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A History of Pantomime by R. J. Broadbent

In vain Penkethman was no more Harlequin


In

the Masques the Pantomimic dances of the Masquers were known as motions:--

"In curious knot and mazes so The Spring at first was taught to go; And Zephyr, when he came to woo His Flora had his _motions_ too; And thus did Venus learn to lead The Idalian brawls, and so to tread, As if the wind, not she did walk, Nor press'd a flower, nor bow'd a stalk."

Before the arrival of the Italian Masque in England, the Harlequin family were unknown, and, doubtless, Harlequin's first appearance in this country was in consonance with the Masque itself.

Heywood, in a tract, published in 1609, entitled, "_Troia Britannica_," mentions "Zanyes, Pantaloons, Harlakeans, in which the French, but especially the Italians, have been excellent as known in this country."

The earliest record I can find of a Harlequin performing in this country is in the Masque given before Charles I. and his Court on the Sunday evening following Twelfth Night, 1637. An account of this Masque, as well as other information dealing with the Masque entertainments, will be found in my volume, "Stage Whispers," and in the article on theatrical scenery.

In a comedy, written by Ravenscroft, after the Italian manner, Joe Haines, in 1667, donned the motley jacket of Harlequin, and which, in all probability, was the first appearance

of Harlequin on the English boards, though not in England, as stated above. In a farce of the audacious Mrs. Aphra Behn's, produced twenty years afterwards, Harlequin and Scaramouch were two of the characters. Mrs. Behn died April 16, 1689, and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. To Marlowe's "Faustus," Mountfort added comic scenes to the tragedy, introducing Harlequin and Scaramouch. A Harlequin, Pantaloon, Columbine, and Clown appeared in a curious piece in 1697, entitled, "Novelty; or Every Act a Play." The first act consisted of a pastoral Drama, the second of a Comedy, the third a Masque, the fourth a Tragedy, and the fifth act a Farce.

In Italy the fame of Harlequin was at its zenith at the close of the seventeenth century. In this country in 1687 a Harlequin (Penkethman) appeared in a farce called "The Emperor of the Moon" without a mask. Colley Cibber says of this performance "That when he (Penkethman) first played Harlequin in 'The Emperor of the Moon' several gentlemen (who inadvertently judged by the rules of nature) fancied that a great deal of the drollery, and spirit of his grimace was lost by his wearing that useless, unmeaning mask, therefore insisted that the next time of his acting that part he should play without it. Their desire was accordingly complied with, but alas! in vain--Penkethman was no more Harlequin. His humour was quite disconcerted."

In "The Tempest," Shakespeare introduces a Masque, and also in his "Midsummer Nights' Dream," the play of "Pyramus and Thisbe," performed by the Clowns, is in burlesque of the Masque plays.

In both these two plays of the bard's, and in connection with the Masque plays, we see, from the stage directions in them, how Pantomime formed part of their effective representation.

In out heroding-herod in the way of splendour, showy dresses and expensive machinery, the Masque soon fell into decay; and, as Ben Jonson states, "The glory of all these solemnities had perished like a blaze, and gone out in the beholder's eyes; so short-lived are the bodies of all things in comparison with their souls."


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