steps of the ante-chamber. Now did Peace make entry, and strive to get foremost to the King; but I grieve to tell how great wrath she did discover unto those of her attendance; and, much contrary to her semblance, most rudely made war with her olive branch, and laid on the pates of those who did oppose her coming.

  2. Oh, bravo! That’s a famous anecdote, and wonderfully recounted by Harrington. The Danes, BTW, were notorious for being lusty imbibers during this period.

    As for last night’s performance, I don’t know how Pink can twirl upside down, sing, and gush water on the audience while sober, much less inebriated. Or would that help?

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