Antimasque: An interlude frequently featuring grotesque or bawdy humor that is interspersed between the more serious elements of the masque. Whereas the masque was performed by amateur members of the nobility or even royalty, the antimasque generally used the lower class of professional dancers and actors. The invention and development of the antimasque are attributed to Ben Jonson, a seventeenth-century English poet and playwright generally considered one of the greatest writers of masques.

EXAMPLE: Jonson’s The Masque of Queens (1609), written for Queen Anne, contains an antimasque, “devis’d,” as the dramatist explained, “that twelve Women in the habit of Hags, or Witches, sustaining the Persons of Ignorance, Suspicion, Credulity, &c. the Opposites to good Fame, should fill that part; not as a Masque but a Spectacle of strangeness… .”