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(k) PRESENT OCCASIONS: JONSON’S MASQUES

It was not his plays for the public or private theatres that Jonson placed at the climax of his 1616 Folio. That position was taken by the masques that he had written for performance before the court of his royal patron, King James, since 1605. These, rather than his other dramatic work, might be thought to cement his poetic authority – along with the royal pension he was granted that year they provided the strongest evidence of Jonson actually living the ideal of poetry and power commingled that we find in so many of his earlier plays. Though by no means the only masque writer, he was certainly the most prolific and the best favoured: he composed masques for the Stuart courts over the course of twenty five years, and was still capable of producing entertainments for performance before King Charles in 1634, only three years before his death. In this field, beyond dispute, he outshone his fellow poets.