Columbina (in Italian, Colombina, "little dove"; in French, Colombine) is a stock character in the Commedia dell'Arte. She is Harlequin's mistress, a comic servant playing the tricky slave type, and wife of Pierrot. Rudlin and Crick use the Italian spelling Colombina in Commedia dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes.
The role of the serviette was originally that of a entr'acte dancer. Women were not allowed to be part of the story that was being played out on stage, but they were allowed to have a dance in-between the action. Eventually these women became the buxom and gossipy servants of characters that were already allowed on stage. Eventually they became the counterparts to the Zanni characters. She was very down to earth and could always see the situation for what it actually was. She was very infrequently without something to say to or about someone.
She is dressed in a ragged and patched dress, appropriate to a hired servant. These characters were usually played unmasked, but with bonnets. She was also known to wear heavy makeup around her eyes and carry a tambourine, which she could use to fend off the amorous advances of Pantalone. There is record of Colombina using numerous disguises to trick Arlecchino. Where most other characters are content with one disguise, Gheraldi's Colombian has several different disguises to confuse Arlecchino and to keep the audience on their toes.
She was often the only functional intellect on the stage. Columbina aided her mistress, the innamorata, to gain the affections of her one true love. She is sometimes the lover of Harlequin, but not always. She may be a flirtatious and impudent character, indeed a soubrette.
In the verismo opera Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, the head of the troup's wife, Nedda, playing as Colombina, cheats on her husband, Canio, playing as Pagliaccio, both onstage with Arlecchino and offstage with Silvio.
Although Colombina is one name associated with the servette character archetype, other names under which the same character is played in Commedia dell'arte performances include: Franceschina, Smeraldina, Oliva, Nespola, Spinetta Ricciolina, Corallina Diamantina. Colombian became the most common name used to describe the sobretta character especially as Colombine in France and in England.
Some of the people that made this character famous were Silvia Roncagli was the first women recorded doing a seretta role named Francheschina in c1570. Caterina Biancolelli was one of the most famous serettas whose name was Colombina. She played c.1683.
There is record of the famous playwright Molière having attended many performances of la comédie italienne, or comedian dell'arte. He is even referenced in a performance by Angelo Costantini of his show Une Vie de Scaramouche he references the writer and poet. This might suggest that the servant character in many of Molière's plays such as Dorine in his play Tartuffe, might be based on this particular character archetype from commedia dell'arte.
- Coulson, J.; C. T. Carr; Lucy Hutchinson; Dorothy Eagle; Joyce Hawkins (1976). The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary (Second ed.). Great Britain: Book Club Associates. p. 167.
Columbine, Character in Italian comedy, the mistress of Harlequin (Arlecchino)
- Rudlin, John; Oliver Crick (2001). Commedia dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. Routledge. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-415-20409-5. Retrieved 2010-02-10.
certainly not 'Columbina'—who never existed anywhere
- Grantham, Barry (2000). Playing Commedia: A Training Guide to Commedia Techniques. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann Drama.
- Rudin, John (1994). Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook. New York: Routledge. p. 127.
Although Colombina became the dominant name, especially as Colombine in France and England, she was originally also called Franceschina, Smeraldina, Oliva, Nespola, Spinetta, Ricciolina, Corallina, Diamantina, Lisette, etc.
- Oreglia, Giacomo (1968). The Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Hall and Wang. p. 123.
- Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia dell'Arte. 8: Benjamin Blom, Inc.
- Rudlin, John (1994). Commeida dell'Arte. New York: Routledge. p. 129.
Unmasked, but the eyes wide and well made-up. Can wear a domino for special excursions.
- Moland, Louis (1867). Molère et la Comédie Italienne. Paris: Dider et Cie. pp. 168–169.
- Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia dell'Arte. Benjamin Blom, Inc. p. 202.
Gheralid's Colombina must needs keep her audience awake by tormenting Arlequin in a constant changing personality, now as a doctor, now as a lawyer or peddler.
- Rudlin, John (1994). Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Routledge. p. 130.
The only lucid, rational person in commedia dell'arte, analogous to Maria in Twelfth Night.
- Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia dell'Arte. Benjamin Blom, Inc. p. 11.
- Oreglia, Giacomo (1968). The Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 122.
The servette might be called: Francheschina, Olivia, Nespola, Spinetta, Ricciolina, Corallina, Colombina, Diamantina, Lisetta, etc.
- Oreglia, Giacomo (1964). The Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 123.
- Rudlin, John (1994). Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Routledge. pp. 128–129.