The Evolution Of The Harlequin Figure

963 words - 4 pages

The Evolution of the Harlequin Figure

Comparing Goldoni's to Molire's The Harlequin figure is one of the most well-known and recognizable characters of the Commedia de'll arte, a theatrical form characterized by improvised dialogue and a cast of colorful stock characters, typically masked, that originated in the mid-sixteenth century. The Harlequin figure is commonly known to be the most subversive and resistant character of the Commedia, as their antics typically predict the fate of the frustrated lovers and often their own as well. Through Commedia dell'arte, a Harlequin figure reveals the truth about social standing and condition. Typically, a longer-nosed Harlequin figure represents lower hierarchal status and wit. Harlequin figures wear a costume consisting of colorful patches which are known to symbolize poverty, thus, accurately portraying their lower hierarchal class as well. The Harlequin figure, also known as Zanni, is most commonly known to be a poverty-stricken trickster, sometimes categorized as simple-minded, but most importantly, a servant who is always hungry and values food more than money. Overall, Harlequin figures are known to produce a show of stupidity in a metatheatrical attempt to create chaos within the play, a key aspect of Carnival.

Harlequin figures can be observed throughout Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters and Jean-Baptiste Poquelin's, also known by his stage name Moliere, The Imaginary Invalid. Other than the characters being of different genders, the Harlequin characters in these two theatrical pieces are exceptionally different due to the evolution of Molires Harlequin's character, a less traditional version. Goldoni's Harlequin figure, Truffaldino, follows a more traditional interpretation, while Molire's Harlequin figure, Toinette, has evolved into a more intelligent, sassy character after undergoing Molires psychological tweaking.

To begin, Truffaldino, Carlo Goldoni's Harlequin figure, is portrayed as a clumsy, unintelligent, untruthful character constantly confusing his two masters, Beatrice who is pretending to be her brother Federico to collect dowry money, and Florindo, Beatrice's true love. For example, Truffaldino while picking up his masters' mail, a task requested by both masters, confuses the letters. Since he is unable to read, he has to ask his Master Florindo for assistance in deciphering the two. Truffaldino comments, "Coming up! I must confess, sir: these three letters which I carry on me are not all for you. On the way to the Post Office, I met a friend, another servant and he said, 'Oh! Save me a journey! Could you see if there's anything for my master?' So, sir, one of these letters isn't yours" highlighting how dishonest Truffaldino truly is (Serv. 1. 13). In addition, still regarding the letter mix-up, Truffaldino also deceives his other master, Beatrice, although she comes across as Federico, "Allow me to confess, sir. When I got to the Post Office, there was a let...

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