Performed to celebrate the third birthday of Frederick's daughter Augusta, it remains among the best-known British patriotic songs up to the present, while the masque of which it was originally part is only remembered by specialist historians.The most outstanding humanists, poets and artists of the day, in the full intensity of their creative powers, devoted themselves to producing masques; and until the Puritans closed the English theatres in 1642, the masque was the highest artform in England.Their works are usually thought of as the most significant in the form. William Shakespeare wrote a masque-like interlude in The Tempest, understood by modern scholars to have been heavily influenced by the masque texts of Ben Jonson and the stagecraft of Inigo Jones.There is also a masque sequence in his Romeo and Juliet and Henry VIII.The rustic presentation of "Pyramus and Thisbe" as a wedding entertainment in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream offers a familiar example. At the end, the players would take off their masks to reveal their identities.
Unfortunately, as Harington gleefully reported, the actress playing the Queen tripped over the steps of the throne, sending her gifts flying; Hope and Faith were too drunk to speak a word, while Peace, annoyed at finding her way to the throne blocked, made good use of her symbolic olive branches to slap anyone who was in her way.
Masques were typically a complimentary offering to the prince among his guests and might combine pastoral settings, mythological fable, and the dramatic elements of ethical debate.
There would invariably be some political and social application of the allegory.
In the tradition of masque, Louis XIV of France danced in ballets at Versailles with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
The masque tradition developed from the elaborate pageants and courtly shows of ducal Burgundy in the late Middle Ages.