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Form: Mimus
really denotes a farcical mimie, a buffoon, such as used to show themselves from the earliest times in Italy and Sicily on the public places at popular entertainments, etc., and also served to while away the time during meals. It afterwards came to be applied to the farcical imitation of persons and scenes in ordinary life. The mimes of the Syracusan Sophron were character-sketches in dialogue taken from the life of the people; but these were at most meant to be recited, certainly not to be acted. In Italy, especially among the Latians and at Rome, the representation of such farcical scenes from low life on the stage was no doubt as old as the stage itself; and as great a scope was at all times given to improvisation in these as in the Atellanae, from which the mimes mainly differed in not being confined to stock-characters (see ATELLANA). At Rome the mime was for a long time confined to fifth-rate theatres, but in B.C. 46 it appears to have ousted the Atellanae as an interlude and afterpiece on the more important stages, and received at the hands of Decimus Laberius and Publilius Syrus a technical development on the lines of the existing kinds of drama. The native name for these national farces was planipes, probably because the performers appeared planis pedibus, i.e. without the theatrical shoes used in tragedy and comedy. There were also no masks, the use of which would have of course rendered impossible the play of the features, which is such an important means of imitation. The costume worn was the centunculus,a kind of harlequin's dress, and the ricinium, a peculiar little cloak. Contrary to the custom in all other dramatic performances, the female parts were really taken by women, who, like all the actors, in mimes, were in very bad repute. Besides the chief actor, archimimus or archimima, who had to carry through the plot, there was always a second performer with a clean-shaven head, whose part is characterized by the names given him, parasitus or stupidus (fool). The mimes were acted on the front part of the stage, which was divided from the back part by a curtain (siparium). As they depicted the life of the lower classes, and as it was their chief aim to rouse the laughter of the spectators in every possible way, they were full of plebeian expressions and turns, and abounded in the most outrageous buffoonery and obscenity; cheating and adultery were, the favourite subjects. In particular the dances that occurred in the mimes were remarkable for the extravagance of the grimaces and the disgusting nature of the gestures. Owing to the continually degenerating tastes of the Roman public, they and the pantomimes enjoyed the greatest popularity during the Empire, especially as here, no less than in the Atellance, a certain freedom of speech was sometimes permitted; and among dramatic representations proper they occupied the first place.
Type: Standard
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