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Paper faces on parade...


Green and black,

Queen and priest,

Trace of rouge,

Face of beast,

Faces -

Take your turn, take a ride

on the merry-go-round

in an inhuman race!
The Phantom of the Opera, "Masquerade"

Want to show off just how rich, elite, and extravagant your upper class is? Have them celebrate everything with a Masquerade Ball. With bizarre masks and elaborate Gorgeous Period Dress, everyone's identity is sufficiently obscured for any number of misunderstandings. Either Horror or Hilarity Ensues.

For really grand scale masquerades, the writers may include festitivities where the entire city dresses up in grand costumes, a la Carnival/Mardi Gras. Which maximizes the chance for confusion and mingling with people one would normally never know. Hard to avoid in New Orleans and Venice.

A popular 19th century setting, due, as The Other Wiki puts it, "both to their popularity at the time and to their endless supply of plot devices." To wit: Mistaken identities, untraceable murderers, believing something is All Part of the Show, a normally-costumed character hiding in plain sight, (or mocked for their poor quality costume) and one of the attendees' masks being revealed to be their actual face. A court is a... difficult place.

The refinery on top of the sheer trope goldmine that is the Masquerade Ball is the convention of using aliases to go with the masks. Historically, that can free participants to indulge in era-appropriate 'scandalous' behaviors — and also make a good opportunity for the uninvited to crash. Watch out for the mass robbery by the Phantom Thief and Classy Cat Burglar, and hope there's a Golden Age Superhero around somewhere. Charity Ball often combines with the theft, to give the thiefs a good way to infiltrate.

A modern costume party has some of the potential for this, especially if there are disguises abounding. If it's an actual Masquerade Ball in a modern setting, expect at least one guest to bring out the Romeo and Juliet quotes.

Even those who vainly deny that Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory may grudgingly admit the social metaphor inherent in the Masquerade Ball.

Has nothing to do with The Masquerade, and can actually mean a break from it; see For Halloween I Am Going as Myself.

Subtrope of Dances and Balls. Has nothing to do with Idiot Ball or any of its subtropes.

Examples of Masquerade Ball include:


  • In The Big O, Schwarzwald rigged it so that the masks would eventually explode. Damn.
  • The climax of the anime Wolf's Rain has the villainous Nobles gather to celebrate their slightly insane plan with such a party.
  • Both the anime and manga versions of Sailor Moon feature Usagi attending a masquerade ball held at the D Kingdom's embassy in order to find out if the royal family's treasure is the Silver Crystal and if Princess D is actually the Moon Princess that they are looking for. The scene is more significant in the manga as Mamoru and Usagi both reveal that they have memories of each other in a past life at this event. Naturally, the two of them also share a dance together.
  • In Urusei Yatsura the Mendo family has a masked ball every year. This is a rather psychotic pun as the word for "ball" (as in party) can also mean "combat challenge". Which is what it was - all the participants put on masks and attack each other, taking out their frustrations in anonymity. (Then the monk Cherry shows up, having mistaken the Japanese phrase "masked ball" for "grape harvest" and wants to pick grapes ... Rumiko Takahashi likes puns.)
  • The second arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni ends with a demonic twist on one of these celebrating the resurrection of the witch. Everyone except for Beato wears goat head masks. The halls are decorated with golden butterflies. There is plenty to eat and drink.
  • Rose of Versailles works at least one into the plot, with Marie Antoinette sneaking out of Versailles to attend one in the city where she meets Fersen, kicking off her major romantic subplot.
  • Vassalord: In vol. 4, Rayflo sends Charlie a note to attend a masqueradeso they can meet up. They quote Phantom of the Opera at each other and eventually a fight between Barry and Charlie breaks out.

Comic Books

  • Featured in the Gargoyles comics by SLG. A costume party is held on Halloween at the Xanatos building- where the gargoyles fit right in and Elisa is dressed like Princess Jasmine. (She likes Disney Princesses for some reason.) Meanwhile, Fox and David Xanatos are attending a masquerade at the White House.
  • Barbara Gordon first created the Batgirl outfit as a costume for a party - to annoy her father. When the party was crashed by supercriminals, she responded to the crisis like a costumed crimefighter rather than a costumed partygoer (Which Bruce Wayne did, seeing as he was in a clown outfit at the time), starting her journey to become a member of the Bat-Family.


  • One of these happens at the end of the giant Disney Animated Canon tribute-slash-Deconstruction-of-itself Enchanted.
  • Labyrinth: Villain Jareth places an illusion of this in protagonist Sarah's mind.
    • Regarding the masquerade in Labyrinth, for those of you who like symbolic details:
      • Earlier, we see that Sarah owns a little music box with a princess-like figure twirling atop it, inside walls of glass and mirrors. In Jareth's illusion, he turns Sarah into this music-box princess.
      • There are mirrors in abundance. Jareth removes his mask while the guests retain theirs, and yet he is often in close proximity to mirrors, including two which are held up to him on either side by masked women when Sarah first spots him.
      • The walls of the room itself are mirrors. Sarah has to shatter them to break the illusion.
  • The Man in the Iron Mask uses this to switch out the corrupt (literal) Evil Twin king for the good one, with the added bonus that the hidden twin had spent his entire life wearing a heavy iron mask, which he flashed to the king from under the decorative gold one to freak him out.
  • At least one Cinderella adaptation makes the Prince's ball a masquerade, making the whole "find her by her shoe size!" idea seem slightly less silly.
    • If you're referring to the Hilary Duff movie, it still seems pretty obvious who everyone is under the masks.
    • It also happened in a Muppet version.
    • In Ever After, it is a masked ball, but the Prince doesn't use the shoe to find her anyway.
  • In Zorro: The Gay Blade, the governor holds a Masquerade Ball. Zorro shows up (in costume) and is unmasked as Don Diego, but then all the other male guests show up, also dressed as Zorro.
  • Batman Returns has a costume Christmas party, where everyone wears a costume except, of course, Batman and Catwoman — for whom their civilian identities are their costumes.
  • The first Pink Panther film has one.
  • In Amadeus, Salieri follows Mozart to a masked ball, at which Mozart ridicules Salieri to the delight of the crowd.
  • In the musical number/flashback "Poor Thing" in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Lucy Barker, the wife of the title character, is lured to the house of Judge Turpin by Beadle Bamford, who tells her that the Judge is remorseful about what he did to her husband and wants to see her at his mansion. Unknown to Lucy, the Judge has thrown a wild masked ball at the mansion that is well underway when Lucy arrives. Lucy, confused and disoriented by the sights and sounds of the party and from the number of drinks she has at the place, winds up in the hands of Judge Turpin himself, who is anything but remorseful and has used this party as a means to trap and rape her:

 Mrs. Lovett:

She wasn't no match for such craft, you see,

and everyone thought it so droll.

They figured she had to be daft, you see.

So all of them stood there and laughed, you see.

Poor soul!

Poor thing!

  • In creepy parallel to Judge Turpin above, Revenge of the Nerds has the lead nerd use his college-fair Darth Vader costume to trick the heroine into sex.
  • The film Start the Revolution Without Me (a humorous account of the French Revolution, and yes, ) has a hilarious send-up of this type of party. Even though it's technically not a Masquerade Ball, everyone still wears elaborate court dress--except for King Louis the XVI, who arrives in an elaborate chicken costume. (Apparently his devious wife told him it was supposed to be a costume ball and then "changed her mind" without telling him.) There's also plenty of intrigue, spying and backstabbing going on as the ball patrons exchange secret notes with each other--so many notes in fact, that the entire floor gets covered with them.
  • Happens in Van Helsing. Fun fact: There is an outtake from this scene in which, instead of saying "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...Van Helsing!", Dracula instead declares "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...Van Halen!", followed by Hugh Jackman (that is, Van Helsing) air-guitaring.
  • The climax of Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief is set at a ball, where people wear lavish costumes fom the era of Louis XV.
  • Sky Blue has one of these at the very start; Shua sneaks into Ecoban wearing an appropriate mask.
  • In Brick, Laura holds a "Halloween in January," party.
  • In Ridicule, a scorned lover attempts sabatoge at an elegant costume ball in pre-Revolutionary France.
  • Marie-Antoinette, her husband, and her two favorite ladies sneak out of Versailles to attend a masked ball in Paris in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.
  • In Terror Train, there's a masquerade party held in the titular vehicle, providing plenty of disguises for the killer.



 CAMILLA: You, sir, should unmask.


CASSILDA: Indeed it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.

STRANGER: I wear no mask.

CAMILLA: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

  • In the book version of Ella Enchanted, Ella wears a mask to the ball so she can see the prince without being recognized. In this case, though, no one else is masked.
    • No, it's a three night ball event where everyone is wearing masks the first night, but then take them off quickly, so the Prince can see their beauty. This troper is not sure if everyone wore them the next nights, but Ella certainly did.
  • The beginning of the climax of the sequel to Incarceron, Saphique takes place in a Masquerade Ball.
  • In the Discworld novel Witches Abroad, the story of Cinderella Emberella is done at a masquerade ball. The Witches use this to switch the poor scullery girl with one of their own.
    • Just how they managed to change the very dark-skinned Emberella to pale Magrat is never explained.
      • Well, the point is that nobody knows who it is - the herald who was carefully coached to announce "Mysterious and Beautiful Stranger" probably wasn't told "It'll actually be Ella from the kitchens, who's really the Baron's daughter".
  • Popular in Mary Sue and Shipping FanFics as it gives the writer an excuse to describe the gorgeous ball gowns that their female characters are wearing, a chance meeting with someone's Mysterious Protector, and, if the host/hostess hired a band, a scene where a character shows off their amazing singing abilities. The fact that Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls could be responsible for the first and second reasons.
    • A common trend of this in Harry Potter fanfics is to hold another Yule Ball (sans the Triwizard Tournament that it's supposed to go with).
  • Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy books frequently feature elaborate masked balls, usually at the winter solstice; however, the trope is averted in that most people's identity isn't really concealed all that effectively. It's an effective plot device for forcing characters together, however.
  • John C. Wright's The Golden Age opens with a masquerade season to celebrate a once-in-a-millenium holiday.
  • Many of the Batman short story collections feature this. A few times Bruce Wayne shows up in a Batman costume. How silly!
  • G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday ends with one.
  • The climax of the first book of the Swan's War trilogy is a mask ball with such an abundance of plotting, provocation and foreshadowing that it defines the evenings of both following books.
  • In Phillipa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl" Mary Boleyn flirts with Henry the VIII at a masquerade in his court.
  • Harry Dresden gets invited to a vampire masquerade ball in the third book. It's a trap, of course, and he knows it. So he declares his opinion on the subject by showing up in the cheesiest vampire costume ever.
  • German author Spoerl once had a ball in one of his stories. The narrator/protagonist meets a girl there and wants to get closer. But when midnight is near, she suddenly wants to leave. He doesn't want to let her go, follows her and takes off her mask. To see to his shock that she has a disfigured face. She explains that she never meets other people except on Masquerade Balls, once a year. Yes, it's pretty much a Tear Jerker.
  • Variation on the planet Adumar in the X Wing Series; the perator (king) of Cartann puts on a mask at royal balls which makes it socially acceptable for others to treat him as just another guest, even though everyone knows it's him.
  • Agatha Christie uses a masquerade ball as the starting place for a murder in the "Finessing the King"/"The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper" two-part story in Partners in Crime.

Live Action TV

  • Alias brought the Wig, Dress, Accent to new levels by attending a modern retro masque party, where Sydney meets a New Old Flame who's probably The Mole.
  • A black-and-white masque ball in an episode of Ugly Betty provides cover for on-the-lam Claire Meade to talk to her estranged husband again.
  • Gossip Girl, being about rich socialite teens, has a Gorgeous Period Dress costume ball.
  • American Soap Operas usually have at least one every year. Someone usually gets killed.
    • General Hospital has an annual Nurses Ball, which is also used to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS.
  • The climax of the classic Doctor Who story "The Masque of Mandragora" has one of these. A masquerade party also factors in "Black Orchid".
    • And in the new series, the clockwork robots of "The Girl in the Fireplace" use masquerade masks as part of their period 18th-century disguise to hide their featureless mechanical heads.
  • In Keeping Up Appearances, Hyacinth wanted to go to the Lord Mayor's Fancy Dress Ball as Marie-Antoinette, but ended up with a Boudiccea costume instead.
  • Used in the Disney series "The Swamp Fox". Mary was arrested for treason and told she'd be released after attending one. Marion sneaks into the ball in a redcoat uniform and tries to sneak her out. They both get caught, although they both escape soon after.


  • A masquerade ball is the central setting for the Rammstein video for "Du Riechst So Gut '98". All the band members, in the form of one werewolf (who continually shapeshifts between all six without anyone noticing) tracks a woman in a red dress to a masquerade ball, infiltrates them, seeking her out by scent (he/they sniffs various women's shoulders, searching for her), culminating in cornering her in a bedroom, for a Fetish Fuel / Nightmare Fuel scene in which six wolf heads burst from his body as they kiss. The wolves escape as the partygoers try to catch them, and the woman is implied to have become a Werewolf as well.
  • One Republic's video for "All the Right Moves" feature a masquerade ball of Edwardian style - complete with a thieving rat.
  • Completely unsurprisingly, the video for Versailles' song "MASQUERADE".


  • Romeo and Juliet fall in love at the masque ball, not knowing that they're members of enemy families.
  • Act II, Scene i of Much Ado About Nothing.
  • Verdi's opera Un ballo in maschera is very loosely based around the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden, who was shot during a masked ball.
    • Francois Auber also wrote an Opera about the same incident, called Gustav le troisieme, ou le bal masque
  • The Phantom of the Opera has one turned Up to Eleven - the song is simply called "Masquerade," and gets used repeatedly throughout the remainder of the play.


Paper Faces on parade!


Hide your face so the world can never find you!

    • As in the book, the Phantom attends dressed up as Red Death. He's much more blatant about crashing the party in this version, though.

Video Games

  • In the retro-Steampunk Bioshock, many of the splicers are wearing party masks, as there was a 'ball' at about the time they went mad.
    • They also use them to hide how disfigured their faces now are.
    • Some of them have been wearing the masks so long that their faces have deformed in the pattern of the mask's interior...
  • Infocom's third mystery, Suspect, was set at a costume party. The hostess is murdered with part of the protagonist's costume, making the protagonist...well, as the title implies, the suspect.
  • Lord Fain of Lusternia has an aesthetic that mixes Masquerade Ball and Chess Motifs. Appropriately, his appearance is an extended Shout-Out to Poe's Masque of the Red Death, right down to his title ("The Crimson Masque") and his actual lack of a mask.

Western Animation

  • An episode of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon revolves around a high-class masquerade ball April attends (and looks shockingly stunning in her evening gown). She brings the Turtles with her, thinking it'd be fun and ironic. Over the course of the episode she is mistaken for a similarly-dressed European princess and kidnapped, and when security orders everyone to take off their masks, the Turtles are in an obvious bind.
  • The episode "Heart of Tarkon" of Galaxy Rangers has Doc crashing one of these and using the opportunity to turn on the charm with Maya. Maya is not fooled by his identity in the slightest, but is surprised at how charming he can be.

Real Life

  • The assassination of king Gustav III of Sweden occurred at a masquerade hosted by the King. The assassin was not recognised, but dropped his pistol at the scene and, thanks to some very fine detective work, the entire conspiracy was unearthed and the involved arrested within a week. The incident was used as a plot for two different operas ((see above)).