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In general, spectacle refers to an event that is memorable for the appearance it creates. Derived in
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
from c. 1340 as "specially prepared or arranged display" it was borrowed from
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular o ...
''spectacle'', itself a reflection of the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
''spectaculum'' "a show" from ''spectare'' "to view, watch" frequentative form of ''specere'' "to look at." The word ''spectacle'' has also been a
term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
in theater dating from the 17th century in English
drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio drama, radio or television.Elam (1980, 98). Considered as a ...

drama
.


The masque and spectacle

Court
masque The masque was a form of festive courtly Courtesy (from the word ''courteis'', from the 12th century) is Gentleness, gentle politeness and Royal court, courtly Etiquette, manners. In the Middle Ages in Europe, the behaviour expected of the no ...

masque
s and masques of the nobility were most popular in the
Jacobean
Jacobean
and
Caroline
Caroline
era. Such masques, as their name implies, relied heavily upon a non-verbal theater. The character lists for masques would be quite small, in keeping with the ability of a small family of patrons to act, but the
costume Costume is the distinctive style of dress or cosmetic of an individual or group that reflects class, gender, profession, ethnicity, nationality, activity or epoch. In short costume is a cultural visual of the people. The term also was tradition ...

costume
s and theatrical effects would be lavish. Reading the text of masques, such as ''The Masque at Ludlow'' (most often referred to as ''
Comus In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of s originally told by the , and a of . These stories concern the and , the lives and activities of , , and , and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own and practices. Mo ...
''), the writing is spare, philosophical, and grandiose, with very few marks of traditional dramatic structure. This is partially due to the purpose of the masque being family entertainment and spectacle. Unlike ''The Masque at Ludlow'', most masques were recreations of well-known mythological or religious scenes. Some masques would derive from tableau. For example,
Edmund Spenser Edmund Spenser (; 1552/1553 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for ''The Faerie Queene ''The Faerie Queene'' is an English Epic poetry, epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books IIII were first published in 1590, then republished i ...

Edmund Spenser
(''Fairie Queene'' I, iv) describes a masque of ''The
Seven Deadly Sins The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings, although they are not mentioned in the Bible. Behaviours or habits are classified under this cat ...
''. Masques were
multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that combines different such as , , , , or into a single interactive presentation, in contrast to traditional mass media which featured little to no interaction fr ...

multimedia
, for they almost always involved costuming and music as a method of conveying the story or narrative.
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours The comedy of humours is a ge ...
, for example, wrote masques with the architect
Inigo Jones Inigo Jones (; 15 July 1573 – 21 June 1652) was the first significant Architecture of England, architect in England in the Early modern Europe, early modern period, and the first to employ Vitruvius, Vitruvian rules of proportion and symmetry ...
.
William Davenant Sir William Davenant (baptised 3 March 1606 – 7 April 1668), also spelled D'Avenant, was an English poet and playwright. Along with Thomas Killigrew, Davenant was one of the rare figures in English Renaissance theatre whose career spanned bo ...

William Davenant
, who would become one of the major
impresario An impresario (from the Italian ''impresa'', "an enterprise or undertaking") is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, or opera Opera is a form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles ar ...
s of the
English Restoration The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a dynasty, royal house of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland, Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Ireland, Ireland and later Kingdom of Great Britain, Gre ...
, also wrote pre-Revolutionary masques with Inigo Jones. The role of the architect was that of designer of the staging, which would be elaborate and often culminate in a
fireworks Fireworks are a class of low explosive An explosive (or explosive material) is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion An explosion is a rapid expansion in volume associat ...

fireworks
show.


The Hollywood spectacular

When the
zoetrope A zoetrope is one of several pre-film animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion. It was basically a cylindrical variation of the phénakis ...

zoetrope
and
nickelodeon Nickelodeon (often shortened to Nick) is an American pay television Pay television, also known as subscription television, premium television or, when referring to an individual service, a premium channel, refers to subscription The subs ...
technology first appeared, the earliest films were spectacles. They caught the attention of common people. They showed things people would rarely see, and they showed it to the wide audience. *
Thomas Edison Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices in fields such as electric power generation Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from s ...

Thomas Edison
filmed the
Eiffel Tower The Eiffel Tower ( ; french: links=yes, tour Eiffel ) is a wrought-iron Wrought iron is an iron Iron () is a chemical element with Symbol (chemistry), symbol Fe (from la, Wikt:ferrum, ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal th ...

Eiffel Tower
, actual
Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
in a simulated attack, and even celebrated
beauty queens
beauty queens
. *
Louis Lumière Louis Jean Lumière (5 October 1864 Besançon – 6 June 1948, Bandol) was a French engineer and industrialist who played a key role in the development of photography and cinema. Early life and education Lumière was one of four children of ...

Louis Lumière
filmed a train pulling into a station in 1895 (''
L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat
L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat
''). The camera was in front of the train, and the train "came" directly at the viewer. It astonished people unaccustomed to the illusion created by moving images.


Spectacle and society

''For the notion of the spectacle in critical theory, see
Spectacle (critical theory) The spectacle is a central notion in the Situationist theory, developed by Guy Debord in his 1967 book '' The Society of the Spectacle''. In the general sense, the spectacle refers to "the autocratic reign of the market economy which had acceded ...
.'' Within industrial and post-industrial cultural and state formations, spectacle has been appropriated to describe appearances that are purported to be simultaneously enticing, deceptive, distracting and superficial. (
Jonathan Crary Jonathan Crary (born 1951) is an art critic and essayist, and is Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory at Columbia University in New York. His first notable works were ''Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19t ...
: 2005) Current academic theories of spectacle "highlight how the productive forces of marketing, often associated with media and Internet proliferation, create symbolic forms of practice that are emblematic of everyday situations." Spectacle can also refer to a society that critics describe as dominated by
electronic media Electronic media are media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Br ...
,
consumption Consumption may refer to: *Resource consumption *Tuberculosis, an infectious disease, historically in biology: * Consumption (ecology), receipt of energy by consuming other organisms in social sciences: * Consumption (economics), the purchasing of ...
, and
surveillance Surveillance is the monitoring of behavior, many activities, or information for the purpose of information gathering, influencing, managing Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization An organization, or org ...

surveillance
, reducing citizens to spectators by political neutralization. Recently the word has been associated with the many ways in which a
capitalist Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, ...
structure is purported to create play-like celebrations of its products and leisure time consumption. The work of French Marxist thinker
Guy Debord Guy Louis Debord (; ; 28 December 1931 – 30 November 1994) was a French Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and ...
is perhaps the best-known example of this critical analysis; see his ''
The Society of the Spectacle ''The Society of the Spectacle'' (french: La société du spectacle) is a 1967 work of philosophy and Marxist critical theory by Guy Debord, in which the author develops and presents the concept of the Spectacle. The book is considered a semina ...
'' (1967). Debord has described the
Spectacle In general, spectacle refers to an event that is memorable for the appearance it creates. Derived in Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conques ...
as "the autocratic reign of the market economy which had acceded to an irresponsible sovereignty, and the totality of new techniques of government which accompanied this reign."


See also

*
Guy Debord Guy Louis Debord (; ; 28 December 1931 – 30 November 1994) was a French Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and ...
*
Entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creatio ...

Entertainment
*
Extravaganza A poster showing the chorus line, chorus girls of a 1900 extravaganza. An extravaganza is a literary or musical work (often musical theatre) characterized by freedom of style and structure and usually containing elements of Victorian burlesque, bur ...
*
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
*
Performance A performance is an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment. It is also defined as the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function. Management science In the work place ...

Performance
*''
The Society of the Spectacle ''The Society of the Spectacle'' (french: La société du spectacle) is a 1967 work of philosophy and Marxist critical theory by Guy Debord, in which the author develops and presents the concept of the Spectacle. The book is considered a semina ...
''


References


External links


Holonet on the Lumière Brothers
retrieved August 1, 2005. * Milton, John.
An online critical edition of ''Comus''
retrieved July 30, 2005. {{Authority control Theatre Social events Popular culture