Harlequin Britain: Pantomime and Entertainment, 1690-1760by John O'Brien Johns Hopkins University Press
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- Pbk 304 pages
- AU$66.00 NZ$68.70
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In Harlequin Britain, literary scholar John O'Brien examines this new form of entertainment and the effect it had on British culture. Why did pantomime become so popular so quickly? Why was it perceived as culturally threatening and socially destabilizing? O’Brien finds that pantomime’s socially subversive commentary cut through the dampened spirit of debate created by Robert Walpole's one-party rule. At the same time, pantomime appealed to the abstracted taste of the mass audience. Its extraordinary popularity underscores the continuing centrality of live performance in a culture that is most typically seen as having shifted its attention to the written text—in particular, to the novel.
Written in a lively style rich with anecdotes, Harlequin Britain establishes the emergence of eighteenth-century English pantomime, with its promiscuous blending of genres and subjects, as a key moment in the development of modern entertainment culture.
List of Illustrations
1. Perseus and Andromeda and the Meaning of Eighteenth-Century Pantomime
2. Pantomime, Popular Culture, and the Invention of the English Stage
3. Wit Corporeal
4. Magic and Mimesis
5. "Infamous Harlequin Mimicry"
6. Harlequin Walpole
7. David Garrick and the Institutionalizationof English Pantomime
"For readers who share O'Brien's intellectual priorities, this book may well come to be regarded as an important contribution."