The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 7

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Father Christmas: some back story.

Interesting Literature

Father Christmas, we revealed yesterday, was J. R. R. Tolkien. But he had also been knocking about for several centuries before the author of The Hobbit wrote down his adventures. Indeed, the merry fellow first turns up in literature in the age of Shakespeare, as a character in a play – and he is the title character of the play in which he appears. But the play isn’t by Shakespeare himself, and it isn’t exactly a ‘play’ at all. Allow us to explain…

Christmas, His Masque is a work by Shakespeare’s great contemporary, Ben Jonson (1572-1637), the playwright who is more famous for writing plays like The AlchemistVolpone, and Bartholomew Fair. A ‘masque’ was something slightly different: it was like a play but with more dancing and Father Christmasmusical content, and it was specifically a courtly entertainment. Jonson’s Christmas masque was first performed at the court…

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