Skip to main content

Masque of Augurs brought to life at its historic home

Whitehall venue for Masque of Augurs

The historically important performance piece The Masque of Augurs was brought back to its original setting at Whitehall's palatial Banqueting House as part of a groundbreaking heritage project.

Professor Thomas Betteridge's latest collaborative work ‘Exploring the potential of combining performance and digital research in a heritage context’ looks at the use of performance, historic venues and modern multimedia techniques to further our understanding of our past.

The Banqueting House in Whitehall was designed by Inigo Jones and, from its completion in 1622 until the installation of the Rubens Ceiling in 1637, it was the primary site for the performance of court masques.

Seven of the masques performed in this period were written by Ben Jonson and designed or staged by Inigo Jones. The Masque of Augurs was the first ever masque to be performed in the Banqueting House.

Alongside Dr Wendy Hitchmough, Professor Betteridge led a workshop that told the story of the venue itself, and the complicated relationship between the playwright and the architect who were so instrumental in its early days. 

The Masque of Augurs opens with a comic prologue, or anti-masque, which stages the attempts by a group of disreputable characters to gain access to the performance.

The masque goes on to praise the so-called "Spanish match," a plan by King James I to negotiate a marriage between his heir the Prince of Wales and the Spanish Infanta.

The masque predicts the match will be a great success — a prediction that would, over the next few years, prove to be wrong.