Rei Momo, Pierrô, Arlequim and Colombina are the best known and most traditional characters of Carnival and are present at parties and in marchinhas.
The multicoloured costumes of these figures gave rise to the costumes used in the dances of carnival and are some of the ingredients of the joy of this popular festival.
Rei Momo is the figure of a fat, smiling and charismatic man symbolising the Brazilian carnival. There are several myths about how he arrived in Brazil and became an important character of Brazilian Folklore during carnival season.
Son of Sleep and Night, he was solely concerned with examining the actions of gods and men, and even reprimanded them. Considered the god of grace, he had a very jocular character.
.He was represented with a mask in one hand and in the other a ridiculous figure to imply that he takes the mask off men’s vices and laughs at their folly. He was elected judge of the works of Neptune, Vulcan and Minerva: none of them he found perfect.
He vituperated Neptune because, in composing a bull, he didn’t put any horns on it.
He criticised the man forged by Vulcan for not having made a window in his heart to see his secret thoughts. He criticised the house that Minerva built because she could not move it from one place to another. According to Greco-Roman mythology.
An actor who performed in the popular farces of the ancient theatre. Originated from the bobos in charge of entertaining the Portuguese masters and lords who inhabited the royal palaces and noble residences with popular mimes and farces.
A character from the old Italian comedy commedia dell’arte, with a multicoloured costume, usually made of lozenges, whose function was to amuse the audience during the intervals with jokes and jibes, he was later incorporated as one of the characters in the peripeties of comedies, becoming one of its most important characters.
Colombina’s lover. Farceur, trickster, braggart, bully, lover, cynic.
Main female character of the commedia dell’arte, Harlequin’s lover and Pierro’s companion. Flirtatious, cheerful, futile, beautiful, clever, seductive and voluble. She was dressed in silk or white satin, with a short skirt and a little cap.
Character also from the comedy dell’arte, naive and sentimental. He wore very large trousers and jacket, decorated with pompoms and with a large ruffled collar.
Who are Pierro, Harlequin and Colombina?
.Find out about the origins of three of the main characters of Carnival – who first appeared in a satire of customs very popular in Italy.
They are the characters of a very popular satire of customs in Italy.
They are characters from a theatrical style known as Commedia dell’Arte, born in 16th-century Italy.
Part of a plot full of social satire, the three roles represent servants involved in a love triangle: Pierro loves Colombina, who loves Harlequin, who in turn also desires Colombina.
The style emerged as an alternative to the literary-inspired Commedia Erudita, which featured actors speaking in Latin, at that time a language already inaccessible to most people.
Thus, the story of the trio enamorado has always been an authentic popular entertainment, with origins influenced by Carnival games.
Performed in the streets and squares of Italian cities, the stories ironised the life and customs of the powerful of the time. To do this, many other characters, in addition to the three most famous ones, came on stage.
On the side of the bosses, for example, there was an extremely greedy merchant (called Pantaleon), a pompous intellectual (the Doctor) and a cowardly but bully officer (the Captain).
Other typical characters were the couple Isabella and Oracio (usually the children of employers) and other servants.
Despite following a predefined plot, the plays had improvisation as their main ingredient, demanding great discipline and comic talent from the actors, who had to respond quickly to new jokes and situations created by their colleagues.
“Even today, the Commedia dell’Arte is a method of great wealth for the learning and training of the actor,” says actress Tiche Vianna, a graduate of the School of Dramatic Art at the University of São Paulo (USP), with a specialisation in Commedia dell’Arte from the University of Bologna and Florence, Italy. An interesting detail is that there was always, in the middle of the show, an interval called lazzo, which could have more comedy, present acrobatics or political satire without any relation to the plot.
Once the lazzo was over, the story continued from where it had been interrupted. With this unique style, the Commedia dell’Arte influenced dramatic art throughout Europe.
Love intrigue and social satire were the main courses of ancient Italian comedy
His original name was Pedrolino, but he was baptised, in 19th-century France, as
Pierrot and so won the world. The poorest of the servant characters, he wore clothes made of flour sacks, had his face painted white and did not wear a mask.
He lived suffering and sighing with love for Colombina. For this reason, he was the favourite victim of jokes on stage. No wonder that his attitude, his dress and his make-up influenced all circus clowns
The best known of the patron characters who represented the elite of Italian society in the stories of the Commedia dell’Arte, Pantaleon (also called “The Old Man”) was a “merchant of Venice” (an expression that gave title to a play by Shakespeare). An avaricious tyrant and clumsy gallant, he was a constant target of the mockery of the servants and other characters in the plot
Also Pantaleon’s servant, Harlequin was a lazy and insolent smartass who tried to convince everyone of his naivety and stupidity. After jumping onto the stage, he would move around with dance moves and a large repertoire of acrobatic movements.
He loved to play tricks on the other characters and then use his agility to escape from the messes he created. Another of his trademarks was his rhombus outfit
The maid of a daughter of the boss Pantaleon, but as beautiful and refined as her nanny, Colombina was also the centre of a love triangle that would become famous all over the world – on the one hand, the passionate Pierrô; on the other, the mischievous Harlequin. To arouse the latter’s love, the romantic servant girl sang and danced gracefully in the shows
Traditional Carnival Characters
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