The primary aspect of Arlecchino was his physical agility. While generally depicted as stupid and gluttonous, he was very nimble and performed the sort of acrobatics the audience expected to see. The character would never perform a simple action when the addition of a cartwheel, somersault, or flip would spice up the movement.
Within these restrictions the character was tremendously elastic. Various troupes and actors would alter his behaviour to suit style, personal preferences, or even the particular scenario being performed. He is typically cast as the servant of an innamorato or vecchio much to the detriment of the plans of his master. Arlecchino often had a love interest in the person of Colombina, or in older plays any of the Soubrette roles, and his lust for her was only superseded by his desire for food and fear of his master. Occasionally, Arlecchino would pursue the innamorata, though rarely with success, as in the Recueil Fossard of the 16th century where he is shown trying to woo Donna Lucia for himself by masquerading as a foreign nobleman. He also is known to try to win any given lady for himself if he chances upon anyone else trying to woo her, by interrupting or ridiculing the new competitor.
He eventually became something more of a romantic hero around the 18th century, when his popularity provoked the Harlequinade.
The re-interpretation of the “devil” stock character as a zanni character of the commedia dell’arte took place in the 16th century. Zan Ganassa, whose troupe is first mentioned in Mantua in the late 1560s, was one of the earliest known actors believed to have performed the part[clarification needed]. The patched costume is due to Tristano Martinelli, whose zanni wore a linen costume of colourful patches, and a hare-tail on his cap to indicate cowardice. Tristano’s Harlequin also had a black leather half-mask, a moustache and a pointed beard. The name Harlequin (Arlequin) was Tristano’s choice for his character, loaned from the name of the popular French devil character it resembled. He was very successful, performing in Italy and in France, even playing at court and becoming a favourite of Henry IV of France, to whom he addressed insolent monologues (Compositions de Rhetorique de Don Arlequin, 1601). Tristano’s great success contributed to the perpetuation of his interpretation of the zanni role, along with the name of his character, after his death in 1630, among others, by Nicolò Zecca, active c. 1630 in Bologna as well as Turin and Mantua.
Further transformations of the character occurred in France, where Arlecchino was performed at the Comédie-Italienne in Italian by Tristano Martinelli, Giovan Battista Andreini, and Angelo Costantini (c. 1654–1729). The role was played in French as Arlequin in the 1660s by Dominique Biancolelli(it) (1636–1688), who combined the zanni types, “making his Arlecchino witty, neat, and fluent in a croaking voice, which became as traditional as the squawk of Punch.” The Italians were expelled from France in 1697 for satirizingKing Louis XIV’s second wife, Madame de Maintenon, but returned in 1716 (after his death), when Tommaso Antonio Vicentini (“Thomassin”, 1682–1739) became famous in the part. The rhombus shape of the patches arose by adaptation to the Paris fashion of the 17th century by Biancolelli.
The name Harlequin is taken from that of a mischievous “devil” or “demon” character in popular French passion plays. It originates with an Old French term herlequin, hellequin, first attested in the 11th century, by the chronistOrderic Vitalis, who recounts that he was pursued by a troop of demons when wandering on the coast of Normandy at night. These demons were led by a masked, club-wielding giant and they were known as familia herlequin(var. familia herlethingi). This medieval French version of the Germanic Wild Hunt, Mesnée d’Hellequin, has been connected to the English figure of Herla cyning (“host-king”; German Erlkönig).Hellequin was depicted a black-faced emissary of the devil, roaming the countryside with a group of demons chasing the damned souls of evil people to Hell. The physical appearance of Hellequin offers an explanation for the traditional colours of Harlequin’s red-and-black mask.
The first known appearance on stage of a Harlequin figure is dated to 1262, the character of a masked and hooded devil in Jeu da la Feuillière by Adam de la Halle, and it became a stock character in French passion plays. The name also appears as that of a devil, as Alichino, in Dante’s Inferno (cantos 21 to 23).
The Charleston in the tourist’s fantasy is a city that’s done and gone. What today the vacationer sees South of Broad street is a pastiche of the romantic, chivalrous Old South. While still charming as a well-cultivated nostalgia industry and fortress of the lost cause, Charleston struggles to maintain an illusion. Riding the horse-drawn carriages and hearing the guide’s tales of Old Charleston, the modern tourists, while respectful, are unmoved by the city’s past. But the carriage drivers nonetheless press the tourists toward awe and acceptance of Charleston’s special place. The murders, divorces, and political scandals of Antebellum’s Holy City, while all true, are not uniquely Southern. Why shouldn’t these houses give up their toxic family secrets? Any city in America has them. But the last weapon in his arsenal, as the guide reminds us, are Charleston’s ghosts haunting the nocturnal streets and alleys, what the locals call the “night walkers”. There’s that cadre of Citadel cadets, who fired on Fort Sumter and started a war, now proud watchmen of the darkened city.
So, while the Charleston visitor yearns for the authentic city, he’s confronted by a flood of souvenir seekers disgorged daily from the tour ships docked on the wharf. It’s not long before the tourist gives up on the fantasy and settles for today’s Charleston and, being a good sport, is willing to go along with and to some extent enjoy the charade of nostalgia.
I come to Charleston as a visitor. In the early 1970s I was here as a Naval officer – a long time ago. I return now to get a better feel of the place, the food, the architecture, the low country characters. Walking the streets South of Broad is an experience meant for an older man who can only walk slowly and who has time to absorb what ran off him so quickly back then. Today with more years on me I can appreciate the people’s passion for preservation and endurance. Ironically all the buildings and homes are brand new in some way, damaged and repaired in the wake of hurricanes that plowed through the city and swamped the battery. Many homes hang on to their facades of old brick, stucco, and wood siding in an attempt to offer the tourists the look of the antebellum South, while internet connections and updated electrical circuits keep the old homes wired to the present century. These are the homes of the rich. Behind their gated driveways are Mercedes, Lexus, Cadillac, and Rolls. Horses with large hooves the size of platters clop the pavement pulling carriages of tourists, listening to a driver spin yarns of the Queen City. It seems every street, every home has a tale that must be told. I look at the old homes and the expensive cars and ask myself, do the owners really belong here or did they just buy their way in. On Meeting Street atop the old slave market stands the offices of the Daughters of the American Revolution reminding anyone, who stops to consider for one instant, belonging is important.