In turning to the early seventeenth century we do not immediately take leave of the Renaissance. Some ninety years after the publication of Sir Thomas Elyot’s The Governour, Henry Peacham (c.1578–c.1642) wrote a seventeenth-century version of the handbook for the governing class, The Compleat Gentleman (1622). 1622 was the year in which the architect Inigo Jones (1573–1652) completed the magnificent banqueting hall in Whitehall, and its opening was marked by the production of Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Augures. Jones was influenced by the Italian Palladian style and is credited with having brought pure Renaissance architecture to England. The masque itself flourished increasingly in the later years of Queen Elizabeth and in the reigns of James I and Charles I. It gave free rein to the Renaissance taste for splendour. In the lavishness of its scenic display and the extravagance of its stage mechanisms, it epitomises the courtly opulence which the Commonwealth was to sweep away. And for practitioners such as Ben Jonson, the comprehensive artistic splendours of the masque conveyed an image of the eternal in a transient world.
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