General English

Media Studies

  • noun a style of theatre, or a play in this style, traditionally performed at Christmas, in which a folktale or children’s story is told with jokes songs, and dancing


  • An English theatrical form that developed from the harlequinadein the 18th century. It was also influenced by the 18th-century Frenchballets-pantomimes, which were distantly related to a Romantradition called pantomime consisting of a dumb show performed bya single masked dancer (see pantomimus). The developmentof pantomime as a distinct form owed much to the famous harlequin,John Rich (see the Riches), who emphasized the comicaspects of the harlequinade in his productions. In the early 19thcentury the genre was transformed by Joseph Grimaldi, whointroduced many of its now-established conventions.

    Traditionally, pantomime is a Christmas entertainment, intendedparticularly for children. The sketchy plots, which are usually basedloosely on fairy tales, are embellished with music, dancing, transformationscenes, slapstick, audience participation, and topical references.A woman in tights usually plays the part of the principal boy,while a man plays the part of the dame. Today professionalproductions are usually spectacular affairs, with leading TV personalitiesand comedians playing the main roles.

    Traditional subjects for pantomimes include Aladdin, AliBaba, Babes in the Wood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dick Whittington.

Origin & History of “pantomime”

In ancient Rome, a pantomīmus was a ‘mime artist’, a sort of Marcel Marceau performer who acted scenes, incidents, etc without words. The term was adopted from Greek pantómōmos ‘complete imitator’, a compound formed from panto- ‘all’ and mōmos ‘imitator, actor’ (source of English mime). English originally took the word over in this historical sense, and it was not until the early 18th century that it began to be used first for a sort of mime ballet and then for a play without words, relating a popular tale, which gradually developed into the Christmas fairy-tale pantomimes of the 19th and 20th centuries. The abbreviation panto dates from the mid-19th century.