This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 10. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 42-43.

As early as the sixteenth century the fool had sometimes been introduced as standing jester, and even then the jokes were often left to his own invention. The English comedians transplanted their clown to the German stage, and the character was at once adopted by Jacob Ayrer and duke Heinrich Julius of Brunswick in their plays. From that time forward the clown became more and more a necessary member of the wandering troupes of actors; he attracted the largest audiences, for he was the representative of low comedy. He was the heir of all the popular comic characters in German life and literature; he was a fool, a Grobianus, a poor devil, and the last metamorphosis of the wandering gleeman; he was servant, messenger, spy, intrigant, conjuror, and was dressed in motley and provided with a cracking whip, like the old gleeman; he was obscene and vulgar, a great eater and drinker, a braggart and a coward; he was the hero of farce, the jester of tragedy, and finally forced his way into the Hamburg opera. He went under different names at different periods, Pickelhering, Harlequin and Hanswurst being the most frequent. Pickelhering was the leading character of the English comedians, flourishing throughout the seventeenth century, and appearing even in Christian Weise's works. Harlequin was derived from the Italian Arlechino, a character of ancient renown in the improvised popular comedy of that people. In the fifteenth century Italian comedy already exercised a great influence on other nations, and in the seventeenth century it attained an international popularity. In Paris, as will be remembered, there existed an Italian theatre which rivaled Molière's, and from which he derived suggestions for his plays. The first Italian troupe came to Germany about 1670, and of course brought their Harlequin with them. Later, the Paris troupe began to act in French, and their pieces, or outlines of them, were collected in print after 1694, the German actors making frequent use of them.



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