Putting On and Removing the Mask: Layers of Performance Pretence

  • Philip Butterworth Institute for Medieval Studies, School of History, University of Leeds

Abstract

Donning and removing the performer’s mask in full view of spectators creates an instant transformation between performer and spectator. Layers of pretence are created or changed which inform or obscure spectator and/or personage understanding. These moments turn and develop the action of the play in performance. Revelations of the personage are created by both donning the mask and removing it. In mumming practices, removal of the mask takes place in order to reveal the 'participant'. In plays, the moment of transformation reveals changed characteristics or identity of the personage. Not only do these kinds of turning points change performer/audience relationships, but they also affect and condition the structure of the performed event whether this be a play or sequence of mumming. Such pivotal moments are the subject of this article.

Author Biography

Philip Butterworth, Institute for Medieval Studies, School of History, University of Leeds

Dr. Philip Butterworth (philipbutterworth901@btinternet.com) is a visiting research fellow in the Institute for Medieval Studies, School of History, University of Leeds. He was formerly a reader in medieval theatre and dean for research at the University of Leeds. His principal monographs are Theatre of Fire: Special Effects in Early English and Scottish Theatre (London, 1998); Magic on the Early English Stage, (Cambridge, 2005); and Staging Conventions in Medieval English Theatre (Cambridge, 2014). Recent edited work includes David Mills, To Chester and Beyond: Meaning, Text and Context in Early English Drama (London, 2016) and (with Katie Normington) Medieval Theatre Performance: Actors, Dancers, Automata and their Audiences (Woodbridge, 2017).

 

 

Published
2018-06-01
Section
Articles