Harlequinade, The [Essay by Anna Jellinek]
Derived from the Italian commedia dell'arte, harlequinades flourished throughout Europe from the 16th through to the 18th century, with a standard plot consisting of a pursuit of the illicit lovers Harlequin and Columbine by the latters's father, Pantaloon.
The Harlequin is a mysterious character with classical origins, and has been associated with the god Mercury and with Alchemy and the Underworld. Traditionally, the Harlequin has the ability to =become=invisible= and to travel to any part of the world and to take on other forms. This is
presented in the way in which he outwits Pantaloon in order to be with his love, Columbine, whilst making a fool of Pantaloon at the same time. Harlequin is often presented as a 'zanni' or comic servant (from which the English word 'zany' derives; their humour being very similar to that of the Marx Brothers). However, as time went by, the character moved from being dim-witted to an altogether more intelligent and elegant person.
Harlequin's costume also changed over time, going from a suit made from scraps of rags sewn together to a dandyish outfit decorated with coloured lozenges. Some sources even put his original suit of ragged scraps as being a suit made of leaves.
An actor named Alberto Naselli is the first person documented to have played Harlequin. Oddly enough, he was also known as Ganassa, which sounds as though it was derived by the Hindu god Ganesha, whom King Mob worships during meditation.
The name Harlequin may have been derived from a number of sources;
including a brightly-plumed bird, the harle; Erlkönig, King of the Elves in a Germanic saga [I like this because it reminds me of ELF generators!]. There was a ninth century knight from Boulogne called Hoillequin, and there is the demon Alichino in 'Dante's Inferno', which
derives from the Italian word 'hellecchino', meaning little devil.