Jonson and the Amazons
in Spectacular Performances
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The first explicitly heroic masque created for the Jacobean monarchy was Ben Jonson's and Inigo Jones's Masque of Queens, performed at Whitehall in 1609. The masque, for all its spectacle and martial imagery, celebrates the sovereign word. For all the military chic of Jones's costumes, there is no suggestion in The Masque of Queens that the power of Bel-Anna and her Amazons derives in any way from their erotic attractions. Jonson's reformulation of the chivalric myth is, in its way, far more radically disarming than Queens Elizabeth's had been. An important component of personal style was the chivalric mythology with which she surrounded herself. The popular adulation accorded to Sir Philip Sidney for the most meager of military careers, the exaggerated hopes invested in the disastrous Earl of Essex, are indices to how badly the realm yearned for glory as Elizabeth's rule came to end.

Spectacular Performances

Essays on theatre, imagery, books and selves in early modern England>


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