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date: 13 April 2021


  • Murray Lefkowitz


A comic or grotesque interlude in a Masque , normally preceding the terminal dances of the masquers. There were usually more than one and they consisted of a variety of spoken dialogue, pantomime, singing and dancing. Unlike the grand masquing dances, which were performed by a group of nobility from the floor of the hall, antimasques were usually danced by professional actors from the stage.

In contrast to the serious matter of the main masque (allegory, mythology, deus ex machina) the themes of the antimasques concentrated on mundane humour and the bizarre: the low-class comedy of beggars, cripples and drunkards, housewives and shopkeepers, barmaids and chimney-sweeps, foreigners, criminals, soldiers and common labourers; the pantomimed antics of dancing birds, bears, cats, apes and baboons; and the fantastical capers of furies, witches, spirits, sprites, satyrs and other magical beings. The spoken burlesques, usually in low prose, often imitated folk characters and situations, as well as ...

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Musical Antiquary
London, British Library