That seemed to give the clowns heart, or some more complex motivation, for they all snapped to and … they began to dance. …
And, as for their dancing–was ‘dance’ the right word for it? Nothing about that dance to cheer the heart. God, I thought, we’re fools; did you ever, yourself, Fevvers, laugh at a clown, not even if it were ever so? Didn’t the clowns always summon to your mind disintegration, disaster, chaos?
This dance was the dance of death … They danced it for the wretched of the earth, that they might witness their own wretchedness. They danced the dance of the outcasts for the outcasts who watched them amid the louring trees, with a blizzard coming on. And, one by one, the outcast outlaws raised their heads to watch and all indeed broke out in laughter but it was a laughter without joy. It was the bitter laugh one gives when one sees there is no triumph over fate.
-Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus