means a species of drama in two parts, the introduction and the
harlequinade, acted in dumb show. The prototype is the Roman atellanæ
but our Christmas pantomime or harlequinade is essentially a British
entertainment, first introduced by Mr. Weaver, a dancing-master of
Shrewsbury, in 1702. (See below.)
What Momus was of old to Jove,
The same a harlequin is now.
The former was buffoon above,
The latter is a Punch below.
Swift: The Puppet Show.
The Roman mime did not at all correspond with our harlequinade. The
Roman mimus is described as having a shorn head, a sooty face, flat
unshod feet, and a patched parti-coloured cloak.
in the British pantomime, is a sprite supposed to be invisible to
all eyes but those of his faithful Columbine. His office is to dance
through the world and frustrate all the knavish tricks of the Clown,
who is supposed to be in love with Columbine. In Armoric, Harlequin
means “a juggler,” and Harlequin metamorphoses everything he touches
with his magic wand.
The prince of Harlequins was John Rich (1681-1761).
So Charles Quint was called by Francois I. of France.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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