AskDefine | Define travesty

Dictionary Definition



1 a comedy characterized by broad satire and improbable situations [syn: farce, farce comedy]
2 a composition that imitates somebody's style in a humorous way [syn: parody, lampoon, spoof, sendup, mockery, takeoff, burlesque, charade, pasquinade, put-on] v : make a travesty of [also: travestied]

User Contributed Dictionary



From French travestir 'to disguise'.


An absurd or grotesque misrepresentation

Extensive Definition

A travesty, also known as a Burlesque prior to Burlesque Theatre becoming associated with striptease, is a form of musical parody in which a piece is re-arranged into a style very different from that for which it was originally known. This usually takes the form of a serious work (e.g. opera) being presented in a more populist style such as ragtime.
Travesty originated in the 1840s, early in the Victorian Era, when the social rules of established aristocracy and working-class society clashed. The genre often mocked such established entertainment forms as opera, Shakespearean drama, musicals, and ballet. By the 1880s, the genre had created some rules for defining itself:
  • Minimal costuming, often focusing on the female form.
  • Sexually suggestive dialogue, dance, plotlines and staging.
  • Quick-witted humor laced with puns, but lacking complexity.
  • Short routines or sketches with minimal plot cohesion across a show.
In the 19th century, composer Meyer Lutz produced a number of operatic travesties. In these the scores were rearranged so that operatic arias would be turned into, for example, a barn dance.
Well known ragtime travesties include The Russian Rag, by George L. Cobb, which is based on Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor, and Felix Arndt's Lucy's Sextette based on a sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.
In more recent times, the score for the film The Cool Mikado is a travesty on the original Gilbert and Sullivan music. Comedic musician "Weird Al" Yankovic writes songs, specifically songs such as the "Angry White Boy Polka" and "Polkrama," that can be considered travesties, as they take the lyrics and music of popular songs and re-arrange them into the style of Polka.

Etymology of the word travesty

The term travesty dates from the 17th century and combines the Latin words trans-, meaning "across, over" and vestere, "to dress or to wear". These two Latin words also form the etymology of the 20th-century term transvestism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word travesty originally meant "to disguise by changing costume", then "to dress ridiculously", but soon came to mean "a parody or burlesque", as in the theatrical productions discussed here, and finally added to that its modern meaning of "disgraceful imitation".

See also

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Atticism, aggrandize, aggrandizement, agile wit, amplification, amplify, anamorphosis, ape, bad likeness, ballyhoo, belie, big talk, black humor, blowing up, botch, build up, burlesque, camouflage, caricature, carry too far, color, comedy, copy, daub, dilatation, dilation, disguise, distort, distortion, draw the longbow, dry wit, dummy, duplication, enhancement, enlargement, esprit, exaggerate, exaggerating, exaggeration, excess, exorbitance, expansion, extravagance, extreme, facsimile, falsify, farce, garble, go to extremes, grandiloquence, heightening, hit off on, huckstering, humor, hyperbole, hyperbolism, hyperbolize, imitate, imitation, inflation, inordinacy, irony, knockoff, lampoon, lay it on, magnification, magnify, make much of, mimicry, miscolor, misquote, misreport, misrepresent, misstate, misteach, mock, mock-up, mockery, model, nimble wit, overcharge, overdo, overdraw, overemphasis, overestimate, overestimation, overkill, overpraise, overreach, overreact, oversell, overspeak, overstate, overstatement, overstress, paraphrase, parody, pastiche, pervert, pile it on, pleasantry, pretty wit, prodigality, profuseness, puff, puffery, puffing up, quick wit, ready wit, replica, representation, reproduction, ridicule, salt, sarcasm, satire, satirize, savor of wit, scratch, scribble, sensationalism, sham, slant, slapstick, slapstick humor, squib, stretch, stretch the truth, stretching, subtle wit, superlative, take off, take off on, takeoff, talk big, talk in superlatives, tall talk, tout, touting, twist, understate, version, visual humor, warp, wicked imitation, wit, wrench
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