Notes and Queries, June 1996 v43 n2 p168(4)
The analogous qualities of The Two Noble Kinsmen and Masque of The Inner Temple and Grey's Inn.
Blincoe, Noel R.
Abstract: Dramatists John Fletcher and William Shakespeare The Two Noble Kinsmen and dramatist Francis Beaumont's The Masque of the Inner Temple and Grey's Inn (1613) are very similar in style and form. The Kinsmen's structural form contains three fundamental movements that compare to three which give shape to Masque. Thus, it can be said that the authorship of Kinsmen may be categorized as belonging to the Jacobean Court amateur dramatic and musical entertainment especially popular in the 16th-17th centuries.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1996 Oxford University Press
In his conversations with Drummond, Ben Jonson asserted, 'that next himself only Fletcher and Chapman could make a Mask' (lines 556).(1) The closeness in style and in form that Fletcher and Shakespeare's The Two Noble Kinsmen has to Beaumont's celebrated marriage Masque of the Inner Temple and Grey's Inn constitutes a solid basis for claiming that the composition of this play fits the genre of a Jacobean Court masque.(2) The theme of marital love that is central in Beaumont's Masque likewise is a primary theme in the Kinsmen. The King's servants presented Beaumont's Masque in February 1613 as part of the celebrations to honour the nuptials of Princess Elizabeth and the Count Palatine. When the King's Servants produced the Kinsmen in 1613,(3) a dramatic element, similar to that found in the play, had already become established as a prominent feature in Jacobean Court masques. The play's structural pattern has three basic movements that parallel the three movements that give form to Beaumont's Masque.
In its first movement, Beaumont's Masque of the Inner Temple introduces the theme of love when it honours Elizabeth and Frederick as the joining of two rivers, the Thames and the Rhine. Following a recent innovation in court masques (e.g., Jonson's Oberon, 1611), Beaumont infuses the dramatic into the masque's theme of love.(4) In the first movement of the masque, Hermes and Iris, the envoys of Jove and Juno, respectively, argue about who is to honour the nuptials of Elizabeth and Frederick, Jove or Juno. Juno normally presides over marriages; however, in the special case of a marriage which concerns general government, or affairs of state, Hermes contends that Jove himself wishes to honour the marriage. Feeling Juno's rights are being thwarted, Iris fears that Jove is acting from the improper motive of lust instead of a genuine concern for honouring the present nuptials and the general state of marriage.
In the first movement of the Kinsmen, Act I, Shakespeare and Fletcher introduce the themes of wedded love and friendship. In the opening scene, the playwrights introduce us to the sacredness of the love between husband and wife by presenting the solemn rites of the marriage processional of Duke Theseus and Queen Hip-polyta. Then, the second scene changes settings to a room in Thebes. Here, the playwrights introduce us to the preciousness of friendship when Palamon and Arcite discuss their shared ideals - virtue and justice. In the third scene, the playwrights return us to Athens to witness the two sisters Hippolyta and Emilia debating the value of friendship versus that of marital love. Hippolyta discloses the anxiety she feels over the possible conflict between Theseus' love for her and his love for Pirithous when she declares,
Their knot of love Tide, weau'd, intangled, with so true, so long, And with a finger of so deepe a cunning May be outworne, never undone.
(p. 13, I.iii.41-4)(5)
Upon departing from Emilia, Hippolyta with a surge of confidence tells Emilia, 'with great assurance, / That we, more than his Pirithous, possesse / The high throne in his heart' (p. 15, I.iii.94-6). Emilia's narration of the innocent and close friendship she shared with Flavina in their childhood introduces the more general issue in the debate over friendship and marriage. Emilia contends that friendship between members of the same sex is worthier than the love found between man and wife when she tells Hippolyta 'That the true love tweene Mayde, and mayde, may be / More then in sex individuall' (p. 14, I.iii.81-2).(6) Hippolyta maintains, contrariwise, that the true love of husband and wife is the worthier and describes Emilia's attitude towards this love as a 'sickely appetite, That loathes even as it longs' (p. 15, I.iii.89-90). Emilia's responses to Hippolyta 'I am not against your faith, / Yet I continew mine' (97-8) concludes their dialogue and puts the themes of love and friendship into a dramatic setting.
In the second movement of the Masque of the Inner Temple, Mercury and Iris each present an antimasque. The antimasques, as typically performed in Jacobean Court masques, exhibit a disorder or a chaos that acts as a foil to the formal order of the masque itself. They guarantee a rich diversity within the solemnity and magnificence found in the rest of the entertainment.(7) The dispute between Iris and Mercury over who is to honour the royal nuptials of Elizabeth and Frederick creates a pattern of disorder and confusion during the middle movement of Beaumont's Masque. Mercury presents an anti-masque of oddly dancing cupids. Iris mocks his dance by informing him that she for her part 'now must strive / To imitate confusion' (lines 85-6) and not the sublime if she is to match his entertainment. Iris captures the quintessence of the antimasque when she describes Mercury's dance as a model of confusion. Iris's antimasque is a May dance performed by a fantastic troupe of morris dancers. The commentator to the first publication of the Masque of the Inner Temple describes the music accompanying the dancers as being 'extremely well fitted, having such a spirit of Countrey jolitie, as can hardly be imagined' (lines 205-6).
In its development, The Two Noble Kinsmen transforms from the solemn ceremonies and serious issues of Act I to the wildness and jollity of spring revelries of Acts II and III.(8) The second movement of the Kinsmen follows a similar vein of confusion and disorder as the antimasques of The Masque of the Inner Temple. The King's players utilized the same, or a very similar, troupe of morris dancers in the play as they had employed in Beaumont's marriage masque.(9) The country clowns think that the Gaoler's Daughter is perfect to join their troupe of dancers because she is 'as mad as a march hare' (p. 45, III.v.74). In love with Palamon, the Daughter, defying all reason, threatens the security of herself as well as that of her father when she releases Palamon from prison. As a result, she lapses into a madness. The conflict between Palamon and Arcite emerges as part of the madness that is a natural part of May. In prison, the two cousins express the high regard they both have for their friendship. Though in prison, they still feel by having each other they can be cheerful, dwelling in the sanctity of their friendship away from the corruption of the world. Arcite cherishing their friendship tells Palamon 'And after death our spirits shall be led / To those that love eternally' (p. 22, II.ii.116-17). After this exalted panegyric to their friendship, they sight Emilia beneath their prison window collecting flowers. While Emilia cautions her woman about the dangers of love because 'Men are mad things' (p. 23, II.ii.125), first Palamon, and then Arcite, become captivated with her beauty and instantly fall in love with her. They each put their love for Emilia before their love as friends. Their dispute becomes bitter when Palamon demands of Arcite, as a friend, to cease loving Emilia on the grounds that he, Palamon, saw her first. In the three different scenes of Act III in which the cousins meet outside prison, the playwrights portray with masterful delicacy the tension between their feelings for each other as friends and their love for Emilia.
In the transition from the middle to the final movement of both masque and play, a metamorphosis from wildness and insanity to formality and stately magnificence occurs.(10) The final movement of the Masque of the Inner Temple consists, first, of Iris and Mercury settling their dispute and, second, of the presentation of the main masque. After the May dance, Mercury assures Iris that what is to be done is in honour of Juno's realm. Iris is willing to disregard their differences only if Mercury refrains from gratifying Jupiter's lust and agrees to highlight the pageantry with a special event gracing both Juno's state of marriage and the royal nuptials of Elizabeth and Frederick. In response, Mercury announces that Jove wishes by renewing the Olympian games to honour the marriage of the royal couple. Fifteen Olympian Knights descend from Jupiter's altar on the mountain to dance the main masque and, afterwards, depart for the games. In the argument to the masque, the commentator informs the reader that 'Olympian games portend to the match, Celebritie, Victorie, and Felicitie' (lines 36-7). The main masque with its Olympian setting was a magnificent exhibition of pageantry and order.
In the Kinsmen's final movement, Theseus sets a cap on the confusion that pervades the activities of the middle acts by arranging a public tournament for Palamon and Arcite to settle their dispute over Emilia. As the Olympian games in the masque celebrate the royal couple's marriage as well as the general state of marriage, so the tournament in the play celebrates and honours the pre-eminence of love between husband and wife. Shakespeare and Fletcher in the last two acts of the play devote a major portion of the main plot describing the spectacle of the jousting tournament between the two kinsmen. Each kinsman has three companion knights sharing their cause and fate in the tournament. First, the playwrights portray the tournament as a magnificent spectacle by having Emilia, Pirithous, and a messenger give a detailed description of five of the eight participating knights, which occupies nearly the whole of the second scene of Act IV. The other two scenes of Act IV are devoted to the subplot concerning the Gaoler's Daughter and her madness. Second, the playwrights add a divine element to the spectacle of the tournament by including a scene in which Palamon petitions Venus, Arcite Mars, while Emilia addresses Diana (V.i). Though the actual tournament, in Act V, scene iii, is not seen by the audience, the cries, shots, and cornets are heard in the distance while a servant acting as a messenger describes the events to Emilia, who remains behind. The play's contemporary audience would have readily identified the jousting tournament between Palamon and Arcite as a spectacle of magnificence, aptly celebrating an occasion of holy nuptials. The Jacobean court, as part of their celebrations, valued barriers and tilting events. Jonson wrote the marriage masque, A Challenge at Tilt that had as its central device a tilting contest between two groups of knights defending their respective cupid.
In the subplot concerning the Gaoler's Daughter, a transformation from disorder to order, as in the main plot, takes place during the final movement of the play. The daughter recovers from her madness and accepts the Wooer for her husband. The establishment by Theseus of the public tournament between Palamon and Arcite nullifies the dire consequences that the Daughter's action of freeing Palamon from prison might have caused her father, the Gaoler. In Act IV, scene iii, a doctor appears and sets in motion the needed attitude towards effecting the Daughter's cure. The Wooer, her friends and family redirect her vital energy by encouraging, even to the point of boosting, her illusions and fancies. She begins to eat and subsequently recovers her sanity. The lust she initially experienced in her unbounded love for Palamon, redirected, can now find a productive outlet within a healthy marriage.
The morris dancers used in the play had already delighted the court in Beaumont's Masque. Fletcher, an accomplished masque writer, and Shakespeare created The Two Noble Kinsmen in the form and style of a court marriage masque.
NOEL R. BLINCOE Pacifica, California
1 Ben Jonson, 'Conversations with Drummond', Ben Jonson, 11 vols, ed. C. H. Hereford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-52), I.
2 Francis Beaumont, 'The Masque of the Inner Temple and Grayes Inn', 1613, The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, 4 vols, ed. Fredson Bowers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), I, 124-38.
3 Paul Bertram in Shakespeare and The Two Noble Kinsmen, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1965), soundly argues that the first performance of the Kinsmen was in the autumn of 1613 (Appendix A).
4 Stephen Orgel, Introduction, Ben Jonson: Selected Masques, ed. Stephen Orgel (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1970), informs us that 'Much of the action of the masques before 1611 is concerned with elucidating the emblems of their stages; but the action of [Jonson's] Oberon is dramatic, and requires a different kind of theater. Instead of pageant cars and the machina versatilis, Jones began to devise settings that could serve as the media for action of some complexity' (17).
5 All textual references are made from the quarto edition, John Fletcher and William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen, (London: by Tho. Cotes, for John Waterson, 1634). References to act, scene, and line numbers are from, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. I. Ribner and G. L. Kittredge (Waltham, Massachusetts: Ginn and Company, 1971).
6 Emilia means by the phrase 'sex individuall', the union of man and woman in wedlock. The term 'individual' is used to mean that which cannot be separated. In reference to the use of this term, Cockeram's dictionary of 1623 says, 'Individuall, not to be parted as man and wife' (OED). See my article, '"Sex individual" as Used in The Two Noble Kinsmen', N&Q;, ccxxxiii (88), 484.
7 Ben Jonson gives this explanation of the antimasque in the preface to 'The Masque of the Queens', Ben Jonson: Selected Masques, 80-1.
8 Bertram, ibid., states that Acts II and III are a 'curious blend of festive and romantic comedy'. He adds that 'the foolishness of May runs through all the episodes' (265).
9 See Eugene M. Waith, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Oxford Shakespeare (Clarendon Press, 1989), 1 and Appendix A.
10 Orgel, Introduction, op. cit., says that 'The masque... is always about the resolution of discord; antitheses, paradoxes, and the movement from disorder to order are central to its nature' (3). According to Orgel, the world of Jonson's anti-masque, after 1609, becomes that which can 'be accommodated to and even included in the ideals of the main masque' (13).