English pantomime was strongly influenced by the continental commedia dell’arte.
This was a ‘comedy of professional artists’ travelling from province to province in Italy and then France, who improvised and told comic stories that held lessons for the crowd.
They usually had the same clown characters.
There were the young lovers Arlecchino and Colombina, her father Pantalone and his servants Pulcinella and Pierrot – one crafty the other stupid.
In the 17th century adaptations of these characters became familiar in England and the harlequinade developed depicting the eloping lovers Harlequin and Columbine, the girl’s father Pantaloon and his servants Clown and Pierrot.
The basic plot of the harlequinade remained essentially the same for more than 150 years except that a bumbling policeman was added to the chase.