By Melynda Nuss (auth.)
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Extra resources for Distance, Theatre, and the Public Voice, 1750–1850
Most of the actions in the harlequinade can be explained by natural means. Harlequin and Columbine flee in a coach when their pursuers are distracted; Pantaloon, Lover, and Clown mistake Harlequin and Columbine for clock figures or leaden dolls; Harlequin dresses as an old woman, then substitutes the real old woman in his place after he has antagonized Clown. The acts of magic are few and small. When Columbine longs for apples in scene 10, Harlequin holds up his sword and apples fly off the tree onto the point of it; in scene 11, Harlequin and Clown each disappear from a sack when Pantaloon and Lover are about to beat them.
The shootings separate the frame story from the harlequinade, as if the theatre could not pass from one to the other without undergoing some type of death. Thus the nervous Dibdin gives his audience a good deal of direction, just in case love is not enough. The pantomime begins with a direct address to the audience by the king’s fool, Punfunnidos—an address that ironically reveals that the audience (contrary to the foolish Punfunnidos’s expectations) already knows everything that Punfunnidos is about to tell them.
Like Gulliver, who sees Lilliputian society from a distance and Brobdignagian society too close, the change from large to small brings the pantomime audience, in its imagination, first close to the spectacle and then farther away. The pantomime’s play with the gigantic and miniature is also a play with nature and art. As Susan Stewart observes in On Longing, both the gigantic and the miniature are ways of extending bodily scale into the world of abstraction. The miniature reveals a closed, secret, interior life, a world distant in space or time, a place where time stops, a world of perfect order, proportion, and balance.