Mask Performance / Mummings — A Bibliography


From the Roman de Fauvel, France, circa 1316.   Citizens forming a charivari (masked, noismaking protest):

From the Romance of Alexander,  late 14th century.   A line of masked dancers with a large monk holding a club behind them:–Bodl–264?sort=Shelfmark


Masks And Masking In Medieval And Early Tudor England, Meg Twycross and Sarah Carpenter, ISBN 0 7546 0230 3.  (This treatise is invaluable with its notes on material culture, such as guild inventories as a clue to what was used for masks and props)

The Delsarte System of Expression by Genevieve Stebbins, and Delsarte System of Physical Culture by Eleanor Georgen both describe, in part, Francois Delsarte’s teachings about acting and elocution.   Delsarte taught in the latter half of the 19th century, but some of his physicality resembles traditional posturings by Commedia d’ell Arte characters.

Both books are in the public domain:

Stebbins’ book is here:

Georgen’s book is here:


Two years ago at the SCA’s Pennsic War, Mistress Catrin o’r Rhyd For and Master Gaius, organized a recreation of the first recorded English mumming (1377).
A description is here:

A copy of the original text is here:

A fifteenth century poet named John Lydgate wrote seven mummings for various performing groups.  There was minimal dialogue exchanged between characters, but the mummers were narrated rather like an elaborate fashion show.   This bibliography website lists links to online copies of those works:

16th and early 17th century masques would blend short stories by masked players with music and dancing, which audience members might be invited to join.  There are a number of surviving scripts.    I do not routinely recommend Wikipedia as a place to end one’s research, but it can be a good place to start–especially if the article has good citations and external links.   The “Masque” article contains a list of titles–check dates, Masques were done in Stuart England as well as Elizabethan.


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