chapter  6
20 Pages

Black Clowns

This chapter explores the relation between the distinctively blackface clown and the broader clowning tradition in Victorian Britain. This is important because the relation extends into the twentieth century and because, even though minstrelsy was widely popular during the Victorian period, across the social divisions of class, gender and generation, blackface clowning cannot be taken in isolation as a cultural form. That of course is true of any popular cultural form in this period, whether it is melodrama, the penny dreadful or judge and jury clubs that are in the frame, but with clowning there is a tendency to make extremely broad comparisons between different clown-types and different clowning traditions, or to seek a long unbroken lineage in the forms and functions of clowning across different styles and genres of theatrical performance. This tendency is common in much of the literature on clowning.