Columbine (in Italian, Colombina, “little dove“; in French, Colombine) is a stock character in the Commedia dell’Arte.
She is Harlequin‘s mistress, a comic servant playing the tricky slave type and wife of Pierrot. She springs from the same kind of popular world as her faithful companion in adventure, and, on occasion, her disconsolate lover, Harlequin.
Colombina is the mischievous and charming serving wench of the Commedia dell’Arte, a comic character who is not always a mirror of virtue.
She is dressed in a ragged and patched dress, appropriate to a hired servant. Occasionally, under the name Arlecchina she would wear amotley, similar to her counterpart Arlecchino (Harlequin). She was also known to wear heavy makeup around her eyes and carry a tambourine, which she could use to fend off the amorous advances of Pantalone.
She was often the only functional intellect on the stage. Columbina aided her mistress, the innamorata, to gain the affections of her one true love, by manipulating Arlecchino and counter-plotting against Pantalone, while simultaneously managing the whereabouts of the innamorato. She may be a flirtatious and impudent character, indeed a soubrette but without losing her judgment.
Although Columbina became the dominant name (known as Columbine in France and England), other names under which the same character is played in Commidian performances include: fantesca (maid), servetta (female servant), Franceschina, Smeraldina, Oliva, Nespola, Spinetta Ricciolina, Corallina and Diamantina.