An antimasque (also spelled antemasque) is a comic or grotesque dance presented before or between the acts of a masque, a type of dramatic composition.[1] The antimasque is a spectacle of disorder which usually starts or precedes the masque itself and was played by professional actors while members of the court primarily performed the roles of the masque.[2] It is characterized by impropriety and is transformed by the masque into goodness, propriety, and order, typically by the King's presence alone.[3] It was also contrasted with the masque by the use of the lower class as characters.[4] This then was supposed to harmonize with the king and the higher class. In later years, the antimasque developed into a farce or pantomime.[4] The concept of the antemasque, or anti-masque, was conceived by Ben Jonson.[5] Masques originally usually had one antemasque before the main masque, but later it became common to have several antemasques preceding the main masque.[6][7]


  1. Collins English Dictionary (Digital ed.). William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  2. Best, Michael. "The antimasque". Shakespeare's Life and Times. University of Victoria. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  3. Astington, John (1999). English Court Theatre 1558 -1642. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64065-2. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  4. "masque (entertainment)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  5. Eras of the dance: the George Verdak Collection, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Huntsville Museum of Art - 1976 "The antemasque was an innovation by Jonson which introduced the grotesque or antic element to the performance which preceded the masque proper. The antemasque differed from the masque in that it was performed by professionals .."
  6. Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works 2010 p.1324 0199580537 "Earlier masques usually had one antemasque, which preceded the main masque, but later it became common for the masques to have several antemasques."
  7. Mara R. Wade Gender Matters: Discourses of Violence in Early Modern Literature 9401210233 - 2013 "This moment, along with the antemasque's inclusion of the marriage god Hymen, recalls Ben Jonson's The Masque of Hymen (1606), in which Juno and eight ladies descend from above. Bianca adopts another common feature of Jonson's ..."

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