The Astyanax Mask and the Pantomime Librettist


A representation of a pantomime mask found in Thessaloniki inscribed with the name Ast­yanax is unique. It is the only mask known from pantomime to bear a name. This article considers whether the name is that of a mask, a dancer, a pantomime role or a story by looking at other pantomime monuments that commemorate names known from mythol­ogy. After arguing that Astyanax could indicate both the story and the individual role the article concludes that the mask, which is of a mature man, could not be part of a perform­ance of the fate of Astyanax as portrayed in Homer and tragedy. It was from one of the many later versions of the tale where Astyanax survives his fall and returns to Troy as its ruler. This is evidence that pantomime librettists were willing to go outside traditional themes in their original compositions.

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