From The Sleeping Hedgehog, date unknown. No idea if it’s a story retold there, or a true story transcribed into written form. Not that it really matters, does it?
There, my friend. I am not good company tonight, but if you can stand the long face, I’ll buy the rounds, all right? Here, Reynard — a pint for this compassionate one, the poor bastard…
No, sure it will be all right. Surely. It is just that…you know they say that the world is a stage, yes? Vesti la giubba, vesti la giubba! The sad fruit of hate, the agonies of grief, the cries of rage, the bitter laughter. We breathe the air of this lonely world along with everyone else, and we hold up a mirror — but which is the reflection?
The stage and the world. As Signor Shakespeare said — are they not the same thing? We think, no! they are not, surely they cannot be…yet disaster strikesin a mockery of our mockeries, like mirrors reflecting mirrors over and over again, until you cannot tell where life starts and then art continues on, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Which is art? Which is life? Reynard, give me another? No, it’s all right, you know I can hold my drink, I’ve been drinking since before you were whelped! Another for you, my friend?
Ah, don’t look so worried, you. Surely it will be all right. Our company…we follow the grand tradition, the great art, yes…we are one of the few companies left of the Commedia dell’Arte, we are! Each performance different, the story the same, but everything fresh, each night new… We each have our roles, our specialty, each of us has studied long and hard.
Yes, I am Arlecchino, sometimes I am Truffeldino. Someday when I am a bit older I will master Pedrolino as well, or perhaps he will master me — but Arlecchino, he is my favorite and always has been. Troublemaker, servant, go-between, clever boots…that’s me! Your servant, my master!
Ah, my master. Well, he is our director, he is a great clown, a subtle actor, a genius of improvisation! And a good businessman as well; he owns our company. Ah, my friend, I am worried. We came to this great city, was it years ago now? Surely not…but now, they shout for us as the kings and queens of the stage!
Tragedy and comedy, both the mirror image of the other… He has a terrible temper, but he is honest, my master is, you can trust him.
She is beautiful, you know, my master’s wife. She is much admired. Much admired. She is sometimes my Columbina, sometimes she is Isabella. She is very clever as Columbina, her improvisations are very good.
Look at the time. I will have to be at the theatre soon. Reynard, one last one for the night. Perhaps just a bit of that whiskey. A sniff of water.
Yes, I am worried. It is this damned place, it turns everything around. Do we become our roles, or do they become us?
But surely it will be all right.
Come down later to see the performance tonight, the? For some reason, I’m actually dreading tonight, I don’t know why. I will feel better if you are there in the audience, my friend. I must go, for, as they say, the show must go on, no matter how we feel, the?