Illustration of a harlequin's head and shoulder in black and pink on a white background.
© 1970 T/A Creations
A Harlequin is a mute character in a traditional pantomime that traditionally has a masked face and a colorful diamond-patterned costume. The role of the Harlequin is a light-hearted astute servant with self-serving intentions. He is agile, quick, and has trickster tendencies. The name Harlequin is said to descend from old French "hellequin" meaning demon. The Harlequin character was popularized in Italian comedia dell'arte; a 16th-century theatrical form. However, the origins of the character itself is debated as some scholars have suggested the Harlequin did not start with the Italian Renaissance but perhaps with the Greeks in Greek comedy theater or in Central Africa where a character similar to the Harlequin is seen portrayed in the African arts.
Beaumont, Sitwell, Freedman, Sitwell, Sacheverell, & Freedman, Claudia. (1967). The history of harlequin. B. Blom.