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The burlesque (from Italian burla , joke, fun, burlesco , jokingly) is a rough comedy in the theater (similar to the farce ), in literature it is also a crudely comic novel and in music (also known as bourlesca ) it is a cheerful instrumental piece .

conceptual history

The adjective burlesque has been used in Italy since the mid-16th century as a literary term for a new style of sleazy mockery ( Francesco Berni , Opere burlesche , 1552). In France, the term refers to works from Paul Scarron - such as his burlesque Æneis parody Le Virgile travesti (1648–52, original by Virgil ) to Pierre Carlet de Marivaux - and is characteristic of the epic parody in which the sublime is whimsically transformed into the mundane will.

This burlesque style made its way to England in the 17th century and was interpreted in 1682 by the German polymath Daniel Georg Morhof as a form of relativizing comedy without satirical intentions.

The term was first used by German literary critics in the 18th century and by authors themselves from the 19th century onwards.

theatrical forms

The burlesque is a theater form of the "simple people" and is characterized by grotesque comedy and vulgar language ( dialect , sociolect ). This can show anarchic joy in breaking the rules or have moralizing intentions, is mainly at home in popular theater , and its characters came mainly from the lower classes of society until the 18th century. In parodies and caricatures , however, the rulers are increasingly mocked, as in John Gay 's The Beggar's Opera (1728).

Ancient precursors of burlesque can be seen in the comedies of Aristophanes and in late Roman comedies such as those of Plautus . Since the late Middle Ages, the carnival game has established a new type of theatrical comedy, which was realized by amateur actors. Johann Fischart and Abraham a Sancta Clara wrote German-language burlesques in the Renaissance and Baroque periods , they were literary products intended for reading. John Fletcher wrote burlesques for the English Elizabethan theater around 1600 .

The commedia dell'arte was a professional form of theater and needed the literary models as material for "burlesque" improvisations. Italian and English traveling theaters have competed with each other since the 17th century. In dance, too, there was the burlesque as a repertoire of positions and movements, which developed into character dance and pantomime . The commedia dell'arte was revived, literaryized and refined in the 18th century by Carlo Gozzi and Carlo Goldoni . Related genres in the 19th and 20th centuries are the farce , the coarser comedy , the farce and the farce , and the French operetta .

"Burlesque" is sometimes used as a subtitle to avoid the common generic terms comedy, farce or farce. For example, with The Bad Boys in School , a burlesque with singing by Johann Nestroy , first performed in 1847, or Biedermann und die Brandstifter , a burlesque by Max Frisch , first performed in 1958.

United Kingdom and United States

In the United Kingdom , in the early 19th century, the burlesque show developed as a form of farce or pantomime with music. The authors were James Planché and Henry James Byron, who produced his plays at the Strand Theatre . These productions were sometimes deliberately vulgar in order to contrast with the programs of London's posh theatres.

In the United States , burlesque evolved from the racy dances of vaudeville in the 20th century . The striptease and new burlesque have their roots in part in burlesque . One of the most famous contemporary burlesque artists is Dita Von Teese .


The burlesque or bourlesca in music denotes a cheerful or high-spirited instrumental piece . The term was adopted from literature and stage art and has served as a character designation for individual movements or compositions since around 1700. It is often originally associated with dance or refers to a dance subject.


See also


  • D. Werner: The burlesque. Attempt at a literary definition of the term . Diss., Free University of Berlin, 1968.
  • KF Flögel: History of the Burlesque . Leipzig 1794.

web links

Wiktionary: Burlesque  – Explanations of meaning, word origin, synonyms, translations
  • burlesque . In: Duden online dictionary . Bibliographic Institute GmbH – Duden Verlag


  1. Adalbert Quadt : Guitar music of the 16th-18th centuries. century. Edited from tablature. by Adalbert Quadt. Volumes 1-4. German publisher for music, Leipzig 1970 ff.; 2nd edition ibid 1975-1984, volume 3, pp. 23 and 61.