pantomime

pantomime or mime (pănˈtəmĪm) [key] [Gr., = all in mimic], silent form of the drama in which the story is developed by movement, gesture, facial expression, and stage properties. It is known to have existed among the Chinese, Persians, Hebrews, and Egyptians and has been observed in many other cultures. Pantomime was popular in ancient Rome, where it was often explained by songs or simple action. The traditional characters of pantomime take their origin in the Italian commedia dell'arte of the 16th cent. English pantomime, originated by John Rich, was more pageant than pantomime, and in 1818, when J. R. Planche began his extravaganzas with "speaking openings," pantomime in England became a dramatic spectacle with songs and speeches. Joseph Grimaldi and Jean Gaspard Deburau were famous pantomime stars of the 19th cent. In silent pictures, Charlie Chaplin made his name as a great pantomime actor. Marcel Marceau has been the leading artist in France.

See C. Aubert, Art of Pantomime (1927, repr. 1969); J. Lawson, Mime (1957, repr. 1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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