History of Clowns

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History of Clowns
David Ball

What do you think of when you hear the word clown, you may think of the circus or a striking fear that could paralyze you in your tracks. A clown really is "a familiar comic character of pantomime and circus known by his distinctive makeup and costume, ludicrous antics, and buffoonery, whose purpose is to induce hearty laughter." ("A Brief History of Clowning")

The first traceable evidence of the clown was in Ancient Greece, these clowns were bald headed, padded buffoons, and were usually secondary figures in acts often throwing nuts at the crowd. In Ancient Rome, similar clowns were found; these clowns wore pointed hats, patchwork robes, and were often the butt of the jokes. (World Book) In Medieval Times clowning was the feature act of jugglers and minstrels. It was not until late in the Middle Ages that clowning emerged as a professional comedy act. ("A Brief History of Clowning")

In the late sixteenth century a clown emerged in Commedia dell' Arte, this clown was called Harlequin or Harlequin. (World Book) This clown used a cane to slap his fellow performers on the bottom; this is believed to be where slapstick comedy originated. Slapstick comedy is a type of physical comedy where when one of the performers is struck somebody out of view hits together a set of boards held together in the back also called a slapstick. ("A Brief History of Clowning")

A clown developed as a butt for Harlequin, Pierot, originated the whiteface of the clown. Unlike Harlequin Pierot is not a person but a character that we often see today. Italian pantomimist Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard Deburau took on the role of Pierot and turned him into the famous lovesick clown. (World Book)

The English clown was developed from plays and was a deceiving trickster who could deceive even the devil. (World Book) English actors were the first to introduce clowns to Germany. Joseph Grimaldi developed the first traditional circus clown also in England....
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