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The History of the Art Form of Pantomime Essay

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Emerging from as far back as the 15th century in Northern Italy, how did pantomime become so traditionally British? Delving deep into the antiquity of theatre, this essay looks into how pantomime has developed and become the form of entertainment it is today. Exploring into the history of art forms in which pantomime took its most highly recognised inspirations. The style of Commedia Dell’Arte will be studied in depth as one of the main influences in the life of pantomime. Victorian pantomime and Music Hall theatre will be briefly investigated also. The similarities and differences between early pantomime and the style in which it is performed today will be heavily studied. Also, finally a look into what attracts such a wide variety of audience to make the traditional story of star crossed lovers and cross dressing mothers a true British Christmas tradition.
In 1545, the history of pantomime began when Commedia Dell’Arte was first performed. Commedia Dell’Arte, similarly acknowledged as ‘Comedy of arts’. Is an improvisational style of theatre comprising of unpremeditated dialogue and a company of vibrant stock characters. Emerging in Northern Italy in the 15th century, its exact origins are unknown. However, O’Brien (2004, p.23) states that “Commedia Dell’Arte was influenced by ancient Roman and Greek comedy and the medieval traditions of carnival acrobats and performers”.
Commedia Dell’Arte flourished in the 16th and 17th Century becoming increasingly more popular throughout Europe. In the mid sixteenth century, theatre proudly made its arrival throughout the streets of Italy.
“In the village square shadowy figures would come alive, as small touring troupes of players began to gather and play in the streets on a market day. Su...


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...tain surrounding modern Pantomime. The link to Christmas and children has been developed and one of the main attractions of a modern pantomime has been taken from Music Hall productions.

To summarise, pantomime has subsisted throughout its existence by combining elements of theatre history, such as the stock characters of Commedia Dell’Arte and the melodrama of Music Hall theatre, whilst constantly adapting and evolving to keep the audience fascinated. Novelty has always been one of the main elements of pantomime, as well as its ability to incorporate present trends and topicality, within its structured framework. Individuals discuss "traditional" pantomime, but remaining popular meant keeping an eye out for modern trends and using these trends as comedy factors. Intertwining this into its setup remains one of the most predominant forms of entertainment in britain.


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