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Audio guide: The Angry Harlequin

Audio guide stop: 2601

Crowdsourced transcription of the audio file

An angry harlequin figurine
An angry harlequin figurine
Download image CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The Commedia dell'arte was a form of theatre that originated on the streets of Italy in the sixteenth century. It became popular throughout Europe, not least at the court of Saxony.

Many of the stock characters are still familiar today: Harlequin, for instance, with his distinctive lozenge-patterned clothes; his flirtatious sweetheart Columbine, and 'Pulcinella', familiar to the English in his incarnation as 'Mr Punch'.

This figure depicts Harlequin in angry mood. Known for his agility, he here adopts a characteristically exaggerated pose. Comparatively unusual for a Meissen figure is the emphasis on Harlequin's ugliness.

His lips are turned down in a petulant scowl, and his bushy eyebrows and large black facial wart do little to endear him. Harlequin's ambiguous character is set forth in the following description by an eighteenth-century writer:

'He is a mixture of stupidity, naiveté, wit, clumsiness, and grace. He is an overgrown boy with occasional glimmers of intelligence, and his mistakes and blunderings often have wayward charm.

His role is that of the faithful manservant: always patient, gullible and greedy. He is always amorous and is forever getting himself or his master into trouble. He is hurt and comforted as easily as a child and his grief is visible.'

Co-production of this resource

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The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.

Katherine Barnes Lekha Louisa de Gooijer, Terence Gould, Adi Levin, Elena, Alexandra Karampela and Maria Benedetto Mozo

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