C. H. Herford, Percy Simpson, and Evelyn Simpson (eds), Ben Jonson, Vol. 10: Play Commentary; Masque Commentary

Find Location in text

Main Text


This was performed twice on 29 December 1613 and 3 January 1614. It was part of the round of festivities in honour of the Somerset wedding. Chamberlain wrote to Mistress Alice Carleton, Sir Dudley's sister, on 30 December 1613: 'yesternight there was a motley maske of fiue english and hue Scotts (wch are called the high dancers,) among whom Sergeant Boide, one Abraham crummie1 and Ackmoutie (that was at Padoua and Venice) are esteemed the most principall and loftie, but how yt succeeded I heare not' (S.P. 14 lxxv. 53). On 5 January 1614 he wrote to Carleton, 'the loftie maskers were so well liked at court the last weeke that they were appointed to performe yt again on monday, yet theyre deuice (wch was a mimicall imitation of the Irish) was not so pleasing to many, wch thincke yt no time (as the case stands) to exasperat that nation by making yt ridiculous' (ibid. lxxvi. 2).

We take the title to be The Irish Masque at Court, the masquers disguised as Irishmen, like the Muscovites in Love's Labour's Lost and the foreigners in King Henry the Eighth, following the convention of the wandering foreigner visiting a prince, which was a feature of the masque.

In S.P. 14 lxxv. 33, 3 December 1613, is the first authorization:

'Sr Thomas Lake Whereas his Matie is determynd to haue a Maske this Christmas reproduced characterformed by some gentlemen of his owne servantreproduced character that are good dauncers. And the same for matter of chardge to be defraid by his Matie Theis are to will you to drawe and Issue a Warrreproduced characternt to his Maty That such somes as to vs shall be thought needfull for that service may be paid out of his Matreproduced character excheqr to the handreproduced character of Meredith Morgan or his Assignes w'hout imprest or chardge And this shalbe yor direccon in that behalf. Whitehall 3d of December 1613.

Yor Loving frendes

T Suffolke

Iul Cæsar'

There is a further warrant from Suffolk to Lake, S.P. 14 lxxv. 32, 3 December 1613, 'Likewise you shall receaue a ɬre from Mr. Chauncellor & me drawinge of a privy seale to laye out fresh som̃es of money as shall be needfull for the gent. Maske.' Ibid. 33. The same to the same, a warrant to pay Meredith Morgan for 'a Maske this Christmas reproduced characterformed by some gentlemen of his owne seruants that are good dauncers'.

pg 542In the Pell Order Books, E 403/2733, f. 57, entry of 18 December 1613, 'The Maske': 'By Order dated xmo Decembris: 1613. To Meredith Morgan gent authorised for receipt therof by the right honorable the Earle of Suffolke Lo: Chambleine to his Ma:tieand Sr Iulius Cesar knight Chancellor of th'Exchequer the summe of Twoe hundred poundreproduced character towardreproduced character the charges and expenses of a Maske to be reproduced characterformed this Christmas, reproduced character ƀre dat ix° die Decembris 1613,' with a note 'Cary See Bowier isto die & 200li'. Ibid., f. 58, entry of 18 December, 'The Maske': 'By Order dated xvjto Decembris: 1613. To Meredith Morgan gent the somme of Twoe hundred poundes to be by him expended for the Charges of the Maske to be reproduced characterformed this Christmas 1613. reproduced character ƀre dat ix° die Decembris: 1613,' checked by 'Bowier'. Ibid., f. 72b, entry of 15 January 1614, 'The Maske': 'By Order dated xxx° Decembr 1613. To Meredith Morgan gent the som̃e of two hundred pounds towarde the charges of the Maske intended this xmas reproduced character ƀre dat ix° Decembr 1613,' checked by 'Carie'.

The payment of £200 is repeated in Lansdowne MS. 164, to Cary and to Bowyer on f. 244, and to Morgan on ff. 246 and 252.

foote-men. Irish footmen were common at the time. In The Misfortunes of Arthur by T. Hughes the description of the dumb show before Act 11 includes 'a man bareheaded, with blacke long shagged haire downe to his shoulders, apparalled with an Irish Iacket and shirt, hauing an Irish dagger by his side and a dart in his hand'. Cf. Field, Amends for Ladies, ii. iii (1639, Div), 'Enter Maid, like an Irish foot-boy with a Dart'.

1 Abercrombie.

1. For chreeshes sayk. This Anglo-Irish jargon was a stage-convention; Shakespeare used it for Captain Macmorris in King Henry V and Jonson re-used it for Captain Whit in Bartholomew Fair.

2. an't be … 7. be an't be . Used by Whit, B.F. iv. iv. 202.

4, 5. cashtermonger. For the Irish costermonger see Alch. iv. i. 57 n. Peepsh, pippins; pomwater'sh, large juicy apples. Cf. Dekker, Old Fortunatus, iv. iii (1600, I), Andelocia and Shaddow, 'like Irish Coster-mongers': ' peeps of Tamasco, feene peeps. I fat tis de sweetest apple in de world, tis better den de Pome water, or apple Iohn.'

10. phoit stick, white staff of the ushers or the lord chamberlain. Cf. 66 and C.R. v. iii. 41 of a citizen trying to get in at a Court performance, 'Knocke that simple fellow there'.

34. neder noder … 35. eder oder . T. of T. ii. iv. 41, 'neither-nother'.

43. By my goships hant. So 90, 127–8: cf. Wither, Abuses Stript and Whipt, ii, sat. 4 (1613, R6v):

  • If but by his Lords hand an Irish swere,
  • To violate that oath he stands in feare;
  • Least him of both his lands and goods he spoile,
  • For making him the instrument of guile.

pg 543

46–7. shamrokes ant butter, ant vayter creshes. Spenser in A View of the Present State of Ireland (ed. Hales, p. 654) describes starving natives of Munster 'creeping foorthe upon theyr handes', looking 'like anatomyes of death' and eating dead carrion; ' and yf they founde a plotte of water-cresses or sham-rokes, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue therewithall'; The Life and Death of Thomas Stukeley, 1605, D3:

  • Mack. These English churles dee if they lacke there bed,
  • And bread and beere, porrage and powdred beefe.
  • Han. O Marafastot shamrocks are no meat,
  • Nor Bonny clabbo, nor greene Water-cresses,
  • Nor our strong butter, nor our swelld otmeale.

Wither, Abuses Stript and Whipt, 1613, G3v:

  • Ile giue vp my play,
  • And fall to labor for a groat a day;
  • And for my clothing in a mantle goe.
  • And feed on Sham-roots, as the Irish doe.

See 'The Shamrock in Literature' by N. Colgan in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vi, pp. 211–26.

53. Connough. 'Connagh' in A Geographicall Description of the Kingdome of Ireland, 1642.

54. English payle. Not a definite territory, but only that part of Ireland in which, for the time being, the king's writ ran.

56–7. an't be all tree, and be the equivalent of three of us, i.e. the three besides himself.

61. Robyne, Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset.

62. hish daughter. Lady Frances, daughter of Thomas, Earl of Suffolk.

64. He knoke vsh o' te payt. A delightful touch which Suffolk should have appreciated: on Twelfth Night 1604 he had 'ushered' Jonson and his friend Sir John Roe in this way from a masque (Conv. Drum. 155–6).

71. fading. 'The name of a dance, apparently Irish' (O.E.D.). Ep. xcvii. I, and The Knight of the Burning Pestle, iv. i (1613, G4), 'George. I will have him dance Fading; Fading is a fine Iigge I'll assure you Gentlemen: begin brother, now a capers sweet heart, now a turne a'th toe, and then tumble.'

75. garranes, horses (Irish gearrdn). The 'garran' or 'garron' was a small and inferior horse used in Ireland and Scotland (O.E.D.). The Life and Death of Thomas Stukeley, 1605, E1v, of the Irish:

  • They haue a pray of Garrans cowes and sheepe,
  • Well worth a brace of thousand pounds at least.

76. a Cashtell … vpon teyr backs. E.H. i. ii. 144.

77–8. great fish … sheamoynster . An allusion to the great concave shell with six huge sea-monsters swimming by it in The Masque of Blackness.

pg 544

79. devoish vit a clowd. In Campion's masque at the Somerset marriage. 'From euery quarter of the earth three Knights' sailed to Britain; Error, Rumor, Curiosity and Credulity divert them with a tempest, the winds and the four elements joining in the confusion. Bel-Anna breaks the spell. 'Then out of the ayre a cloude descends, discouering sixe of the Knights. … '

82. mantels. Spenser (A Present View, ed. Hales, p. 631) describes this as the characteristic dress' of the Irish outlaw: ' it is his bedd, yea, and allmost his howsehold stuffe. For the wood is his house agaynst all weathers, and his mantell is his cave to sleepe in.' John Derrick in The Image of Ireland, 1581, D1v, describes the kerns: 'With Mantelles downe vnto the Shoe, | to lappe them in by night.'

83. fadow. Evidently a dance, but not mentioned elsewhere: the O.E.D. does not include it. Query, some jingle of 'fa-ding' and 'fa-dow'.

phip a dunboyne. Evidently 'Philip o' Dunboyne'—a dance tune otherwise unknown.

87. bonny clabbe, clotted milk. N.I. i. ii. 25, 'bonny-clabbee'.

88. vsquebagh, whiskey. The 'Irish' nurse drinks it, N.I. iv. iv. 236.

95. no goot vindsh. Like Vulturnus in The Masque of Beauty.

97. te foure cornersh of Mercator's projection. Cf. 'The three corners of the world' in King John, v. vii. 116, Britain and Ireland making the fourth corner.

106. ouer te bog, ant te Banncke. E.M.O. II. i. 20–2, 'nimble-spirited Catso's … will run ouer a bog like your wild Irish'. Bannoke in the Folio: did Jonson write 'Bankone' in the sense of the Irish bancan, a bank in a field?

110. my little mayshter. Prince Charles.

111. vfrow, 'frau'. Elizabeth, who married the Palsgrave early in the year.

127. iuslish Delounes. Nichols (Progresses, ii, p. 722 n.) enumerating five eminent lawyers of the Dillon family at this period, finds only one living at the date of this masque, Sir Lucas, Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1572, son of Sir Robert of Newton, who was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1558 and afterwards Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.

128. Lo. deputish. Sir Arthur Chichester, on 23 February 1613 raised to the peerage as Lord Chichester of Belfast.

146. rugs. D. is A. v. i. 46–8, 'walke In a rug … barefoote. … A kind of Irish penance.'

168. firme. M. of A. 464.


1 Abercrombie.

logo-footer Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.
Access is brought to you by Log out