charivari

Definition

Theater

  • In the 18th century, a procession of noisy street dancers,singers, maskers, and drummers. The participants included the wildman Hellequin, whose name evolved into Harlequin, dissolutemonks who exposed their behinds, and demons beating on pots and pans(still part of the Fastnachtsspiel performed in Basel, Switzerland).

    The charivari began in the 14th century as the 'chalvaricum',a loud disturbance organized to show the community's displeasure atirregular or unconventional marriages (such as those between partnersof unequal status). In England, a similar uproar occurred at the weddingsof butchers, when it was performed good-naturedly by their co-workers,who created a racket with cleavers and marrow-bones. Soon societyweddings were demanding this unique ceremony.

    In 1832 Charles Philipon founded a French daily publicationLe Charivari with the intention of ridiculing the foibles ofsociety. The name was adopted as a subtitle by the Englishmagazine Punch when it began publishing in 1841.

    The word itself is French, from a Late Latin word meaning'headache'.

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