The Masque of Blackness


The masque was controversial in its day, in part for the production's use of body paint instead of masks to simulate dark skin. One observer, Sir Dudley Carleton, expressed a view tinged with the prevailing social biases of the era:

...instead of Vizzards, their Faces and Arms up to the Elbows, were painted black, which was a Disguise sufficient, for they were hard to be known...and you cannot imagine a more ugly sight....

The masque was expensive, costing £3000, and caused consternation amongst some English observers due to the perceived impropriety of the performance.

The texts of The Masque of Blackness and The Masque of Beauty were published together in quarto form in 1608, by the bookseller Thomas Thorpe; they were reprinted in the first folio collection of Jonson's works in 1616.

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