Nobody is sure how applause began, or when — babies applaud; applause is mentioned in the Bible — but we all know where it wound up: In the theater.
In The Atlantic, Megan Garber offers up “A Brief History of Applause,” which is not brief enough for me — much of it is about the applause in politics — so here are some highlights about applause, focusing on what she says about applause in the theater:
“When we applaud a performer, we are, in effect, patting him on the back from a distance.”- Desmond Morris
“If I’ve played my part well, then clap your hands, and dismiss me from the stage with applause.”– the dying words of Augustus
Claques: “The 16th-century French poet Jean Daurat… bought a bunch of tickets to his own plays, handing them out to people who promised to applaud at the end of the performances. By the early 1820s, claques had become institutionalized, with an agency in Paris specializing in the distribution of the shills’ services.”
Applause evolved, becoming more complicated than just an expression of approval: “Knowing when to stay silent, as well as when to clap, became a mark of sophistication.”
The word “claptrap” (literally, “nonsense,” but more commonly, “showy language”) comes from the stage of the mid-18th century. And it refers to a “trick to ‘catch’ applause.”
Should there be opening applause for celebrities?