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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, October 9, 1841   By:

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PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.

VOL. 1.

FOR THE WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 9, 1841.

A MANUAL OF DENOUEMENTS.

"In the king's name, Let fall your swords and daggers." CRITIC.

[Illustration: A]A melo drama is a theatrical dose in two or three acts, according to the strength of the constitution of the audience. Its component parts are a villain, a lover, a heroine, a comic character, and an executioner. These having simmered and macerated through all manner of events, are strained off together into the last scene; and the effervescence which then ensues is called the dénouement , and the dénouement is the soul of the drama.

Dénouements are of three kinds: The natural, the unnatural, and the supernatural.

The "natural" is achieved when no probabilities are violated; that is, when the circumstances are such as really might occur if we could only bring ourselves to think so as, ( ex. gr. )

When the villain, being especially desirous to preserve and secrete certain documents of vital importance to himself and to the piece, does, most unaccountably, mislay them in the most conspicuous part of the stage, and straightway they are found by the very last member of the dram. pers. in whose hands he would like to see them.

When the villain and his accomplice, congratulating each other on the successful issue of their crimes, and dividing the spoil thereof (which they are always careful to do in a loud voice, and in a room full of closets), are suddenly set upon and secured by the innocent yet suspected and condemned parties, who are at that moment passing on their way to execution.

When the guiltless prisoner at the bar, being asked for his defence, and having no witnesses to call, produces a checked handkerchief, and subpoenas his own conscience, which has such an effect on the villain, that he swoons, and sees demons in the jury box, and tells them that "he is ready," and that "he comes," &c. &c.

When the deserter, being just about to be shot, is miraculously saved by his mistress, who cuts the matter very fine indeed, by rushing in between "present" and "fire;" and, having ejaculated "a reprieve!" with all her might, falls down, overcome by fatigue poor dear! as well she may having run twenty three miles in the changing of a scene, and carried her baby on her arm all the blessed way, in order to hold him up in the tableau at the end.

N.B. Whenever married people rescue one another as above, the " dénouement " belongs to the class "unnatural;" which is used when the author wishes to show the intensity of his invention as, ( ex. gr. again)

When an old man, having been wounded fatally by a young man, requests, as a boon, to be permitted to examine the young man's neck, who, accordingly unloosing his cravat, displays a hieroglyphic neatly engraved thereon, which the old man interprets into his being a parricide, and then dies, leaving the young man in a state of histrionic stupor.

When a will is found embellished with a Daguerréotype of four fingers and a thumb, done in blood on the cover, and it turns out that the residuary legatee is no better than he should be but, on the contrary, a murderer nicely ripe for killing.

The "supernatural" dénouement is the last resource of a bewildered dramatist, and introduces either an individual in green scales and wings to match, who gives the audience to understand that he is a fiend, and that he has private business to transact below with the villain; who, accordingly, withdraws in his company, with many throes and groans, down the trap.

Or a pale ghost in dingy lawn, apparently afflicted with a serious haemorrhage in the bosom, who appears to a great many people, running, in dreams; and at last joins the hands of the young couple, and puts in a little plea of her own for a private burial.

And there are many other variations of the three great classes of dénouements ; such as the helter skelter nine times round the stage combat, and the grand mêlée in which everybody kills everybody else, and leaves the piece to be carried on by their executors; but we dare unveil the mystery no further... Continue reading book >>


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