Definition of harlequinade in English:



  • 1historical The section of a traditional pantomime in which Harlequin played a leading role.

    • ‘Set to movie-style music by Nino Rota, the ballet is a modern, plotless harlequinade, with three charming but very different pairs of lovers and a corps of twelve.’
    • ‘At the bottom were the Théâtre de la Gaieté for pantomimes and harlequinades, the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre for melodramas, and the Théâtre des Variétés for ‘little plays of the bawdy, vulgar or rustic genres'.’
    • ‘The circus was just as much an art form as the symphony now, prompting Cocteau's pamphlet Le coq et l' arlequin which saw the national symbol of France reaching an accommodation with harlequinade.’
    • ‘But this show is - virtually - all variations on the nostalgic of the harlequinade.’
    • ‘Other commentators have responded to his elusiveness by casting him in a variety of roles - Byronic hero, Carlylean hero, even as a clown in a harlequinade.’
  • 2dated A piece of foolish or ridiculous behaviour.

    • ‘Walker achieves manhood and moral agency by conforming to his ego-ideal, the Asian American activist, a condition that leads to a racial harlequinade; ultimately, he is perceived as a professional failure, a buffoon.’
    • ‘These are the ‘children of paradise,’ their humors, good and bad, mirroring the action of the harlequinade on stage.’
    clowning, fooling, tomfoolery, hoaxing, mischief, buffoonery, silliness, silly behaviour, skylarking, horseplay
    View synonyms


Late 18th century: from French arlequinade, from ( h)arlequin (see harlequin).