"Masques of Difference presents an annotated edition of four seventeenth-century entertainments written by Ben Jonson for the court of James I. These masques - gorgeous, expensive events that combined music, dance, acting, costume, painting, and the latest theatrical special effects - reflect both the confidence and the anxieties of the English aristocracy at a time when notions of monarchy, empire, and national identity were being radically redefined. All four masques reflect the royal court's self-representation as moral, orderly, and just, in contrast to stylized images of chaotically (and exotically) 'othered' groups - Africans, the Irish, witches, and the homoeroticised figure of the Gypsy." "The introduction offers an interdisciplinary discussion of social/political contexts for an art form that dominated the imaginations of the powerful patrons of English culture, with additional focus on Jonson's own literary careerism. The new annotations offer detailed explications of the imagery and symbolism of the texts, the physical setting and performance of the masques, and behind-the-scenes events and alliances of which their privileged audiences would have been aware." "This edition presents two masques that have received recent attention in the classrooms - The Masque of Blackness and The Masque of Queens - and two that have never before been anthologized for the student reader - The Irish Masque at Court and The Masque of the Gypsies Metamorphosed. This anthology offers students the latest in scholarship and critical theory relevant to a dramatic art form that offers essential clues for understanding the ideologies that shaped many of the modern structures of English culture."--Jacket.