The Masks of Fava
When today's actors become aware of and are subsequently drawn to Commedia dell'Arte, they seek an immediate confirmation of certain impressions (often based on cliches); they always want to know whether a certain thing is the "symbol of Commedia dell'Arte." That certain thing is almost always Arlecchino, the Arlecchino. We will never tire of repeating that Arlecchino is a Second Zanni, that Commedia is a system of relations and situations between characters who are all of equal importance and have no absolute protagonists. At least in principle, no one symbol represents it, because a symbol can always exclude everything else. If instead of symbols we speak of reference points, then we can allow this formula: the most important reference point in Commedia dell'Arte is the mask. The mask as a meaning-bearing object and the mask as a principle that permeates the entire expressive system.
Source: Fava, Antonio. The Comic Mask in the Commedia dell'Arte.
Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007