BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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lft                         THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
the stale trick, and acts of low buffoonery. We read of the pan­tomimic actors Constantini and Cecchini being ennobled :—of Louis XIII. patronizing the merits of Nicholas Barbieri, and rais­ing him to fortune ;—that Tiberio Fiurilli, the inventor of the character of Scaramouch, was the early companion of Louis XIV.;—and that the wit of the Harlequin Dominic made him a favored guest at the same monarch's table. These instances of distinction are alone sufficient proof of the superior refinement of the actors of Italian pantomime, above our vulgar tribe of tum­blers. The Italian artists were fellows " of infinite jest,"—whose ready wit enabled them to support extempore dialogue, suiting " the action to the word, and the word to the action ;"—for the Arlequino of Italy was not a mute, like his English representative. Many of the Italian harlequins were authors of considerable reputation ; Ruzzante, who flourished about 1530, may be regard­ed as the Shakspeare of pantomime. " Till his time," says D'Israeli, " they had servilely copied the duped fathers, the wild sons, and the tricking valets of Plautus and Terence; and per­haps not being writers of sufficient skill, but of some invention, were satisfied to sketch the plots of dramas, boldly trusting to extempore acting and dialogue. Ruzzante peopled the Italian stage with a fresh enlivening crowd of pantomimic characters. The insipid dotards of the ancient comedy were transformed into the Venetian Pantaloon, and the Bolognese Doctor; while the hare-brained fellow, the arch-knave, and the booby, were fur­nished from Milan, Bergamo, and Calabria. He gave his newly created beings new language, and a new dress. From Plautus, he appears to have taken the hint of introducing all the Italian dialects into one comedy, by making each character use his own ; and even the modern Greek,—which, it seems, afforded many an unexpected play on words for the Italian. This new kind of pleasure, like the language of Babel, charmed the national ear; every province would have its dialect introduced on the scene, which often served the purpose both of recreation and a little innocent malice. Their masks and dresses were furnished by the grotesque masqueraders of the Carnival,—which, doubtless, often contributed many scenes and humors to the quick and fanci­ful genius of Ruzzante."
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