Definition of masque in English:



  • 1A form of amateur dramatic entertainment, popular among the nobility in 16th- and 17th-century England, which consisted of dancing and acting performed by masked players.

    • ‘While all-sung opera has always been the norm in Italy, the strong British tradition of spoken drama favoured the masque, and spoken drama with music remained the pattern for dramatic works in English.’
    • ‘Productions of The Tempest tend to fall into easily classifiable groups: colonial myth, spectacular masque or theatrical metaphor.’
    • ‘But masque requires mystery as its necessary condition of knowledge.’
    • ‘This is a chronological study of the rise and fall of the antimasque within Jonson's masques, and it focusses in particular on the form's political content in the more specific sense: its commentary on court intrigue and on royal policy.’
    • ‘In 1740 was performed the masque of Alfred by Thomson and Mallet, containing ‘Rule, Britannia’, probably written by Thomson.’
    • ‘The masque was performed at Magdalen College in 1930.’
    • ‘Given the diversity of politics identified in Jacobean masques, it is somewhat disappointing that the study concludes with the traditional view of the Caroline masque as one-dimensional in nature.’
    • ‘Dancing plays a part in the staged entertainments or masques which occur within several plays.’
    • ‘He had painted the ceiling for the Whitehall Banqueting House, where masques had been performed and through which, in a pointed gesture, Charles I was made to pass on the way to his execution.’
    • ‘Jonson made his money from masques, which were stupendously expensive to put on at court.’
    • ‘It is very pleasing for me to find his imaginative qualities again set out, this time in a masque in five scenes for chorus and orchestra.’
    • ‘If my own enthusiasm was kept within bounds, it was partly because Noble treats this wonderful, neglected play as if it were a spectacular masque or Jacobean musical.’
    • ‘And here the concept of the masque comes into play one final time.’
    • ‘The masque I performed in was but one of the day, and the many fast country dances did not cease until late at night.’
    • ‘The second chapter deals with the Jacobean court and the performance of the masques.’
    • ‘Arriving at the end of the masque, Caliban and his fellows effectively invert the form of the Jonsonian masque and with it Prospero's ability to control the terms of the marriage.’
    • ‘The literary element was probably the most important component and among those who wrote texts for masques were Ben Jonson and John Milton.’
    • ‘It is presentational music, taking music performance back to the masque.’
    • ‘The word ‘mask’ is related to a masque or masquerade, which was a courtly performance popular during the Renaissance and the seventeenth century.’
    • ‘As winter quarters for the King's Men it was ideal, but as an intimate theatre for a more select and sophisticated audience it required a different style of play, closer to the masques and pageants in which the court delighted.’
    masked ball, masque, fancy-dress party
    View synonyms
  • 2

    ‘adding a treatment masque to your cleansing routine works wonders’
    variant spelling of mask


Early 16th century (in the sense ‘masquerade or masked ball’): probably a back-formation (influenced by French masque ‘mask’) from masker, from Italian mascar person wearing a mask.