Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 21:53:53 -0500
From: Lis <>

Subject: [SCA-AS] Links: Masks, Mumming, and Masques

Greetings and Hog Manai!

This Links List is dedicated to Masks and their use---at Masques (Plays using them which evolved into large spectacles), mumming, and wassailing. Oddly enough I never found mention of a Masked Ball, which leads me to
believe it MAY have been a later practice.

In this season of Good Cheer, our Medieval brethren would have had a wide access to such festivities, which would break up the monotony of the winter season. One tidbit I discovered while making this list is that the masks Medieval people fashioned were often called Vizards in England, though that term bore no URL fruit :) This Links List was suggested by Daggonel the Juggler, and this list has been updated since I sent him some links suggestions---if you perused his mask information you may want to read this one anyway. Thanks Daggonel! This links list also contains information suitable for children's activities AND some reading suggestions if you are interested in the subject in greater depth.

Please feel free to share these links wherever they will find a ready audience, and to update your own WebPages with this Links list.



Dame Aoife Finn
Riverouge, Aethelmearc.

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature
Masque and Pastoral. The Masque in Spenser
(Site Excerpt) When we reach the reign of Elizabeth, Spenser's poetry, even more adequately than Hall's prose, reflects and revives the glory of the medieval masque and pageant. His genius, in some of its most characteristic
aspects, was exactly fitted to describe and appreciate the world just beyond the real world with which the masque dealt. The masque of the Seven Deadly Sins 11 and the masque of Cupid 12 are magnificent examples of the
processional masque.

The English Court Masque
(Site Excerpt) During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, however, entertainment often demanded a more universal involvement, calling for the participation of townspeople and courtiers as well as professional actors,
dancers and singers. People might spend weeks or months rehearsing to prepare for and present a play, a musical entertainment or a sporting event. The rehearsal and preparation was considered as much a part of the
entertainment as the performance itself. James Goldman's The Lion in Winter presents a fictional view of Henry II of England and France early in the thirteenth century, making such merriment as part of the Christmas holidays.

Popularity of the Masque in the age of Elizabeth
(Site Excerpt) The drama meant, broadly, the introduction into popular entertainment of a new intellectual element, which gradually discredited pageantry, so that it ceased to be the art of the educated and refined. But, all through the Elizabethan age and until the closing of the theatres in 1642, masque and pageantry held their place in the public eye, and in the public interest, as the most important and honourable and magnificent of the arts. The masque at court and among the nobility, and the pageant among the citizens, were practised with an energy that, for the time being, made them the most obvious, if not the most characteristic, of the national activities, the means by which corporate and national feeling most readily expressed itself.

Ben Jonson's The Masque of Oberon
Music by Ferrabosco II, Johnson, Holborne
Musicians of the Globe - Philip Pickett (A CD For Sale of the 1611 Piece)

The Masque - So What Was THAT About?
(Site Excerpt--this is a how-to page from a Masque "instructor") Some Tudor English seems at least not very polite to people who are used to modern English. If you're working with me as Master Diccen, Tudor travelling musician, you may well be told to "sit on your arse." This isn't at all rude. It's the same as a modern teacher telling you to sit on your bottom. Tudor people used very straight words to describe things modern people sometimes get embarrassed about. For example the pot under the bed, for use at night, was properly called the pisspot. There are plenty more examples in Tudor writing. BUT when Diccen actually swears, hardly any modern people seem to notice - you may hear things like, "God's Bones" or "By the Mass." This, to a Tudor person, would be quite strong. It just goes to show that at different times in history, different things are important to people; and people swear about what they think is important.'s entry for "Masque"

Skipton Castle
This site has several activities suitable for children including a Lord and Lady's Mask Project.

Masks and Masking in Medieval and Early Tudor England
Author: Twycross, Meg
Author: Carpenter , Sarah
Hardcover: 418 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.25 x 8.75 x 6.00
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Company; (June 2002)
ISBN: 0754602303

Medieval English Theatre Bobliography:
Carpenter, Sarah Masks and Mirrors: Questions of Identity in Medieval Morality Drama
Carpenter, Sarah & Meg Twycross Masks in Medieval English Theatre: The Mystery Plays
Carpenter, Sarah & Meg Twycross Masks in Medieval English Theatre: The Mystery Plays 2
Carpenter, Sarah & Meg Twycross Materials and Methods of Mask-making

Masks of Shame (Medieval Punishment Masks)
(Site Excerpt) The Masks of Shame: Those being punished had to wear these masks for public displays of their shame. There was a "Flute of Shame" for bad musicians, "Swine Mask" for men treating women poorly, the "Hood of Shame" for bad students, and many more masks of shame.

The Functions And Forms Of Masks
(Site Excerpt pf relevant bits) In the Middle Ages, masks were used in the mystery plays of the 12th to the 16th century. In plays dramatizing portions of the Old and New Testaments, grotesques of all sorts, such as devils,
demons, dragons, and personifications of the seven deadly sins, were brought to stage life by the use of masks. Constructed of papier-mâché, the masks of the mystery plays were evidently marvels of ingenuity and craftsmanship,
being made to articulate and to belch fire and smoke from hidden contrivances. But again, no reliable pictorial record has survived. Masks used in connection with present-day carnivals and Mardi Gras and those of folk demons and characters still used by central European peasants, such as the Perchten masks of Alpine Austria, are most likely the inheritors of the tradition of medieval masks.

Festival Masks
Made from stiffened linen
By Sancha de Flores
(Site Excerpt) In period, however, according to Masks and Masking in Medieval and Early Tudor England, by Meg Twycross and Sarah Carpenter, papier mache is not often seen as a mask-making material until the 16th century. Mask materials that would have been used during the Middle Ages included wood, leather, plaster, canvas, and linen. Cauls (netting) were also worn over the face as masks.

See Also:
Gilded Mask for a Lord of Misrule
Made from stiffened linen

Info on Wassailing and Mask wearing while doing so (Henry VII had problems with it)
(Site Excerpt) Mumming is also an ancient pagan custom that was an excuse for people to have a party at Christmas! It means 'making diversion in disguise'. The tradition was that men and women would swap clothes, put on masks and go visiting their neighbours, singing, dancing or putting on a play with a silly plot.

Mummers and the wearing of Masks
(Site Excerpt) Parties of masqueraders who disguised themselves in masks after the manner of the ancient Romans in the Saturnalia. Christmas was the grand scene of mumming, and some mummers were disguised like bears, others
like unicorns, bringing presents. Those who could not procure masks rubbed their faces with soot, or painted them. In the Christmas mummeries the chief aim was to surprise by the oddity of the masks and the singularity and
splendor of the dresses. Everything was out of nature and propriety. They were often attended with an exhibition of gorgeous machinery. Besides the set and formal mummings, the members, guests, and servants of a household
would put on masks, and, thus disguised, practice rude jests on one another.

Mummings and Disguisings: development of these into the Masque.
(Site Excerpt) In this account, we have what is probably the oldest and simplest form of what is afterwards the masque. 1 It is called "a mumming," and the performers are "mummers." The word means that the disguised
performers say nothing that would betray their identity. They dice in silence, using only dumb show where they wish to signify their meaning. But they are all disguised with vizards, the old word for mask; they are accompanied by musicians; they dance together among themselves when their "mumming" business is over and torchbearers conduct them on their way.