Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/319

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partners for the dance from among the ladies present.

Out of this prologue grew the habit of prefacing the dancing by more or less elaborate conversation, written for the masquers beforehand and committed by them to memory. As soon as it was done with, they, as usual, chose their partners, and the dance which gave occasion for the masque began. This dramatic dialogue in turn developed to such an extent that it became more than an easy task for amateurs, and professional actors, often of the comic and vaudeville type, were called in to assist. They and their parts constituted the anti-mask. As was the case with the prologue, as soon as the anti-masque was over, or the whole dramatic entertainment which contained the anti-masque, was over, the professional actors withdrew, leaving the masquers proper to go on with their dancing. "Let the anti-masques not be long," says Bacon; "they have been commonly of fools, satyrs, baboons, wild men, antiques, beasts, spirits, witches, Ethiopes, pigmies, turquets [Turkish dwarfs], nymphs, rustics, Cupids, statuas moving, and the like."

This is the stage to which the masque attained during the height of its popularity in the reign of James. It was, however, a far more elaborate affair than has been hinted at above. The prepa-