Ben Johnon’s Masques The majority of people consider the masques to be a frivolous genre, which had no other purpose but the entertainment of nobility. The masques became especially popular in post-Elizabethan England, because of relative geopolitical security, achieved during her reign. Yet, if one carefully reads the works of Ben Jonson, who excelled in this genre, like no one else, it becomes clear that his masques are actually wrapped around Jonson’s own socio-political ideas. In order for us to prove this statement, let us briefly analyze the three of his most famous works: the Masque of Blackness, the Masque of Beauty and the masque Hymenaei. The Masque of Blackness was written in 1605 and was being performed in the same year. In this work, Jonson refers to such complicated issues as race and politics. He was the first European intellectual to suggest that the racial characteristics do not simply correspond to the external appearance of people from different parts of the world, but they also define their essence as human beings.
It is especially remarkable that Jonson was able to come to this concussion, without possessing a formal education. The Masque of Blackness begins with the song, where the author compares wandering of Negroes to a flood. Yet, at the same time, he appears to have a great respect for the people of this race: Fair Niger, son to great Oceanus, Now honoured thus With all his beauteous race, Who though but black in face, Yet are they bright, And full of life and light, To prove that beauty best Which not the colour, but the feature Assures unto the creature (Jonson) Today’s critics point out to this, as the proof that Jonson was a progressive writer, well ahead of his time. But the key to Jonson’s logical inconsistency lies in the fact that Queen Anne herself was to participate in the masque, posing as Black lady. This seems to be the explanation to Jonson’s original awe of Blacks. Nevertheless, as we read further, his overtones change to, what today would be described as utter political-incorrectness. Author suggests that Blacks, though admirable, will never be able to acquire the same social status in England, unless they undergo the process of cleansing.
Emily W. Gold frank Assignment 3-3 11/14/00 Annotations Wegner & Cra no, 1975 Subjects consisted of 144 students, equally divided with respect to race and gender, from a large Midwestern university. Experimenters consisted of 12 college students, also equally divided with respect to race and gender. Each experimenter tested 3 of each race-gender combination. Experimenters approached individual ...
It is almost impossible now to figure out what did Jonson mean by cleansing. The language of his masques is highly allegorical, but there is no doubt that the author was able to come to concussion that there is a deep metaphysical difference between Black and White races. According to Johnson, the different color of skin only emphasizes this fact. There is no doubt, in Jonson’s mind, that Ethiops are deficient, although he blames the third party for their ugliness: As of one Phaeton, that fired the world, And that before his heedless flames were hurled About the globe, the Ethiops were as fair As other dames, now black with black despair, And in respect of their complexions changed, Are eachwhere, since, for luckless creatures ranged (Jonson ) In my opinion, Jonson’s biggest accomplishment in his Masque of Blackness, is the fact that he was able to relate the external and internal factors of racial dilemma and to show that everything has to do with everything. His worldview is clearly British, it appears that it was Jonson, who originated the concept of white man’s burden, well before Kipling. The Masque of Beauty was written in 1608 and it is actually a continuation of Masque of Blackness. In it, author develops his thesis that the color of skin indicates the properties of one’s soul.
Johnson clearly associates the virtue with fairness, although it is wrong to suggest that this is only because he wanted to flatter the Queen Ann, who was blond. If freed from poetical metaphors and allegories, the Masque of Beauty can very well be considered as a philosophical piece. The motives of social-Darwinism are clearly present in this masque, even though that it was written 300 years, before the emergence of social sciences. The dialogues between the characters that take place throughout the masque, revolve around the idea of beauty, which in its turn, is seen as an exclusive attribute of fair skinned people. Author goes further he implies that the darkness is a reflection of chaos, while light is strongly linked to the beauty and order: When Loue, at first, did mooue, From out of Chaos, brightned. So was the world, and lightned, As now! Ecch.
Cosmetology is the professional skill and practice of beautifying the hair, face, skin and body. Cosmetologists bring out the beauty within each person by working on the human body. (Allure) The process is not easy, it involves many practice, talent, and patients. Each category has its own steps and techniques. Cosmetology is not only to beautify but also to heal the human body. They are like ...
As now! Ecch. As now! Yeeld Night, then, to the light, As Blacknesse hath to Beauty: Which is but the same duety (Jonson).
In my opinion, it is not just a poetical finesse that attracts modern reader to the works of Jonson, but the fact that we get to hear an ancient wisdom, speaking through his characters. It is especially a refreshing experience, in time of political correctness, when we are being taught not to trust our own senses, especially when it comes to dealing with philosophical issues. There are other motives in Masque of Beauty can be found, as well. Such as drawing parallels between England and ancient Rome.
But we cannot think of it as something innovative, as the referrals to the Roman times became very common, ever since the spirit of Renaissance started to affect more and more writers and philosophers. Still, it is the healthy spirit of his nation having a bigger mission then simply enriching itself, which makes the works of Jonson truly unique. The masque Humenaie can be thought of as the part of trilogy, although it is thematically unrelated to the Masque of Blackness or the Masque of Beauty. But we can say that it conceptional completion of Jonson’s meditations on the subject of beauty and its relation to other aspects of person’s life. It is much more allegorical, comparing to the previous two masques. The masquers are divided on Humors and Affections.
They argue, in front of Hymen’s throne, about what is the most important, when it comes to a love affairs. But that is when Reason interferes and puts an end to their argument, by saying that one’s love can only be realised if it’s ruled by logic: Convey them, Order, to their places, And rank them so, in several traces, As they may set their mixed powers Unto the music of the Hours (Jonson) According to Jonson, the love is rather a predestination than a feeling and it must result in physical consequences. It is a precondition to what Jonson’s considers to be the most important things in this life health, beauty and intelligence. It is not hard to figure out Jonson’s socio-political agenda in Hymenaei, especially if we take into account his earlier ideas of what is the essence of beauty and ugliness, expressed in previous masques. Jonson is convinced that the intelligence derives from health, but the health, in its turn, is strongly associated with beauty. If we remember that Jonson grade beauty by the degrees of fairness and by the absence of blackness, the three analyzed masques appear to be nothing but the defence of idea of racial purity.
Born in London, England around June 11, 1572, Ben Jonson would learn the true meaning of tragedy at a tender young age (The Life of Ben Jonson). Jonson's father was Protestant and sentenced to prison and deprived of his estate during the reign of Mary Tudor, who was Catholic. With only a month left till Ben Jonson's birth his Mother was left a penniless widow when his father suddenly past away. ...
Ben Jonson, just like the other English dramatists of the time, was able to foresee some social curiosities, growing to the point, when they begin to represent a danger to the society, as a whole.
Lindley, David The Court Masque. Manchester: The Revels Plays Companion Library. 1984. Jonson, Ben The Masque of Blackness. 2001.
Luminarium Editions. May 1, 2006. http://www.luminarium.org/editions/maskblack.htm Jonson, Ben Hymeneai. 2001. Luminarium Editions. May 1, 2006. http://www.luminarium.org/editions/hymen.htm Jonson, Ben The Masque of Beauty. 2001. Renascence Editions. May 1, 2006. http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/jonson2.html Martin, Randall Women Writers in Renaissance England New York: Longman, 1997.
Sanders, Julie Ben Jonson’s Theatrical Republics. London: Macmillan, 1998..