- 西洋比較演劇研究 (ISSN:13472720)
- vol.14, no.2, pp.29-40, 2015-03-31 (Released:2015-04-01)
This paper aims to explain the features and uniqueness of Harlequin (Arlequin) in Lesage’s 1713 fair theater: Arlequin, roi de Serendib, performed at the fair St. Germain; Arlequin Thétis, performed at the fair St Laurent; and Arlequin invisible, performed at the fair St. Laurent.
During the early eighteenth-century, performances at the fairs of Paris were very popular. The Commedia dell’arte’s characters, especially Harlequin, took center stage in these performances. When Lesage wrote these three plays, speaking parts were prohibited on stage at fairs. Under these circumstances Lesage presented silent drama in which the audience sings the words that should be said by actors. So, in three plays written in this form, the corporality is particularly emphasized, and it is Harlequin that has a particularly important role. Traditionally, the body language is one of the most important elements of this character; furthermore, in this period, Harlequin’s image, nature, and gestures are shared by the audience: common codes function during performance. By using effectively Harlequin’s well-known character and gestures, Lesage tries to create his own silent drama in a difficult and particular condition for playwrights.
In Lesage’s three works, Harlequin moves around freely in a fantasy world influenced by Italian comedy performed in seventeenth-century Paris. Traditional features of this character (gluttony, greed, lust for women) are adroitly integrated into each story. In all cases, Lesage’s Harlequin concentrates on mimes each action, because he cannot say anything meaningful on stage: In this situation, the audience concentrates intensely on his mimic function. By combining the well-known commedia gestures (lazzi) and traditional plot features of Harlequin, Lesage creates his own world, which pivots on corporality.
In the official theater of eighteenth-century France, Harlequin becomes more “human,” but Lesage’s works demonstrate that this character appears differently at the fair because of his use of body language. Lesage’s attempt in his early career has not been considered outstanding work when compared to form his opéra-comiques later in the century. Yet his early works are important from the perspective of the development of body language and pantomime—important features of later eighteenth-century drama. His experiment in this particular theatrical form is only temporary, yet his efforts influence later popular theater, and especially nineteenth-century theater in France. Lesage’ss Harlequin only appears at “non-official” places, but he still plays an important role in the history of French theater.