Essay: Criticism, Compliment & Courtly Politics in the Court Masque – The Temple of Love

‘With their combination of criticism and compliment’, writes Martin Butler, ‘masques offered one potential model for a politics of accommodation’[2], and whilst this is true, criticism and compliment are only one set of opposing ideas that must accommodate one another in the masque form and style. Masques, like William Davenant’s The Temple of Love, are cornucopias of accommodation. Firstly, between print, to ‘disseminate[…] news of the English court and its artistic and social refinement’[3], and performance, where much of the off-page artistry was confined to courtly portrayals, and in the case of The Temple of Love and its heroine Indamora, performed by Queen Henrietta Maria herself. Secondly, between writer and designer, infamously so in the case of Davenant’s ‘semi-official Poet Laureate […] predecessor’[4] Ben Johnson and their collaborator-in-common Inigo Jones, with Johnson ‘compar[ing] a masque’s audiovisual elements to a transitory and short-lived body and his own printed text to an everlasting soul’[5]. And, thirdly, between masque and antimasque, the means by which order and disorder are embodied.

This analysis will centre on the thematic accommodations in the extract taken from the opening of Davenant’s masque, specifically fertility and chastity, disease and purification, and ‘bodies’ and ‘soules’ (l.56), and what their depiction, coupled with the other accommodations at play beyond the printed account, can disclose about the politics of the Caroline court.

AS chearefull as the Mornings light,
Comes Indamora from above,
To guide those Lovers that want sight,
To see and know what they should love.

Her beames into each breast will steale,                                                                                                           5
And search what ev’ry Heart doth meane,
The sadly wounded shee will heale,
And make the fouly tainted cleane.

Rise you, from your darke shades below,
That first gave words an harmony,                                                                                                                      10
And made false Love in Numbers flow,
‘Till vice became a mysterie.

And when I’ve purifi’d that Ayre
To which Death turn’d you long agoe,
Helpe with your voyces to declare                                                                                                                       15
What Indamora comes to show.

The Poets.

Soule of our Science! how inspir’d we come?
By thee restor’d to voyces that lay dumbe,
Awd lost in many a forgotten Tombe.

D. Poesie.

Y’are spirits all; and have so long                                                                                                                           20
From flesh, and frailty absent bin,
That sure though Love should fill your song,

It could not rellish now of sinne.

The Poets.

Vex not our sad remembrance with our shame!
We have bin punish’d for ill-gotten fame,                                                                                                         25
For each loose verse, tormented with a flame.

D. Poesie.

Descend then, and become with me,
The happy Organs to make knowne
In an harmonious Embassie,
Our great affaire to yonder Throne.                                                                                                                     30

Shee being descended to the ground in a Majesticke pace, goes up to the State, attended by the fore-named Poets; and the Cloud that brought her downe, closeth as it ascends.

  1. Poesie.Thou Monarch of mens hearts rejoyce!
    So much thou art belov’d in heaven,
    That Fate hath made thy reigne her choyce,  35
    In which Love’s blessings shall be given.The Poets.Truth shall appeare, and rule ’till she resists
    Those subtle charmes, and melts those darker mists,
    In which Love’s Temple’s hid from Exorcists.(Whom forsooth Divine Poesie they stile)                                                                                                        40
    This morne proclaim’d it from a falling Cloud.(2.)
    Who? Divine Poesie?

I know her well.
Shee’s one that makes the holy Jigges,
And sacred Catches for the gods, when they                                                                                                  45
Are merry with mis-takes of men, and laugh
To see us carelesse of their punishment.

But who shall bring this mischiefe to our Art?

Indamora, the delight of Destiny!
Shee, and the beauties of her Traine: who sure                                                                           50
Though they discover Summer in their lookes,
Still carry frozen Winter in their blood.
They raise strange doctrines, and new sects of Love:
Which must not wooe or court the Person, but
The Mind; and practise generation not                                                                                            55
Of Bodies but of Soules.

Beleeve me, my Magicall friends,
They must bring bodies with ’em that worship
In our pleasant Temple: I have an odde
Fantasticke faith perswades me there will be                                                                                               60
Little pastime upon earth without Bodies.
Your Spirit’s a cold Companion at midnight.

Have we so long misse-led and entertain’d
The youthfull of the world, (I meane their bodies)
And now doe they betake themselves unto                                                                                                    65
The dull imaginary pleasures of
Their soules? This humor cannot last.

If it should, we may rid our Temple
Of all our Persian Quilts, imbroyder’d Couches,
And our standing Beds; these (I take it) are                                                                                                    70
Bodily implements; our soules need ’em not.
But where shall this new Sect be planted first?

In a dull Northerne Ile, they call Britaine.

Indeed ’tis a cold Northerly opinion;
And I’le lay my life begot since their late                                                                                                           75
Great Frosts. It will be long enough e’re it
Shall spread, and prosper in the South! Or if
The Spaniard or Italian ever be
Perswaded out of the use of their bodies,
I’le give mine to a Raven for his Supper.                                                                                                            80

The Miracle is more increas’d, in that
It first takes birth and nourishment in Court[1]

Firstly, whilst not explicitly stated in the extract, the ‘strange doctrines’ (l.53) Davenant’s Poets describe are those of Platonic Love, ‘new sects of Love’ (l.53) ‘Indamora comes to show’ (l.16) the court to purge it of disease and depravity through promoting chastity.

The assonant rhyme in the last syllables of ‘[t]he sadly wounded shee will heale / [a]nd make the fouly tainted cleane’ (ll.7-8), the only stanza in the extract in which the ABAB scheme extends the rhyme, or at least, a slant-rhyme, to the last syllables of all lines, associates ‘heale’ and ‘cleane’ and aligns health with cleanliness, purity, and, by extension, chastity, through its following ‘fouly tainted’ (l.8). Furthermore, the assonance on ‘shee’ (l.7), which seems to stress the syllable, adds another dimension to the association, and suggests that ‘shee’ – ‘Indamora’ (l.2) – will be the one to ‘heale’ and ‘make […] cleane’. The significance of this association is multiplied when considering that Queen Henrietta Maria was cast as Indamora, and thus the implication is that the Queen will be the one to ‘guide [those] Lovers’ (l.3) to cleanliness and chastity.

Yet, Henrietta Maria’s role in the masque performance as the advocate of Platonic Love opposes a chaste ideology, as it denies what Dawson identifies as the ‘importance of fecundity, particularly within the royal marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria.’[6] This is evident in Davenant’s masque, as the virtues of chastity are contrasted with a language that unmasks its vices.

In the extract, chastity comes to be associated with coldness: Indamora ‘still carr[ies] frozen Winter in [her] blood’ (l.52), the ‘Spirit’s a cold Companion at midnight’ (l.62), the ‘pleasures’ of the soul are ‘dull’ (l.66) and ‘a cold Northerly opinion’ (l.74), and Britain, ‘a dull Northerne Ile’ (l.74) where the sect is to be planted, is plagued by ‘great Frosts’ (l.76). Chastity’s association has been tainted, and turns from purity to cold sterility.

The language in the opening underpins the almost tautological taunting of chaste men in the antimasque, who in their fruitless attempt to ‘prays[e] the snow of [a Lady’s] white hand’ (p.8) with ‘frozen […] words’ in the ‘cold morning’ (p.8), are too ‘modest’, ‘pure’, ‘virginly’, ‘coy’ and ‘demure’ to ‘proffer ravishment’ and ‘rule her to’s intent’ (p.8), and must instead ‘find a maydenhead belonging to the mind’ (p.8). Interestingly, Davenant’s stylistic devices in this section mirror the politics of accommodation that Butler argues his masques promoted. The oxymoronic marrying of a proposal with rape in ‘proffer ravishment’ sees two opposites accommodate each other syntactically, but the use of an adverbial ‘so’ before four of the five chaste adjectives – ‘so modest too, and pure, so virginly, so coy, and so demure’ (p.8) – emphasise the danger of this ideology.

The consequence of chastity, from its advocacy in the opening extract to its actualisation in the antimasque, is the opposite of potency and fertility, and the ‘portrayal of Platonic love’ becomes, as Dawson argues, ‘an emasculating force’[7]. As with Henrietta Maria, the implications of this for Charles I are pejorative, and Sharpe’s opinion that the king ‘emerged from masque representation as dominated or feminized’, and his ‘ponder[ing] […] whether [Davenant] got the symbolism right’[8], is rooted in this opening extract.

Davenant’s attempt to right his symbolic wrong could be illustrated by more language that is echoed later in the antimasque. Indamora ‘melts those darker mists’ (l.38), as the penultimate Song calls to ‘melt thy soule in mine’ to ‘make this Union thrive’ (p.11), and this suggests that the coldness of chastity must be ‘melt[ed]’ to accommodate fertility and fruitful union, and not advance sterility. The balance is unstable, as Platonic chastity is ‘constructed as [either] a spiritual ideal, or, conversely, as the cause of sterility and sickness’[9], but the stakes are high, with performances before the court and printed editions circling the kingdom and beyond.

However, the balance between chastity and fertility is upset, its accommodation overturned, by a semantic field saturated with the physical language of fecundity. The poets ask where this ‘new Sect’ (l.72), first taking ‘birth and nourishment in Court’ (l.82), shall be ‘planted’ (l.72), where it shall ‘spread’ (l.77) and ‘prosper’ (l.77), and why these ‘strange doctrines’ (l.53) ‘practise generation not of Bodies but of Soules’ (ll.55-6).

The reference to ‘bodies [and] soules’ in Davenant’s masque recalls Ben Johnson’s jibes at the designs of Inigo Jones in favour of his own written text[10], and like most accommodations concerning the masque, these arguments, between body and soul, language and lesson, and print and performance, not only ‘sit uncomfortably’[11] amongst each other, as Sharpe suggests, but actively oppose one another in the paradoxical make-up of the masque art form.

Furthermore, Sharpe’s suggestion that the ‘masque writers were either not entirely ‘on message’, or […] still negotiating a mixed message’[12] is shown in Davenant’s masque. The Poets question if they should ‘rid [their] Temple’ (l.68) of ‘Bodily implements’ (l.71) – ‘Persian Quilts’ (l.69), ‘imbroyder’d Couches’ (l.69), and ‘standing Beds’ (l.70) – if their ‘soules need ‘em not’ (l.71). This stanza not only points to the practical improbability of renouncing the body and ‘practis[ing] [the] generation’ (l.55) of souls, but a subtler possible interpretation directs the reader to what Sharpe describes as Davenant’s ‘discomfort with the “strange doctrines”’ […] because he perceived it as an abstraction which denied the sensual side of man’[13]. These ‘bodily implements’ could be a metaphorical reference to parts of the reproductive male body, with the ‘standing bed’ particularly painting a phallic picture, and in ‘rid[ding]’ the body of this tool, it has castrated it, restoring the association of chastity with infertility. Through this, Davenant seems to marry the difficulty of accommodating both the virile body with the chaste soul, and, in the case of abstraction, the divine ideal with imperfect practise.

James Knowles argues ‘towards a subtler interpretation of Platonism [in The Temple of Love] not as the repudiation of the body, but, rather, [a] propos[al] [for] proper management, led […] by the Queen’s refined Will’[14], and although this is supported in the closing songs, ‘when perfect Will, and strengthned Reason meet’ (p.11), the array of accommodations at play, and the printed text’s abstraction from the performance, do not allow for such a straight-forward interpretation.

The ideal of Platonic love may be led by the Queen, but in practise, in the performance, her ‘proper management’ tips into dominance, as Knowles himself later notes that the ‘unusual combination of male and female masquers is deployed to advance female dominance (literally as normal masquing practice is reversed when they lead the men out to dance)’[15]. Thus, the cold, coy, ultimately chaste men of the masque, and consequently, King Charles, are emasculated not only in print but also in performance, and carry with them the threat of infertility. The bodies they ‘bring […] with ‘em’ (l.58), sterile or not, may not be repudiated in the extract, with six mentions in six stanzas (ll. 56, 58, 61, 64, 71 & 79), but beyond this it drops out of the discourse entirely and references to ‘fructifie’ (p.12) are abstracted from the body that facilitates it. Once again, Davenant reveals his discomfort with accommodating opposing ideals, still negotiating the space in-between.

To conclude the study, the language and literary devices explored in this extract all point towards the ‘mixed message’[16] of the masque form, and in Davenant’s The Temple of Love, it seems that the importance of a fertile and fruitful marriage, for the royal couple and for their kingdom, the inherent importance of the body in that union, and the fear of purity’s association with sterility, make the printed model of a politics of accommodation an impossible reality.

[1] William Davenant and Inigo Jones, The Temple of Love. A. Masque (London, 1634), pp.3-6.
Subsequent references to this extract are taken from this edition and will be given in my own line references provided in the extract in parentheses in the body of the analysis.
References made beyond this extract will be given in page references in parentheses in the body of the analysis.
[2] Martin Butler, ‘Ben Jonson and the Limits of Courtly Panegyric’, in Kevin Sharpe and Peter Lake ed., Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 91-116, p.114-5.
[3] Ben Johnson, ‘Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue’ in The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century, ed. by Joseph Black et al, 2ndedn (Ontario: Broadview Press, 2010), online section <; [accessed 12th November 2015] p.1.
[4] Sharpe, Kevin, Criticism and Compliment: The politics of literature in the England of Charles I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008 [1987]), p.56.
[5] The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century, ed. by Joseph Black et al, 2ndedn (Ontario: Broadview Press, 2010), online section <;, p.2
[6] Lesel Dawson, ‘“New Sects of Love”: Neoplatonism and Constructions of Gender in Davenant’s The Temple of Love and The Platonick Lovers, Early Modern Literary Studies, vol.8:issue 1 (May, 2002), pp.1-36 <; [accessed 12th November 2015], paragraph 3 of 36.
[7] Lesel Dawson, ‘“New Sects of Love”: Neoplatonism and Constructions of Gender in Davenant’s The Temple of Love and The Platonick Lovers, paragraph 2 of 36.
[8] Kevin Sharpe, ‘‘So Hard a Text’? Images of Charles I, 1612-1700’, The Historical Journal, vol.43:no.2 (June, 2000), pp.383-405, p.389.
[9] Lesel Dawson, ‘“New Sects of Love”: Neoplatonism and Constructions of Gender in Davenant’s The Temple of Love and The Platonick Lovers, paragraph 4 of 36.
[10] Ben Johnson, ‘Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue’ in The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century, p.2.
[11] Kevin Sharpe, ‘‘So Hard a Text’? Images of Charles I, 1612-1700’, p.388.
[12] Kevin Sharpe, ‘‘So Hard a Text’? Images of Charles I, 1612-1700’, p.388.
[13] Kevin Sharpe, Criticism and Compliment: The politics of literature in the England of Charles I, p.64.
[14] James Knowles, ‘‘The faction of the flesh’: orientalism and the Caroline masque’, in The 1630s: Interdisciplinary Essays on Culture and Politics in the Caroline Era, ed. by Ian Atherton and Julie Sanders (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006), pp.111-37, p.123.
[15] James Knowles, ‘‘The faction of the flesh’: orientalism and the Caroline masque’, p.122-3.
[16] Kevin Sharpe, ‘‘So Hard a Text’? Images of Charles I, 1612-1700’, p.388.

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