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In literature, comic imitation of a serious literary or artistic form that relies on an extravagant incongruity between a subject and its treatment. It is closely related to parody, though burlesque is generally broader and coarser. Early examples include the comedies of Aristophanes. English burlesque is chiefly drama. John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728), Henry Fielding's Tom Thumb (1730), and Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Critic (1779) are parodies of popular dramatic forms of the period. Victorian burlesque, usually light entertainment with music, was eclipsed by other popular forms by the late 19th century, and burlesque eventually came to incorporate and be identified with striptease acts (seeburlesque show).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on burlesque, visit Britannica.com.