Internet Shakespeare Editions


An indecorous masque

A Dwarf, as sketched by Inigo Jones,
Inigo Jones and Ben Jonson (1853)
University of Victoria Library. Original in the Chatsworth Collection.

That the world the masque described was not always orderly is shown in a satirical comment by Sir John Harington (nephew to Queen Elizabeth, writer, and inventor of the first water closet). In 1606, King James and King Christian of Denmark were to have been entertained by a masque, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, but it seems that everyone had had rather too much of the preceding banquet:

One day, a great feast was held, and, after dinner, the representation of Solomon his Temple and the coming of the Queen of Sheba was made . . . But alas! as all earthly things do fail to poor mortals in enjoyment, so did prove our presentment hereof. The Lady who did play the Queens part, did carry most precious gifts to both their Majesties; but, forgetting the steps arising to the canopy, overset her caskets into his Danish Majesties lap, and fell at his feet, though I rather think it was in his face. Much was the hurry and confusion; cloths and napkins were at hand, to make all clean. His Majesty then got up and would dance with the Queen of Sheba; but he fell down and humbled himself before her, and was carried to an inner chamber, and laid on a bed of state . . .

...The entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down; wine did so occupy their upper chambers. Now did appear, 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 joined 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 . . . She then returned to Hope and Faith, who were both sick and spewing in the lower hall.