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Harlequin (Arlecchino) is the most important character of Commedia dell'Arte. He is the acrobatic, lazy servant who has a few priorities in life: eating, sleeping and making out with his girlfriend Columbine. Therefore he is constantly in love, hungry, and tired, yet he can do a flip in a second if his master arrives unannounced. Commedia dell'Arte’s servants were called zannis and zannis wore plain white costumes while we all know Harlequin wears a unique multi-colored attire. Why? Here is the story we were told as children:

Harlequin was a very poor boy who lived with his mother in a tiny house in Bergamo. During Carnival, all the town children wore costumes and masks sewn by their mothers but Harlequin's mother was too poor to buy fabric. His friends found out because he was not leaving the house to join the Carnival celebrations so they asked their mothers if they could have the scraps of fabric left from the making of their costumes.

On the Eve of Shrove Tuesday, the last Carnival day, one by one Brighella, Gianduia, Meneghino and other friends went to Harlequin's house and brought scraps of different colors. Harlequin's mom started sewing right away and when the child woke up he found the most beautiful and colorful costume of all.

Cute, isn’t it?