Masques were right royal entertainments when they were at their height in the 1600 and 1700s. Extravagant shows for royalty’s benefit, they delighted in elaborate scenery, singing, dancing and drama, though they were slow-moving and pretty static. Lots of dumb-show and tableaux, like ‘living paintings’. Indeed, prettiness and grandeur was the chief object – that and flattering the king or queen as mightily as possible. Gods descended by fantastical elevators into the world of men. The costumes were gorgeous.
When Charlotte Peake wrote her masques, her first priorities seem to have been prettiness, too. She wrote in old-fashioned, literary language. Nymphs and swains danced barefoot on the grass. The costumes were gorgeous (though she also had serious things to say about war, love, nature and truth).
Boxford Masques are rather livelier, noisier, funnier and more…democratic. But they retain the title, out of deference to Charlotte who plainly delighted in the word and all its associations. (And our costumes are gorgeous, too.)
‘talk of nature and of a life that is creatively affirming
and most of all, they sustain a magical local tradition.’