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CHARADES IN PANTOMIME. The old charades were elaborate performances, carefully rehearsed, and were stage plays in everything but name. Some of them were very wittily written, and as good as many burlesques; but the guessing of the word on which the charade was based was a secondary affair altogether. The consequence was, that two or three of them became so famous and familiar that they drove the game out of fashion, until it was left to the pantomime to revive it.
These charades are always played impromptu, and are often excessively comic For the example word, let us take "Knighthood."
One of the players—a brother or cousin—dresses himself as Don Quixote (for the Knight), with a basin on his head for a helmet, the poker for a lance, the fire-guard for a shield, &c, &c, as he can. He enters the room marching, followed by his squire, Sancho Panza, who must be dressed in a motley costume and be very fat. As they enter, a lady kneels to the knight, and clasping her hands, mutely implores his aid to defend her from a cruel tyrant, who holds her captive. As the knight raises her, the cruel tryant rushes out from behind a curtain to carry her away. The Don shakes his lance at him, and the tyrant, vanquished falls to the earth. The knight leaves him there, and quits the scene victorious, leading the lady with reverential courtesy by the hand. Sancho turns and shakes his fist at the tyrant.
In the next scene, a lady enters with an immense ugly Hood on her head. Two other ladies, who meet her, seem surprised, and follow her, looking at her hood. Suddenly she turns it back, and displays on it a written paper— ''The latest fashion." Ladies faint in dismay.
The whole "Knighthood" is performed by the Don knighting a youth. Ladies fasten on his spurs and tie his scarf, &c He kneels. The Don touches him on the shoulder with his sword. He rises, and a scene of dumb congratulation follows. Then the whole party advance and form a grand tableau.
Aga-memnon is a good word, only not so laughable as Knighthood. Pirate is another. Mat-ri-mony, again, is a good one. We leave it to the ingenuity of our young readers to find out how they can be performed.
We have seen Pen-ei.ope very nicely done by brothers and sisters. Pen was, of course, an author finding a bad pen hinder him sadly, trying and rejecting, mending and spitting quills with much ene • . His sisters offer him quill pens, steel pens, gold pens—all in vain! He rises, tears his hair, and paces the room in great agitation, while they look on, in distress at not being able to help him. A bright idea strikes him : he rushes cc the table, seizes t. c first pen he can find, and writes smilingly and with great rapidity. The s.sters raise their hands in amazement at the eccentricity of genius. The three-syllabled word is made two syllables for the charade. Elope is a lad running away from home with his sisters. They should be looking at a " Bradshaw," as if about to go by train: they count their money, and make signs of what they mean to do, finally running away at the first sight of a policeman. "Penelope" is represented (sitting) pulling out a crochet web: she sighs often, and sometimes pauses and wipes her eyes. Suddenly a loud barking is heard: she springs up—Ul/sses and Telemachus enter; they receive her welcome, and united, form a grand tableau, Penelope showing her web to Ulysses, and explaining what she had done to delay her second marriage. The costumes should be classical and pretty.
This is a very good rruntal exercise for all, and is capital fun even for adults; indeed, the better educated and the more clever the players are the more fun is there to be got out of the game, as it gives ample occasion for the exercise of wit of the highest quality.
One player goes out of the room, and the rest, being seated in a circle, fix upon a proverb, which should not be a very long one. The first player being now recalled, he begins at player number one in the circle and asks any question he likes: the answer must contain the first word of the proverb. He then tries the next, whose answer must contain the second word, and so on.
He is allowed to go completely round the circle if it be a large one, or twice if it be a small one, and then must either guess the proverb or go out again and try a new one. If he guesi rightly, he has to declare the answer that gave him the clue, and the player who gave it has to go out in his stead.
In answering the questions much ingenuity may be exercised, and much amusement created in concealing the key-words of a proverb. For instance, in " Birds of a feather flock together " there arc three dangerous words—birds, feather, and flock—all difficult to get into an ordinary sentence, and it requires much dexterity to keep them from being too prominent. Let us take this proverb as an example. A goes out, and " Birds of a feather flock together" is agreed upon. A asks of I5, " Have you been out to-day?" B, "No; but I sat at the window for a long time after sunset listening to the birds and watching the rabbits on the lawn; you can't think what a lot there were." A is puzzled, he has so many words to pick from, and the word, which when expected seems so prominent, falls unnoticed upon his car. He asks C, "And what have you been doing with yourself this evening?" C, " Oh, I have been sitting with B, looking out of window too." Next comes D, who can have but little trouble in bringing in his word a, only let his answer be not too short. Then E has to bring in the word feather. A asks him, "What did you have for dinner to-day?" F, "Oh, roast beef, turkey, and plum pudding; but the turkey was so badly plucked, it tasted of singed feathers, and we couldn't cat it.' This, repeated rapidly, may deceive the questioner, who goes on to E: "I saw you with a fishing-rod to-day; what did you catch?" F—who is by no means required to adhere to absolute facts, and may draw upon his imagination to any extent—replies, " Well, to tell you the truth, I did not catch any; for there was a flock of sheep having their wool washed ready for shearing." F brings in the wool to lead A off to the proverb "Great cry and little wool," as almost his only chance of concealing the real word flock. A then demands of G, "Do you like walking?" G, "I do if I have a companion. When Charlie and I go out together we always have lots of fun; but Harry is such a duffer, it's awfully slow walking with him."
If A is at all quick, he ought to have heard quite sufficient to know the proverb; he may, however, be puzzled by the complicated sentences; but after the second round at least, when the catch-words have been repeated, he must be slow indeed if he does not discover it.
One of the party should be appointed umpire, to decide whether any answer is a fair one, and no one else should be allowed to interfere in any way; nothing is so likely to give a clue to the questioner as a dispute whether a word has been fairly introduced or not. In cases of doubt the umpire may call for a fresh question and answer. There is no reason why the umpire, who should be one of the oldest players for authority's sake, should not join in the game. He is appointed almost solely to prevent confusion, and his being a player or non-player can have no influence on his decisions.
The answers should be made with decision, and as rapidly as is consistent with distinctness—a quality upon which the umpire should insist; and the player should especially avoid giving short answers when he has a simple word, such as " of," " the," &c, and thus give the questioner the clue to the answer in which lie the catch-words, and thus aid him materially in his task. Of course, great pains must be taken not to lay any stress upon the word that has to be introduced, and not to make the answers unfairly long.
Simultaneous Proverbs.—A very good modification of the above. No questions are asked; but the players, one for each word of the proverb, stand or sit in a semicircle, and the player who has to discover the proverb stands in front of them. One of them, who is chosen leader, now gives the time, "One, two, three;" at the word " three " they all call out simultaneously each his own word. This they may be required to repeat once or twice, according to previous arrangement, and then the gue; s must be made under the same conditions as above.
A long proverb should be chosen for this, if there be enough players; the greater the number of voices, of course, the more difficult it is to discover the proverb.
In several of the preceding games we have mentioned forfeits as penalties for failure in some of the conditions.
When a player has to pay a forfeit, he gives in pledge some piece of portable property, which he will afterwards, at the end of the gaine, have to redeem in due order.
One player is declared judge, and, with eyes blindfold, stands with his face to the wall, while another takes up the several pledges separately and asks, "Here is a pretty thing, and a very pretty thing; what is to be done to the owner of this very pretty thing?" Or, omitting the formula, asks merely, "What is to be done to the owner of this?" The blindfolded player, who, of course, does not know to whom each forfeit belongs, and therefore cannot be accused of unfairness, assigns for each forfeit a task which must be fulfilled before the pledge can be reclaimed.
This calling of the forfeits requires no little ingenuity, tact, and judgment, and the entire success depends upon the suitability of the penalties to the company and the circumstances.
The judge must take into consideration not only wnat penalties can be enforced, but what will afford the most fun, and at the same time must avoid the slightest shadow of offence.
Where the party is composed entirely of boys with no great inequality of ages the task is tolerably easy; but where there is a mixed company of gins and boys, not only must the penalty attached to any forfeit be such as a girl could perform, but it must be such as no girl would object to perform.
In cases like this it is better to get an older person—a lady if possible— to cry the forfeits; and where such is not fortheoming, it is better not to cry them at all; or, if that be too hard a trial for the young players' philosophy, to cry the girls' and the boys' separately.
Before we initiate the reader into the precise and minute instructions which he will have to study and practise ere he can become the possessor of the coveted art, it will be necessary to inform him what Ventriloquism* is, and in what it consists. In doing so, we shall endeavour to be as plain and cicalas possible. Ventriloquism may be divided into two sections, or general heads, the first of which may be appropriately designated as " Polyphonism," and consists of the simple imitation of the voices of human creatures, of animals, of musical instruments, and sounds and noises of every description in which no illusion is intended, but where, on the contrary, the imitation is avowedly executed by the mimic, amongst which we may classify sawing, planing, door-creaking, sounds of musical instruments, and other similar imitations.
Secondly, we have ventriloquism proper, which consists in the imitation of such voices, sounds, and noises, not as originating in him, but in some other appropriate source at a given or varying distance, in any or even in several directions, cither singly or together—a process exciting both wonder and amusement, and which may be accomplished by thousands who have hitherto viewed the ventriloquist as invested with a power wholly denied by nature to themselves. It is needless to observe, that when the imitations arc effected without a movement of mouth, features, or body, the astonishment of the audience is considerably enhanced.
The terms Polyphony, Mimicry, or Imitation, are employed to designate results obtained in reference to the first division of the subject, where no illusion is intended; while the term Ventriloquism distinguishes those under the second division, where an illusion is palpably produced. The first is much more common than the latter; indeed, there is scarcely a public school which does not possess at least one boy capable of imitating the mewing of a cat, the barking of a dog, or the squeaking voice of an old woman. On the other hand, from a want of the knowledge of how to proceed, it is very seldom that even a blundering attempt at ventriloquism is heard, except from a public platform.
The art does not depend on a particular structure or organization, but may be acquired by almost any one ardently desirous of attaining it, and determined to persevere in repeated trials.
The judgments we form concerning the situation and distance of bodies, by means of the senses mutually assisting and correcting each other, seem to be
• Literally signifying belly-speaking, from venter, the belly, and loquor, I speak,
entirely founded on experience ; and we pass from the sign to the thing signified by it immediately, or at least without any intermediate steps perceptible to ourselves.
Hence it follows that if a man, though in the same room with another, can by any peculiar modifications of the organs of speech produce a sound which, in faintness, tone, body, and every other sensible quality, perfectly resembles a sound delivered from the roof of an opposite house, the ear will naturally, without examination, refer it to that situation and distance; the sound which he hears being only a sign, which from infancy he has been accustomed, by experience, to associate with the idea of a person speaking from a house-top. A deception of this kind is practised with success on the organ and other musical instruments.
It is the business of the ventriloquist to amuse his admirers with tricks resembling the foregoing delusion; and it will be readily granted that he has a subtle sense, highly corrected by experience, to manage, on which account the judgment must be cheated as well as the ear.
This can only be accomplished by making the pulses, constituting his words, strike the heads of his hearers not in the right lines that join their persons and his. He must, therefore, know how to disguise the true direction of his voice, because the artifice will give him an opportunity to substitute almost any echo he chooses in the place of it. But the superior part of the human body has been already proved to form an extensive seat of sound, from every point of which the pulses arc repelled as if they diverged from a common centre. This is the reason why people, who speak in the usual way, cannot conceal the direction of their voices, which in rcMtyJly off towards all points at the same instant. The ventriloquist, therefore, by some means or other, acquires the difficult habit of contracting the field of sound within the compass of his lips, which enables him to confine the real path of his voice to narrow limits. For he who is master of his art has nothing to do but to place his mouth obliquely to the company, and to dart his words out of his mouth—if the expression may be used—whence they will then strike the ears of the audience as that from an unexpected quarter. Nature seems to fix no bounds to this kind of deception, only care must be taken not to let the path of the direct pulses pass too near the head of the person who is played upon, lest the divergency of the pulses make him perceive the voice itself.
The Theory Of Ventriloqu1sm.
Many physiologists aver that ventriloquism is obtained by sp;aking during the inspiration of air. It is quite possible to articulate under these circumstances, and the plan may with advantage be occasionally adopted; but our own practical experience and close observation of many public performers, and of not a few private friends who have attained distinctness and no small amount of facility in the art, convince us that the general current of utterance is, as in ordinary speech, during exp1ration of the breath. Some imagine that the means of procuring the required imitation are comprised in a thorough management of the echoes of sound. Unfortunately, however, for this theory, an echo only repeats what has been already brought into existence. Several eminent ventriloquists, including the late Mr. Mathews, have displayed the vocal illusion while walking in the streets. Baron Mengen describes as follows his mode of speaking when he desired the illusion to take the direction of a