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Studies in the English Pantomime, 1712-1733

Richard Semmens
August 29, 2016

207 pp.

2 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1-57647-277-4

Paperback 6'x 9' $49.95

Out-of-Print. This book is no longer available from Pendragon Press.


While interest in pantomime entertainments in eighteenth-century England has grown considerably over the past three decades, few studies among the many excellent ones that have appeared have paid concentrated attention to music and dancing. This book aims, among other things, to rectify that situation. It offers five interrelated studies in which the movement and sound of pantomimes is a central concern. The first chapter contextualizes the significant contributions of the pioneering dance theorist and historian, John Weaver. It pays particular attention to his long-lived interest in comic dancing, not only as practised by the "ancients," but in his own work for the London stages, as well, as both choreographer and performer. The second study of the book offers an in depth reading of John Thurmond's Harlequin Doctor Faustus (1723) at Drury Lane theatre. A close examination of the rival production at Lincoln's Inn Fields, Lewis Theobald's Harlequin Doctor Faustus; or, The Necromancer, is the task of the third essay. Because the two rival productions attracted enormous interest among audiences, commentators, and critics of the time, the fourth study of the book considers how disparate entertainment types—musical theatre, masquerades, and magic shows, for example—were significant elements in what the critics noticed about the Faustus pantomimes, and their unprecedented success. The final study of the book considers how a new comic pantomime by Theophilus Cibber, and a serious one by John Weaver became enmeshed at Drury Lane in 1733, and argues that the combination of these two entertainments in a single afterpiece was informed, in part, by the structure of Harlequin Doctor Faustus,.


Richard Semmens: Richard Semmens, PhD, is professor of music history, specializing in music and dance of the baroque period at Western University, Canada. He received both a BMus (1973) and MMus (1975) from the University of British Columbia and was awarded a PhD in musicology from the early music performance program at Stanford University in 1980.

Semmens has offered a wide range of courses in music history, including topics in medieval, Renaissance, 17th- and 18th-century music, earlier musical notations, and performance practices. He focuses his research on the theory and practice of music and dance of France and England and is particularly interested in the social institutions that nurtured music-making and dance practices. Dr. Semmens also directs the Faculty�s Early Music Studio, a student ensemble specializing in the historically informed performance of music from the late 16th to late 18th centuries on copies of period instruments.

In 2005, he was selected by the Fulbright Association to present the Selma Jeanne Cohen International Dance Scholarship lecture.