Today’s lesson plan has us covering the origins of burlesque (a subject some of our upperclassmen might already be exhaustively familiar with, so we encourage you to partner up with some of our younger class members on the home work ;)).
While we know what burlesque means to us now, how far has our art form diverged from the original presentation as a literary term in widespread use in 17th century Italy and France (and later England) that was meant to mock both the dignified AND the pathetic. The Italian word “burlesche” was first used by Francesco Berni in 1760 in his published “Opere burlesche” and the style was taken up by a great many literary works afterwards. It was even retroactively applied to things like the Pyramus and Thisbe scene in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare! In fact, long before someone thought to make it a physical act, burlesque was simply a mocking way to poke fun at the classic literary tropes of the day. Burlesque was intentionally ridiculous but relied on a certain level of education in it’s audience: after all, they had to get the original source materiel to get the parody!
We still engage in parody today, but one would argue that burlesque has evolved to be a completely different form of our own expression of sexuality, physical empowerment and art.