There was a time when the harlequin in the theatre plays, was just just “the fool”, and was never the main character. At least not until Joseph Grimaldi invented the harlequin with the face of what we know today as a clown. He was so successful that the clown became to be the character that the audience was going to the theatres. He is the one who invented the make-up of the clown as we know it today.
Grimaldi’s father taught him to act the characters in the harlequinade since Joseph was three. His first appearance was at the stage of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre was in 1780, and in 1781 the manager of Drury Lane cast him for the pantomime The Wizard of the Silver Rocks; or, Harlequin’s Release. Sheridan employed dozens of children, including Grimaldi, as extras at Drury Lane.
Grimaldi played the role of the Little Clown in the pantomime The Triumph of Mirth; or, Harlequin’s Wedding at Drury Lane which was a great success for him personally because the show became so popular among the audience that it had to run for an extended period of time.He became an established juvenile performer at Drury Lane and at the same time, he was a prolific performer at Sadler’s Wells.
While the Drury Lane Theatre got demolished in 1791 Grimaldi was loaned to the Haymarket Theatre, where performed nxt to the tenor Michael Kelly.