Harlequin (Arlecchino in Italian, Arlequin in French) is the most popular of the "zanni" or comic servant characters from the Italian "Commedia dell'Arte".


There are these theories about the origin of the term Harlequin:
* Via Italian "Arlecchino" from Latin "Herculinus", meaning "little Hercules", as if a skit form of the Hercules heroic character was one of various threads leading to its origin.
* From the term "Hellequin" (leader of "la maisnie Hellequin"), possibly related to the Old English "Herla Cyning" ("King Herla"), a character usually identified with Woden, possibly also, the German "Erlkönig" (Elf King). [ [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=harlequin Online Etymology Dictionary ] ] [ [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/harlequin harlequin - Definitions from Dictionary.com ] ] For more information about the origin of the Harlequin character, see Commedia dell'arte.

References in modern culture and other media

In today's culture, harlequins are seen quite often, especially in the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations. Harlequins frequently appear in pop culture, such as Harley Quinn from the Batman series and Harle from Square Enix's game Chrono Cross.

Literature and cinema

*In the movie "Moulin Rouge!" there is a harlequin can can dancer.
*The main character of Neil Gaiman's "Harlequin Valentine" (based on the ticket seller of Lisa Snellings-Clark's sculpture [http://www.lisasnellings.com/dc_crowded.html Crowded After Hours] ), invokes the spirit of Harlequin as he pursues his Columbina.
*Marlow, in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" compares the Russian to a Harlequin, because his clothes resemble the traditional Harlequin costume. (Conrad, Joseph., "Heart of Darkness," (1902) Dover Thrift, New-York, 1990)
*Agatha Christie wrote a number of short stories about "The Mysterious Mr. Quin", an almost-supernatural figure who helps the elderly Mr. Satterthwaite to solve mysteries. She also featured the character of Harlequin in a sequence of poems entitled "A Masque from Italy" in her 1925 collection "The Road of Dreams" (reprinted in 1973 in "Poems") and in her first-ever published magazine short story " The Affair at the Victory Ball" (1923), published in book form in the US in the 1951 collection "The Under Dog and Other Stories" and in the UK in "Poirot's Early Cases" in 1974.
*Dorothy L. Sayers has Lord Peter Wimsey investigate a murder, while masquerading as a harlequin in the book, Murder Must Advertise.
*In Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas", one of the residents of Halloween town is the Harlequin Demon, a tentacle-headed monster with a pattern on its skin similar to the original harlequin costume.
*In Bernard Cornwell's The Grail Quest trilogy, the leading character, Thomas of Hookton, searches for revenge after the murder of his father, and follows the track of a mysterious man called the Harlequin. He discovers that this man is in fact his cousin, Guy Vexille, who is working with powerful figures within the Catholics to find out the Holy Grail itself. The trilogy ends with the final battle between the two cousins.
*In the DC Comics Universe, the Joker's sidekick and on/off girlfriend is Harley Quinn, who wears a clown costume and has a playful, tricky personality.
*Harlequin is a British spy in Prague in the book The Golem's Eye, by Jonathan Stroud. He does not exemplify what most people would think a harlequin looks like. Instead, he is a fat old man, who has a predilection for wearing black, and likes dramatic settings; for instance, he has the main character, Nathaniel, meet him in an overflowing graveyard.
*In John Twelve Hawks' "Fourth Realm Trilogy" (including "The Traveler" and "The Dark River"), a secret international organization known as the Tabula is intent on total control of human society and its populace through the use and manipulation of vast information networks. In this present-day world, Harlequins are warriors trained in combat and subterfuge sworn to protect Travelers, genetically-gifted individuals with the ability to project their souls to other realms. As these Travelers are perceived as a threat to a perfectly ordered and controlled society, the Tabula is determined to harness or destroy them, with only the Harlequins standing in their way.
*In Chrono Cross the Character Harle is a Harlequin.
*"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman is a popular science fiction short story by Harlan Ellison. It illustrates a dystopian future where punctuality is the law, and the main character named Harlequin displays the rebellious and mischievous nature of the harlequin archetype.
*Harlequin is a powerful elf character in at least two of the "Shadowrun" role play books published by FASA.


*Australian based singer, Kylie Minogue was dressed in a Harlequin outfit for the backdrop of her 2005/2006 tour, the Showgirl Tour and Showgirl - The Homecoming Tour. The song playing in the tour was "Burning Up" which led to Madonna's "Vogue".
*Harlequins are mentioned in the song Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off by Panic at the Disco. ("Testosterone boys and harlequin girls, will you dance to this beat and hold a lover close?")
*Harlequins are also mentioned in the song Pink Hearts, Yellow Stars (Harlequin Lover) by Chicosci
*A harlequin is mentioned in the song "Emerald Lies" by British rock band Marillion on their 1984 album Fugazi.
*Philip Sparke is a composer who wrote "Harlequin" for concert band, a piece which takes its inspiration from the happy and sad faces from the Italian Comedia Dell'Arte. It is a work in two movements; a slow ballad followed by a frenetic faster movement. The piece was dedicated to and had a solo for David Childs. David and Steven Mead are both euphonium virtuoso willingly head by a broad audience.
*Progressive metal band Opeth has a song entitled "Harlequin Forest" on their 2005 album Ghost Reveries.
*The British rock band Genesis had a song called Harlequin on their 1972 album Nursery Cryme
*In the opera Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavalla, the character of Beppe plays the Harlequin role in the opera's 'play within a play.'
*Harlequin appears in Richard Strauss' opera Ariadne Auf Naxos (another case of a 'play within a play,' or in this case an 'opera within an opera').
*Used in the first line of the Stephen Stills composition "Helplessly Hoping", recorded by the rock musical group Crosby, Stills and Nash.
*Harlequin is also a Canadian rock band from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
*Harlequin is also a Portland Oregon based Hip-Hop artist.


*Harlequin FC are a British rugby union team who currently play in the Guinness Premiership In England. They wear the shirts of the traditional Harlequin character. Also there is a Rugby league side of the same name who recently changed their name from the London Broncos.
*In the tabletop strategy game "Warhammer 40,000", the Harlequins are an enigmatic group of the Eldar known for using misdirection and confusion when they fight. Their clothing is a stylized version of the original harlequin costume.
*In the radio drama, "Adventures in Odyssey", the local dinner theatre is named The Harliquin Dinner Theatre.
*In a Pablo Picasso Painting the Three Musicians a "Harlequin" is seen in the middle.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Harlequin — Har le*quin (h[aum]r l[ e]*k[i^]n or kw[i^]n), n. [F. arlequin, formerly written also harlequin (cf. It, arlecchino), prob. fr. OF. hierlekin, hellequin, goblin, elf, which is prob. of German or Dutch origin; cf. D. hel hell. Cf. {Hell}, {Kin}.]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Harlequin — Har le*quin, v. t. To remove or conjure away, as by a harlequin s trick. [1913 Webster] And kitten, if the humor hit Has harlequined away the fit. M. Green. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • harlequin — (n.) 1580s, from M.Fr. harlequin, from O.Fr. Herlequin, Hellequin, etc., leader of la maisnie Hellequin, a troop of demons who rode the night air on horses. He corresponds to O.E. Herla cyning King Herla, mythical character sometimes identified… …   Etymology dictionary

  • harlequin — ► NOUN (Harlequin) ▪ a mute character in traditional pantomime, typically masked and dressed in a diamond patterned costume. ► ADJECTIVE ▪ in varied colours; variegated. ORIGIN French, from earlier Herlequin, the leader of a legendary troop of… …   English terms dictionary

  • Harlequin — [här′li kwin, här′likin] n. [Fr harlequin, arlequin < OFr hierlekin, hellequin, demon: Fr sense & form infl. by It arlecchino < same OFr source] 1. a traditional comic character in pantomime, who wears a mask and spangled, diamond patterned …   English World dictionary

  • Harlequin — Har le*quin (h[aum]r l[ e]*k[i^]n or kw[i^]n), v. i. To play the droll; to make sport by playing ludicrous tricks. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Harlequin —    Film fantastique de Simon Wincer, avec Robert Powell, Carmen Dunca, David Hemmings.   Pays: Australie   Date de sortie: 1980   Technique: couleurs   Durée: 1 h 36    Résumé    Un inconnu pénètre dans la maison d un sénateur et redonne… …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • Harlequin F.C. — For the rugby league club, see Harlequins Rugby League. Harlequins Full name Harlequins Football Club Nickname(s) Quins Founded …   Wikipedia

  • harlequin — harlequinism, n. /hahr leuh kwin, kin/, n. 1. (often cap.) a comic character in commedia dell arte and the harlequinade, usually masked, dressed in multicolored, diamond patterned tights, and carrying a wooden sword or magic wand. 2. a buffoon. 3 …   Universalium

  • Harlequin — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Harlequin », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) Harlequin, maison d édition spécialisée dans …   Wikipédia en Français

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