CLAQUE

This article was originally published in Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Volume VI. Anonymous. Cambridge: University Press, 1910. p. 423.

CLAQUE (Fr. claquer, to clap the hands), an organized body of professional applauders in the French theatres. The hiring of persons to applaud dramatic performances was common in classical times, and the emperor Nero, when he acted, had his performance greeted by an encomium chanted by five thousand of his soldiers, who were called Angustals. The recollection of this gave the 16th-century French poet, Jean Daurat, an idea which has developed into the modern claque. Buying up a number of tickets for a performance of one of his plays, he distributed them gratuitously to those who promised publicly to express their approbation. It was not, however, till 1820 that a M. Sauton seriously undertook the systematization of the claque, and opened an office in Paris for the supply of claqueurs. By 1830 the claque had become a regular institution. The manager of a theatre sends an order for any number of claqueurs. These people are usually under a chef de claque, whose duty it is to judge where their efforts are needed and to start the demonstration of approval. This takes several forms. Thus there are commissaires, those who learn the piece by heart, and call the attention of their neighbors to its good points between the acts. The rieurs are those who laugh loudly at the jokes. The pleureurs, generally women, feign tears, by holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes. The chatouilleurs keep the audience in a good humour, while the bisseurs simply clap their hands and cry bis! bis! to secure encores.

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