mime and pantomime

mime and pantomime


Marcel Marceau, French mime, as Bip, a character of his own invention, playing the violin.—Ronald A. Wilford Associates, Inc.

Dramatic performance in which a story is told solely by expressive body movement. Mime appeared in Greece in the 5th century BC as a comic entertainment that stressed mimetic action but included song and spoken dialogue. A separate Roman form developed from c. 100 BC and centred on crude and licentious subjects. Roman pantomime differed from Roman mime by its loftier themes and its use of masks, which called for expression through posture and hand gestures. Mime was also important in Asian drama from ancient times, and it is an element in major Chinese and Japanese dramatic forms (e.g., no theatre). The Roman tradition of pantomime was modified in the 16th-century commedia dell'arte, which in turn influenced the 18th-century French and English comic interludes that developed into 19th-century pantomime, a children's entertainment emphasizing spectacle. Modern Western mime developed into a purely silent art in which meanings are conveyed through gesture, movement, and expression. Famous mimes include Jean-Gaspard Deburau, Étienne Decroux (who developed a systematic language of gesture), and Marcel Marceau. Charlie Chaplin was an accomplished mime, as were Sid Caesar and the circus clown Emmett Kelly.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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