Masked Meanings: the Historical Importance of Masques and their Role in The Tempest

In “Masked Meanings” I build a sophisticated and complex argument exploring the purpose and consequences of the the engagement masque in Act IV, scene i of The Tempest. Without knowledge of the masque genre, this scene is meaningless to the modern reader because this unique performative mode has since died out. By using background sources to historically contextualize this scene as well as real examples of masques themselves, I help to conserve the value of the interrupted masque for a new generation of readers. In doing so, I respond to critic Frank Kermode who suggests that the scene was interrupted for lack of potential to be played out. I bring in the work of a second critic, Paul Brown, to uncover and secure the value of the interrupted engagement masque in its strong critique of the early seventeenth century English aristocracy and their desire to conquer and assimilate cultural minorities.

This essay not only shows my ability to juggle multiple skills and sources at once, but also illustrates my patience and work ethic that it took to get there. The development of this argument was the longest of the semester, beginning in my the second essay of the semester, and becoming more complex in the third. I am proud to present to you “Masked Meanings:”

Masked Meanings: the Historical Importance of Masques and their Role in The Tempest