1893 text

Masks were commonly used by ladies in the reign of Elizabeth, and when their use was revived at the Restoration for respectable women attending the theatre, they became general. They soon, however, became the mark of loose women, and their use was discontinued by women of repute. On June 1st, 1704, a song was sung at the theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields called “The Misses’ Lamentation for want of their Vizard Masques at the Theatre.” Mr. R. W. Lowe gives several references to the use of vizard masks at the theatre in his interesting biography, “Thomas Betterton.”

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

5 Annotations

First Reading

jeannine  •  Link

“Vizard masks
This refers to the Restoration fashion of wearing a face mask which covered the entire face, the vizard mask soon became associated with prostitution and a ‘vizard mask’ became a synonym for a ‘Daughter of Venus’(prostitute). The vizard-masks were in abundance at the playhouses and plied their trade at each level of the auditorium. Originally they were worn by ladies not wishing to risk an insult to their modesty when attending a new comedy, indeed they become very popular in the reign of Charles II. Pepys talks of going to buy his wife a vizard. Later the wearing of full facial masks was abolished, because of the connection with prostitutes. The comic potential of such confusion is at once apparent and was used by numerous playwrights. William Wycherley uses masks to great effect in his famous play The Country Wife:

Pinchwife: Pshaw, a mask makes people but more inquisitive, and is ridiculous a disguise as a stage-beard…
No, I’ll not use her to a mask, ‘tis dangerous; for masks have made more cuckolds
than the best faces that ever were known.11
(Act iii, scene i.)”

From the interesting website

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Vizard masques, probably came into fashion about this time. On the 1st of June, 1704, a song was sung at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, called "The Misses' Lamentation for want of their Vizard Masques at the Theatre." Notwithstanding the gross licentiousness of the drama, after the Restoration, numbers of females of all denominations frequented the theatres, though many of them wore masks to disguise their features, and this bad habit had a still worse effect, by the facilities which it afforded to intrigue and assignation. The custom is pointedly referred to in Pope's well-known lines:—
"The fair sat panting at a courtier's play,
And not a Mask went unimproved away;
The modest fan was lifted up no more,
And virgins smiled at what they blushed before."
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

Bill  •  Link

Which of the vizards was it that you wore?

Where? when? what vizard? why demand you this?

There, then, that vizard; that superfluous case
That hid the worse and show'd the better face.
---Love's Labor Lost. W. Shakespeare

Come on;
Gentle my lord, sleek o'er your rugged looks;
Be bright and jovial among your guests to-night.

So shall I, love; and so, I pray, be you:
Let your remembrance apply to Banquo;
Present him eminence, both with eye and tongue:
Unsafe the while, that we
Must lave our honours in these flattering streams,
And make our faces vizards to our hearts,
Disguising what they are.
---Macbeth. W. Shakespeare.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



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  • Sep