Two Masques by Robert Frost; some thoughts on poetic drama.

I am linking here The Masque of Bread by George MacKay Brown, which although different in both intent and form to the Frost Masques serves its purpose as a control element. Poets are often to be found writing short plays, or in Tony Harrison‘s case, operas, like Bow Down or The Misanthrope. Discussion on Harrison’s Operatic works can be sourced here. The two pieces that I am recommending today fall between the poetry of MacKay Brown and the large-scale operatic works of Harrison. They are The Masque of Reason and The Masque of Mercy, by Robert Frost.

Whilst I am it, the Irish dramatic movement witnessed some Yeats Noh plays. My favourite theatrical text by Harrison is The Mysteries, based in his interpretation of the Medieval Mystery Plays that had been originally performed in the vernacular by the Guilds system. Harrison came to Galway to introduce and read from the text some years ago. I feel that we should have more poets working in theatrical spaces. Plath created a dramatic voice play which was recorded for the BBC , called Three Women, which is one of my favourite Plaths next to Berck-Plage.

I read the Frost Masques over the weekend and wondered if they had been produced as plays? Certainly, the text and form of poetic theatrical works can be read in books, but one requires to see the drama of the play also. For instance, while T.S Eliots Murder in the Cathedral, the book, is always welcome on my shelves, I find the BBC production of the play to be perfect. I Especially like the exposition of the women’s chorus, which creeps me out every time, and which I will add a link at the end of this piece.

I am adding a JSTOR link to a discussion on the Robert Frost Masques. It is of course, second only to reading the pieces, but provides an excellent discussion on them.

This is a link to the Eliot. You can hear the scratches in the recording, which gives the entire a depth. I recommend listening to it, as it is infinitely more interesting than what actually passes for contemporary entertainment to my mind.

Related Links.

6 responses to “Two Masques by Robert Frost; some thoughts on poetic drama.”

  1. One can extend this further into the world of dance. I once saw a production of Yeats’s moon cycle drama in New York as interpreted by the modern dance company of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s wife, Jean Erdmann. It was beautiful.

    Joyce, who idolized Ibsen, wrote one play he had a heck of a time getting produced. I think it was finally performed in the U.S.


  2. Yes ! I like the way poets utilise theatrical space. I especially like Harrison. Reading Frost at the weekend, I came across both Masques and wondered why I had not heard of their production. The Masque of Reason is quite subtly funny. Also , your comment got me thinking about Joyce’s Poetry-which I love, especially ‘Chamber Music’.


  3. Hello, all! I am actually producing a production of A Masque of Reason in New York City this coming April!
    Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in seeing or hearing about.


    • Hi Brandon,

      That sounds wonderful, if you want to link your process/blog/reviews here or let me know if there is a website on the production (?) that would be great. I hope to have time to re-read the masques quite soon.

      Best Wishes,

      C. Murray


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