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Scaramuccia (literally "little skirmisher"), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell'arte. The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano. Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.
Although Tiberio Fiorillo (1608–1694) was not the first to play the role, he greatly developed and popularized it. He removed the mask, used white powder on his face, and employed grimaces. He had a small beard, long mustache, and wore a predominantly black costume with a white ruff. In France he became known as Scaramouche.
Scaramouche entertains the audience by his "grimaces and affected language". Salvator Rosa says that Coviello (like Scaramouche) is "sly, adroit, supple, and conceited". In Molière's The Bourgeois Gentleman, Coviello disguises his master as a Turk and pretends to speak Turkish. Both Scaramouche and Coviello can be clever or stupid—as the actor sees fit to portray him.
Scaramouche is one of the iconic characters in the Punch and Judy puppet shows (a performative art with roots in commedia dell'arte). In some scenarios, he is the owner of The Dog, another stock character. During performances, Punch frequently strikes Scaramouche, causing his head to come off his shoulders. Because of this, the term scaramouche has become associated with a class of puppets with extendable necks.
Scaramouche in popular culture
- The hero of Rafael Sabatini's historical novel Scaramouche, and its film adaptations, is a similar swashbuckling character who goes incognito in the theatrical role of Scaramouche.
- Several films were named Scaramouche, including: The Scaramouches (1910), silent movie by Lewin Fitzhamon; Scaramouche (1923), silent movie by Rex Ingram; Scaramouche directed by George Sidney in 1932; Scaramouche (1952), with Stewart Granger and Janet Leigh; among other past films and TV series.
- Scaramouche is the name of a suite by the French composer Darius Milhaud for saxophone and cabaret orchestra (also in an arrangement for two pianos). Milhaud first composed the piece for theatre.
- Scaramouche Jones (2002) is a solo play by Justin Butcher, which was premiered in its full form by Peter Postlethwaite. In this 100-minute monologue an aging clown recounts, at the turn of the millennium, the picaresque story of his life, from his early childhood in Trinidad at the start of the 20th century, the son of a gypsy prostitute and an Englishman, through his harsh misadventures in the slave trade and in wartime Poland, where as a gravedigger he found his vocation as a clown while striving to keep children amused by parodying their imminent slaughter.
- In the opening chapter of the book Phule's Company by Robert Asprin, the main character Willard Phule uses Scaramouche as his alias. ("Scaramouche?" Major Joshua said with a frown. "Aside from the obvious reference to the character from the novel".)
- In Tom Stoppard's On the Razzle, Scaramouche is the nom de plume used by sales clerk Weinberl in his letters while answering "lonely hearts advertisements".
- In the 1975 recording "Bohemian Rhapsody", by the popular British rock band Queen, Scaramouche is instructed to do the fandango.
- Inspired by "Bohemian Rhapsody", Scaramouche is the name of the lead female role in the jukebox musical We Will Rock You.
- In Arthur Ransome's children's novel Swallowdale (1931) the mother of the Amazon Pirates, Nancy and Peggy, calls them scaramouches in the chapter "The Race".
- Hartnoll 1983, pp. 282 ("Fiorillo, Tiberio"), 735 ("Scaramuccia").
- Knapper, Stephen (2007). "Scaramouche: The Mask and the Millenium". In Robb, David. Clowns, Fools and Picaros: Popular Forms in Theatre, Fiction and Film. Rodopi. pp. 127, 135–138. ISBN 90-420-2340-6.
- Asprin, Robert 1990. PHULE'S COMPANY, Penguin Putnam Ltd. p. 7.
- Stoppard, Tom 1991. Rough Crossing and On the Razzle, 1st ed., Faber and Faber Ltd. p. 86.
- Hartnoll, Phyllis, editor (1983). The Oxford Companion to the Theatre (fourth edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192115461.
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- Mentioned and defined in The Exquisite Corpse Project