The Masque of Blackness

Introduction

The Masque of Blackness was an early Jacobean era masque, first performed at the Stuart Court in the Banqueting Hall of Whitehall Palace on Twelfth Night, 6 January 1605. The masque was written by Ben Jonson at the request of Anne of Denmark, the queen consort of King James I, who wished the masquers to be disguised as Africans. Anne was one of the performers in the masque along with her court ladies, and appeared in blackface makeup.

The plot of the masque follows the ladies arriving at the English Court to be "cleansed" of their blackness by King James; a stage direction that was impossible to fulfill on stage. As a result, The Masque of Beauty was written as a sequel to The Masque of Blackness. (The Masque of Beauty, originally intended for the following holiday season, was displaced by Hymenaei, the masque for the wedding of the Earl of Essex and Frances Howard. Beauty was finally performed in 1608.)[1]


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