Masques were a form of dramatic entertainment, of Italian origin that found their most spectacular form in court and manor in England from the late 16th century to the middle of the 17th, when most public entertainments were banned by the Puritan Commonwealth.
They were a mixture of music and dance, costume and setting – usually extremely extravagant – where plot was hardly evident and character usually disguised behind masks. The settings were spectacular and the engines required for their effectiveness often ingenious. The great English architect Inigo Jones was as well known for a time for his stage designs as his buildings.
Tastes changed in Restoration period, when productions became more dramatic (or farcical, or bawdy or all three) before opera became the favourite entertainment of the rich and powerful. The name existed into the 18th century but the form had changed.