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Salmacida Spolia

Salmacida Spolia is a masque written by Sir William Davenant in 1639, and was presented at White Hall for the entertainment of Their Royal Majesties. It is notable as the last masque to be performed for King Charles I of England before the outbreak of the English Civil War.

Not unusually for a masque, Salmacida Spolia contains parts for the lords of the household, in this case King Charles and his Queen. Unsurprisingly, it exalts them, placing them at the center of the plot: a great Tumult (the Civil War) is consuming the country, and quack doctors are a penny a dozen offering "cures" such as can only make the chaos greater (for example, "Essence of dissimulation to enforce Love" and "An Opiade of the spirit of Muskadine taken in good quantity to bedward, to make one forget his Creditors"); the King and Queen appear, speak calming words to the masses, and all the troubles disappear. (In real life, this did not happen: Charles was executed in 1649.)

Also par for a masque of the time period are the elaborate special effects, which play as large a role as the plot: for example, "[storm and gale, etc., and:] in the midst was a globe of the Earth, which at an instant falling on fire, was turned into a Fury, her hayre upright, mixt with snakes, her body leane wrinkled and of a swarthy colour [etc.]". There is also elaborate dancing, of which we have only hints, for example "16. Entry. Fowre mad Lovers, and as madly clad."

Davenant was a master, and some of his lines could apply as well to today as to the seventeenth century:

The Rich, make full of avarice as pride,
Like Graves, or swallowing Seas, unsatisfi'd;
Busie to help the State (when needy growne)
From poore mens fortunes, never from their owne.

External link: the text of Salmacida Spolia.