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A History of Pantomime by R. J. Broadbent

Or Osiris extended over Asia Minor


In

the Eleusinian Mysteries of the Greeks, the signs and symbols that marked the worship of Vishnu by the Aryans, are apparent; and in the British Museum the scenes of the vases of the Hamilton collection agree closely with the Sacti rites of Hindustan.

After having briefly noticed and introduced Vishnu or Hermes to the notice of the reader, we will now take another of the Aryan deities--See-Va, the Wine god. This myth was the Dionysus, or Bacchus, of the Greeks, and the expedition of this "immortal" through the world to instruct mankind in agriculture, is likened as well as the god himself by the Egyptians to their deity Osiris--the god of the Nile. The worship of See-Va, Bacchus, or Osiris extended over Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy.

The visit and advent of the Wine or Pleasure god Bacchus to India, with his accompanying train of sylvan and rural deities, and nymphs, is supposed to have conquered the Hindoos, and taught them civilization, besides the cultivation of the vine. Strange to relate that when Alexander and his army reached the present Cabul they found ivy and wild vines (both sacred to Bacchus) growing in abundance, and they were met by processions dressed in parti-coloured dresses, playing on drums like the Bacchic festivals of Greece and Lower Asia of that time.

Female parts were acted by women, but it was not a general custom; and the Clown of the piece was always

a Brahma, or if not, at any rate a pupil of Brahma.

Also among the minor characters was the _Vita_, "the accomplished companion," a part sometimes played by men and sometimes by women. Probably in this in the latter instance we have the origin of the Columbine and Soubrette part in after years of the European stage as the term "accomplished companion," would equally apply to both. It is only a surmise, yet history as we know is continually repeating itself--even in Soubrette parts, and in more senses than one.

Of scenic displays that it possessed there was little or none, though the exits and entrances to the stage had probably some device to denote them. What they possessed in the way of properties it is more than useless to speculate, as, whatever could be said, could only be conjectural. In dressing their parts propriety in costume, and in adhering to the habits of the Indian Drama, seems to have been observed with some show of consistency.

The Chinese Drama also arose from the Hindoo developing itself as time rolled on from Pantomimes and ballets. A very ancient Pantomime is said to have been symbolical of the conquest of China by Wou Wang. Others were on subjects of the Harvest, War, and Peace; whilst many were only of an obscure nature. With the rise and progress of the native drama about five hundred years before Christ Pantomimes fell into disrepute.

It is interesting to note that one of the penal codes of the Celestial Empire was, that those who wrote plays with vicious, or immoral tendencies, should stay in "purgatory" as long as their plays were performed. This precept was all right in theory, but in practice it was more honoured in the breach than in the observance, as amongst the whole of the Celestial dramatic writers only one in about ten thousand seems to have conformed to this rule.

The dramatic writers of China duly observed the question of rank and priority, and just as much as the native Hindoo writers observed that of the various phases of caste.


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