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Sunday, 10 November 2019

What is the relevance of the masque of Juno in The Tempest?

The masque is a literary form. It was emerged during the reign of King James I. It was a splendid and expensive form of entertainment for the royalty and the courtiers. It was a short piece of dramatic allegory which provided opportunities for music, song, and dance, as well as for the exchange of spoken dialogue. Ben Johnson was the great master of the art writing masques. There are some features of a masque. The subject of the masque is allegorical and mythical. The characters are the mythical gods and goddesses. The duration of the masque is shoter than that of a drama. It is written in rhymed verse. Its aim is to celebrate marriage in high society. Dances, songs, and choruses are present in the masque.
Masque of juno of Tempest

According to some critics, the structure of The Tempest is greatly influenced by the masque. For this reason the whole play may really be regarded as a means for the representation of spectacle, song and dance. It cannot be denied that there are connections between this play and the masque as defined above. The masque of Juno is presented to Ferdinand and Miranda in Act IV of the play. The masque which Prospero presents before Ferdinand and Miranda may be called a betrothal masque. Of course, Prospero arranges and presents the masque through his servant Ariel.The masque begins with the appearance of Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and also the official messenger of Juno, the wife of supreme god, Jupiter. In a long speech, Iris summons Ceres. Ceres is the goddess of agriculture and all the fruits of the earth. Ceres is soon joined by Juno who informs Ceres that she has been summoned to bless a couple who have got engaged to each other and who would soon be married. Then Juno confers her blessings on the couple wishing then honour, riches, a long life, many children, and hourly joys. Next, Ceres pronounces her blessings, wishing the couple. Then Iris summons a large number of nymphs who are joined by a large number of reapers, all of whom stage a graceful dance. According to some critics, the masque here is certainly a dramatic necessity. There is no doubt that the plot of the play could have proceeded even without the masque. If the masque were eliminated from the play, the essentials of the plot would remain unaffected. In other words, the masque is not indispensable. But we can certainly affirm that the masque is derirable. The romantic sub-plot of the love of Ferdinand and Miranda has been rendered more substantial and more delightful by the addition of this masque. Thus the masque marks a step in the further development of the romantic sub-plot.In this play, the masque is in perfect harmony with the general atmosphere of the play. The most striking feature of The Tempest is the supernatural powers which Prospero has acquired on the island, and by means of which he engineers the plot-movement of the play. Indeed, the supernatural dominates the play as a whole. Now, the masque presented by Prospero involves some of the goddesses and therefore harmonizes with the supernatural powers by virtue of which Prospero has raised himself to the position of a god. The masque also serves another dramatic purpose in this play. It allows time for the maturing of Caliban's conspiracy against Prospero.

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