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The representation of a dramatic subject by dancing and rhythmic gesticulation alone, as practised by the Romans. It originated in the custom of the ancient Roman drama, of only allowing an actor on the stage to make the necessary movements of dancing and gesticulation, while another actor sang the recitative to the accompaniment of the flute. This recitative was called canticum, and was a monologue composed in rhythmical form. The illustrative dance was raised to a separate, independent branch of art by Pylades and Bathyllus under Augustus, 22 B.C. There were comic and tragic pantomimes, but the latter variety prevailed on the stage of the Empire. The subjects were chiefly taken from tragedies founded on mythological love stories, and treated so that the chief situations were included in a series of cantica. All of these were represented by a single pantomimus, the dancer, as well as the performer, being designated by that name. He thus had to represent several characters, male and female, in succession, while a chorus, accompanied by flutes and other instruments, sang the corresponding song. The pauses necessary for the change of mask and costume for each successive part were apparently filled up with the recital of music by the chorus, which served to connect the chief scenes with each other. It was only in the latest times of the Empire that women were employed in pantomime. Pantomime, aiming at sensual charm alone, went beyond all bounds of decorum in the representation of delicate subjects. As an understanding of the subtleties of the art required a cultivated taste, pantomime was specially favoured by the higher classes, while the mime, with his buffoonery, was more pleasing to the multitude. On the true dramatic ballet of imperial times, see PYRRHIC.DANCE.
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Roman. Like the Greeks, the Italian people had their popular dramatic pieces; the versus Fescennini, for instance, which were at first associated with the mimic drama, first introduced in 390 B.C. from Etruria in consequence of a plague, to appease the wrath of heaven (see FESCENNINI VERSUS). From this combination sprang the satura, a performance consisting of flute-playing, mimic dance, songs, and dialogue. The Atellana (q.v.) was a second species of popular Italian comedy, distinguished from others by having certain fixed or stock characters. The creator of the regular Italian comedy and tragedy was a Greek named Livius Andronicus, about 240 B.C. Like the Italian tragedy, the Italian comedy was, in form and contents, an imitation, executed with more or less freedom, of the Greek. It was the New Greek Comedy which the Romans took as their model. This comedy, which represents scenes from Greek life, was called palliata, after the Greek pallium, or cloak. The dramatic satura, and the Atellana, which afterwards supplanted the satura as a concluding farce, continued to exist side by side. The Latin comedy was brought to perfection by Plautus and Terence, the only Roman dramatists from whose hands we still possess complete plays. We should also mention Naevius and Ennius (both of whom wrote tragedies as well as comedies) Caecilius, and Turpilius, with whom, towards the end of the 3nd century B.C., this style of composition died out. About the middle of the 2nd century B.C. a new kind of comedy, the togata, (from toga) made its appearance. The form of it was still Greek, but the life and the characters Italian. The togata was represented by Titinius, Atta, and Afranius, who was accounted the master in this kind of writing. At the beginning of the 1st century B.C. the Atellana assumed an artistic form in the hands of Pomponius and Novius; and some fifty years later the mimus, also an old form of popular farce, was similarly handled by Laberius and Publilius Syrus. The mimus drove all the other varieties of comedy from the field, and held its ground until late in the imperial period. The Roman comedy, like its model, the New Comedy of the Greeks, had no chorus, the intervals being filled up by performances on the flute. The play consisted, like the Roman tragedy, partly of passages of spoken dialogue in iambic trimeters, partly of musical scenes called cantica. (See CANTICUM)
Type: Standard
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