The History of England’s Masquerade Essay

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The History of England’s Masquerade

The masquerade played a large part in the ideas and themes of England during the eighteenth century. Its popularity spanned most of the century, bringing together people of all classes, from the highest nobleman to the lowest commoner.

Masquerades were a firmly established part of city life in England by the 1720's. Most masquerades were held in buildings especially designed for them, such as the Haymarket, the Soho, or the Pantheon. During the early part of the century, masquerades held at the Haymarket, the most popular location for these events, drew in up to a thousand masqueraders weekly. Later in the century, public masquerades in celebration of special events drew in thousands of people.
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As England became more industrialized, more and more country dwellers flocked to the cities. The period saw a "gradual displacement of folk practices" because of this. The theory that the masquerade stemmed from ancient English customs is held up by many similarities between masquerades and these customs. For example, indoor masquerades, which took place from October to February, clustered around Christmas and New Year's Day. The outdoor masquerades similarly were concentrated around Mayday and Midsummer's Eve. The costumes worn by masqueraders often resembled those worn by participants in ancient English holidays. Animal and transvestite costumes, which were very common at masquerades, had their roots in ancient English rituals.

Besides being a widespread form of entertainment in the cities, the masquerade was also a booming industry. Newspaper advertisements for costume shops became more prevalent as the century progressed. The host of a masquerade was also trying to make a profit. To gain admittance to masquerades, people had to purchase tickets. These sold for anywhere between five shillings to a guinea per ticket. The fact that admittance into the masquerades was by ticket and not by special invitation made these events accessible to everyone. Because of this, promoters could only sell more tickets by maintaining the illusion…