Monday, August 30, 2010

Illustrated London News. "The Pantomimes and Burlesque." 31 December 1859.

["The composition of pantomimes, notwithstanding a vulgar notion to the contrary, has of late days greatly improved. In the days of `Mother Goose' they made no claim to a literary status. But nowadays they are carefully written by literary men, and aspire to literary merit. We must go back to earlier periods, if we will compare things new with old, when the pantomime was a classical production. Mr. Rich, to whom their English origin is ascribed, merely revived an old classical form of drama. `The Royal Shepherd of Mount Ida' was the favourite subject with the ancient theatres - the audiences of Greece and Rome were entertained with the Shepherd, the Mountain, and the Apple, all of which were to them intelligible objects, and, therefore, especially suitable to pantomimic exhibition. The same principle was extended in the middle ages, and is still in Italy and Spain to the Mysteries and Moralities, and the dramas that are statedly acted in Catholic churches. A previous acquaintance with the subject is needful for the thorough enjoyment of pantomimic action, though the rule has not always been acted upon either in ancient or modern times, and in some instances been mistaken altogether. Serious pantomimes were once as frequent as comic; and it is recorded that they were occasionally found so pathetic that both actors and audiences were equally affected. Tears both on and off the stage were shed in great abundance. But no opportunity has been given of late years for a Tragic Pantomimist to make a reputation..." (p. 640).]

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