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This was the best known o f the Venetian costumes. Of its origins there is no doubt. From his earliest appearance in the Commedia dell'arte companies, the "first old man'; called the Magnifico; spoke in pure Venetian dialect and his name very soon became the immortal one of Pantalone.

As ever, opinions vary as to the etymology of this name, with some saying that it comes from San Pantalone, one of the city's saints, (there is also the church of this name). Another possible derivation given, is from Piantaleoni, the designation given to those merchants who opened up shop in conquered lands and who, therefore set (pianta) foot there in the name of the lion (leone) of St. Mark, widening the dominion of the city with their commerce.

The profession of merchant, in fact, is indissolubly connected with this character. Grevembroch affirms that the term is even more ancient than this, however; and that a Greek term has to be sought, meaning “powerful in all things”.

It would seem, then, that in a way, an etymology that goes beyond the theatrical is justified.
Pantalone was an old merchant, often rich and highly esteemed, sometimes ruined (as in the play, Pantalon de' Bisognosi), but in all cases, old, and just a little eccentric. As a physical type he was similar to the Pappus of the Roman farces and to the old men of Aristophanes, Plautus and Terence. "Old'; however, did not mean having one foot in the grave, in Renaissance Italy.

Perrucei liked to describe him as puer centum annorum, a hundred year old boy, precisely because, despite the aches and pains, the weight of the years, this character at times gave his audience a breath of youth and he was still capable of making advances to a woman. He was of great vitality both in business and in the astute handling of family matters.

An authoritative father, often to the point of alienating his children's feelings, here he was similar to the Dottore, who represents the conservative class in the realm of family affairs. But with Pantalone we feel there is a wind of bourgeois change in the social and commercial fields. His speech, at times both rough and licentious, at times also fell back into good-hearted, conciliatory tones, taking on the air of the Goldoni's burbero benefico, a rough diamond.

His costume was made up of a wool cap in the Greek style, a red jacket, tights or short sailor's trousers with a belt from which hung either a sword, a scarf or a pouch. He wore a black cape, often lined in red, and on his feet, black pumps, often in the Turkish style with upward curling toes. His black mask had an accentuatedly hooked nose, beetling eyebrows and a curious pointed beard which he would keep stroking.

In Paris in 1635, one of the beaux of Louis XIV's court, the Duke of Brunswick, falling in love with the composed elegance of these costumes, copied the curious trousers of Pantalon, wearing them to just below the knee (to show off his beauti ful embroidered stockings and his boots) and gave his new discovery the name pantalons, which, in fact, is the French name for trousers to this day.
Pantalone represents the mercantile ethic of the Venetian middle class who, without standing on ceremony, had begun to make their presence felt in the corridors of power.

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