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The New International Encyclopædia/Mime

MIME (Lat. mimus, from Gk. μῖμος, mimos, imitator, actor, sort of drama, from μιμεῖσθαι, mimeisthai, to mimic). A species of popular comedy among the ancients, in which scenes of common life were represented with imitative gestures and dancing, and with jocose dialogue more or less freely improvised. It was said to have been invented by Sophron of Syracuse, who wrote in the Doric-Greek dialect. Mimes were a favorite amusement of convivial parties, the guests themselves being commonly the performers. Among the Romans, the mime early appeared, though in a somewhat different character, and shared popular favor along with the primitive Latin Saturæ and Atellan farces. Although abounding in rough ridicule and often indecent, yet in the hands of such writers as Laberius and Publilius Syrus the mime included much homely wisdom in the shape of familiar saws and proverbial lines which have survived the pieces that contained them. In the theatres, mimes came to be used later as afterpieces. The actors, themselves called mimes (mimi), appeared in front of the stage, without buskins or masks, but characteristically attired in patch-work cloaks (centunculi), as were the harlequins (q.v.) of a later day. Under the Empire, however, they were largely superseded in popular liking by the pantomimes (q.v.). Consult: Teuffel and Schwabe, History of Roman Literature (Eng. trans., London, 1900); Friedländer, Sittengeschichte Roms, vol. ii. (Leipzig, 1890); Patin, Études sur la poésie latine (Paris, 1875); Grysar, Der römische Mimus (Vienna, 1854).