Will You Do the Fandango?

(Cultural) History I Never Knew:
Scaramouche, Scaramouche. Who is That Guy?

Scaramuccia, also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a roguish clown character of the commedia dell’arte, which began in 16th-century Italy.

A Royal Doulton mug of Scaramouche

A Royal Doulton mug of Scaramouche

Scaramuccia (literally “skirmish”) wears a black mask and, sometimes, glasses. He entertains the audience by his “grimaces and affected language.” Another such minor character is Coviello, described by painter Salvator Rosa as, (like Scaramouche) “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 also one of the iconic characters in the Punch and Judy puppet shows, which have their roots in commedia dell’arte. In some scenarios, Scaramouche 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.

The accompanying picture is that of a Royal Doulton mug of Scaramouche.

Many of us who are unfamiliar with Italian comedy or with Punch and Judy first heard of Scaramouche in Bohemian Rhapsody:

“I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico.

“I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

“Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)”

The fandango is a lively couples’ dance usually accompanied by guitars, hand claps and castanets.

“Bismillah” is an Arabic word that means “in the name of God.” It is used at the head of almost every chapter in the Koran.

Hey – who said you couldn’t absorb some serious culture by watching “Wayne’s World?”

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