Shakespeare masks in the plays of Shakespeare. William Shakespeare is undoubtedly known as one of the world’s greatest playwrights. If you are involved in planning your own period production of a Shakespearian play, you want everything to be as authentic as possible.
However, there has long been a lot of debate regarding the correct use of Shakespeare masks in the productions of his plays.
The main reason for this uncertainty is the lack of actual pictorial evidence regarding masks in the plays of Shakespeare and costumes designed and used during the Bard’s lifetime in the 16th Century.
Only a very few pictures are in existence and these show limited detail.
We have to rely, largely, on second-hand information from members of these early audiences and from hints in the original stage directions.
The problem with this is that many of these sources of information have been lost or altered over time. They are also open to different interpretations and this too adds to the confusion over costumes.
Obviously, the number of masks and other accessories depend heavily on the play that you are performing. A ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, for example, requires animal masks for the amateur players’ scenes, whereas ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ requires beautiful Venetian style masques for the attendants at the masked-ball.
The internet is a good place to search for tips and suggestions regarding costumes for Shakespeare’s plays. There are websites that provide guidance relating to costumes for specific characters as well as scenery, along with costume hire companies who offer Shakespearian themed items that can give you inspiration.
Attending a professional production or watching movies based on Shakespeare or one of his plays are also useful for research purposes.
Once you have exhausted all of the obvious sources of information for the appropriate attire for a particular play you may still feel that you have not found a definitive answer, especially regarding which Shakespeare masks to use. All is not lost yet.
Remember that Shakespeare’s plays were first performed during the Elizabethan period, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Costume makers at the time relied on adapting current fashion to suit a particular character or scene. This is a technique that can be used today to attempt to recreate the feel of these early Renaissance costumes.
Instead of limiting your search to productions of William Shakespeare’s plays it is worth expanding it to incorporate Elizabethan and Renaissance fashions of the time.
There is a far greater variety of sources in books, movies, museums and the internet for you to use as inspiration for your authentic costumes.
Of course, money may be a deciding factor as to how much attention to detail you are able to use, especially with regards to some of the highly intricate Shakespeare masks that have been used.
Not everyone has the free reign that a major Hollywood costumier has for the latest movie based on a Shakespearian or a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
No matter what your costume budget is there is always the opportunity to produce a highly entertaining and enjoyable production of any of William Shakespeare’s plays, shakespeare masks and all.shakespeare masks - back to top