Dramatic Literature of Freemasonry
Freemasonry has frequently supplied the play writers with a topic for the exercise of their genius. Kloss (Bibliographic, page 300) gives the titles of no less than forty-one plays of which Freemasonry has been the subject. Brother William Rufus Chetwood wrote the libretto of an opera entitled The Generous Freemason and this was given a first performance in London in 1730. An account of it has been printed by Brother Richard Northcott of the Covent Garden Theater, London, England. The earliest Masonic play is noticed by Thory (Annales Oripnis Magni Galliarum Orientis, ou Histoire de la Fondation du Grand Orient de France, meaning the History of the Foundation of the Grand Orient of France, page 360), as having been performed at Paris, in 1739, under the title of Les freemasons. Editions of it were subsequently published at London, Brunswick, and Strasbourg. In 1741, we have Das Geheimniss der Freimaurer, the Freemason's Secret, at Frankfort and Leipzig.
France and Germany made many other contributions to the Masonic drama. Even Denmark supplied one in 1745, and Italy in 1785. The English dramatists give us only a pantomime, Harlequin Freemasons which was brought out at Covent Garden in 1781, and Solomon's Temple, an oratorio. Templarism has not been neglected by the dramatists. Kalchberg, in 1788, wrote Die Tempelherren, meaning The Templars, a dramatic poem in the German language in five acts. Odon de Saint-Amand, Grand Matre des Templiers, the latter title meaning Grand Master of the Templars, a melodrama in three acts, was performed at Paris in 1806. Jacques Molai, a melodrama, was published at Paris in 1807, and La Mort de Jacques Molai, meaning in English the Death of James Molai, a tragedy, in 1812. Some of the plays on Freemasonry were intended to do honor to the Order, and many to throw ridicule upon it.
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