Masqued Mysteries Unmasked: Early Modern Music Theater and Its Pythagorean Subtext

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Pendragon Press, 2000 - Literary Criticism - 267 pages
This fascinating interdisciplinary study of early modern music theater shows that both the English court masque under the leadership of Ben Jonson and one famous French ballet de cour may be understood as early modern Mysteries. Kristin Rygg demonstrates how knowledge about the Pythagorean mystery school of antiquity forms a foundation for the creation of these theater performances and how the role of music and dance in interaction with the other arts comprise the key to appreciating their character as Mysteries.Rygg starts by discussing the emergence of the English court masque. She focuses upon its hitherto almost neglected nature as MUSIC theater and then goes on to outline the history and structure of the very similar French Ballet Comique de la Royne and its roots in the contemporary Académie de Baïf. Having observed the striking similarities between the two genres and the Pythagorean foundation of this academy, she undertakes to explore the Pythagorean mystery school, particularly in its conception of the world and of the arts and its practice of initiation. Seeking to establish the likely connection between this early school and the development of the court masque, she proceeds to investigate the continuation and metamorphoses of this tradition as it is develops in certain intellectual circles in the Renaissance.In the last part of the book she presents intriguing readings of Ballet Comique de laRoyne and the Jonsonian masque. Ballet Comique de la Royne is shown to act out both the basic history of mankind according to the Pythagorean world view and the various steps of initiation as practiced in the Pythagorean Mysteries. Similarly, a strong interest in and knowledge about the Pythagorean mystery traditions are proved to be prominent in certain English intellectual circles surrounding Ben Jonson. Finally the Jonsonian masques are interpreted as Early Modern Mysteries both in view of their form and their contents, with music and the other musicalized arts as their prime vehicle of transcendence.
 

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Contents

The English Court Masque in Context
3
The Ballet de Cour and the Académie de Baïf
29
Pythagoras and the Society of the Elect
53
vii
57
Music and the Arts in the Pythagorean World View
75
Pythagoreanism and the Renaissance
99
The Unveiling of Circé
145
Pythagoreanism and the English Court Masque
171
Conclusion
209
The Pythagorean Source Material and
215
Renaissance Editions of Ancient Sources
231
Bibliography
241
List of Illustrations
257
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