Commedia dell'arte Italian Renaissance




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Commedia dell'arte


  • Italian Renaissance

    • Late 1300s to about the1600s

    • Period of great cultural change and achievement

    • Transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe

    • Rekindled interest in Greek and Roman

      • Thought,

      • Literature

      • Art

    • Two form of comedy in Italy:

      • Commedia erudite

        • Learned comedy

        • Private performances

      • Commedia dell’ Arte

        • Popular comedy

        • Professional and open to the public

  • Commedia dell'arte

    • "comedy of professional artists"

    • "comedy of humors"

    • Improvised Comedy

    • 1550 - 1750

      • most popular between 1575 and 1650

  • Contents of Commedia dell’ Arte

    • Improvisation

    • Masked fools

    • Acrobatic tricks

    • Intrigue plots

    • Satire

    • Music

  • Its beginnings: ??

    • Before 16th century not much is known

      • Fragments from letters and diaries indicate its existence before the 16th century

      • First mentioned in history in the 1560s

    • Two playwrights of Roman comedies are credited for influencing Commedia dell’ Arte:

      • Titus Maccius Plautus: 254 BC – 184BC

      • Publius Terentius Afer (Terence): --159 BC

  • Place & Performance

    • Drum announces the actors’ arrival to a city

    • Performances held almost anywhere:

      • In town squares or at courts

      • Indoors or outdoors

      • On improvised stages or in permanent theaters

  • Themes

    • Adultery

    • Jealousy

    • Old age

    • Love

  • Scripts

    • Rough storyline: summarization of the situations, complications and the outcome

    • Also called scenario or canvas

    • Actors perform spontaneously by improvising their dialogues

    • Thus, details differed at every performance

  • Actors

    • The heart of Commedia dell’ arte and the only essential element

    • Usually 10-12 actors per troupe

      • 7-8 male; 3-4 female

    • One actor rarely played more than one character

    • Performances were spontaneous; thus each actor must be quick and witty to respond appropriately

  • Stock Characters

    • The same characters appeared in every play

    • The most essential part of Commedia

    • Identified by their costumes, masks or props such as slapstick

    • Divided into 3 categories:

      • Lovers (Innamorati)

        • Most realistic roles

        • Young and handsome

        • Did not wear masks

        • Dressed in latest fashions

        • Were children of the masters

        • Come in obvious pairs

        • Often required to sing, play an instrument or recite poetry

        • Lust, romance, vanity, and little sense were usually their characteristics

      • Masters

        • Pantalone

          • Elderly Venetian merchant and the father of one of the lovers

          • Obsessed with money

          • Mean and miserable

          • Costume: tight-fitting red vest, red breeches and stockings, soft slippers, a black ankle-length coat, a soft, brimless cap, a brown mask with a large hooked nose, and a scraggly gray beard

        • Dottore

          • Pantalone’s friend or rival

          • Possessed a high profession such as lawyer or doctor

          • Loved to show off his “supposed wisdom” through his speeches in Latin

          • In reality, was gullible and easily tricked

          • Dressed in academic cap and gown of the time

        • Capitano

          • Originally was a lover, but over time transformed into braggart and coward

          • Boasted of his prowess in love and war

          • Costume: a cape, sword, and feathered headdress

          • Typically an unwelcome suitor to one of the young women

      • Servants (Zanni)

        • 2-4 per troupe—at least one clever and one stupid

        • Fantesca (female maid)

        • La Ruffiana

          • An old woman, either the mother or a village gossiper

          • Whore

          • Shady

        • Cantarina and Ballerina often took part in the comedy, but for the most part their job was to sing, dance, or play music.

        • Arlecchino (Harlequin)

          • Also known as: Truffaldino and Trivellino

          • Originally of minor importance, he soon became the most popular

          • Was both cunning and stupid, a stunning acrobat and dancer

          • Could usually be found in the middle of any intrigue

          • Illiterate, but pretends to read

          • Costume: evolved from a suit with irregularly placed multicolored patches into one with a diamond-shaped red, green, and blue pattern, a rakish hat above a black mask, and a slapstick

        • Another male servant, usually went by the name Brighella, Scapino, Mezzetino, or Flautino

          • Harlequin’s partner

          • Thrives on double dealings, intrigue, and foul play

          • Cynical liar and a thief—would do anything for money

          • Sleazy, seductive, and often cruel

          • Costume: mask with a hooked nose and moustache, a jacket and trousers ornamented with a green braid

        • Pulcinello

          • A Neopolitan

          • Had various functions

            • Servant

            • Host of an inn

            • Merchant

          • Had a huge hooked nose, a humped back, and wore a pointed cap

          • Cruel bachelor who chased pretty girls

          • Ancestor of the English puppet Punch

  • Lazzi

    • Stage business

    • Humorous interjections which had nothing to do with the play itself such as:

      • Humorous remarks

      • Acrobatics

      • Juggling

      • Wrestling

    • Each actor has a notebook filled with well-rehearsed comic action such as:

      • Sententious remarks

      • Figures of speech

      • Love discourses

      • Rebukes

    • Used to:

      • Fill up time

      • Occasionally amuse the audience

      • Create a change of pace

    • Different forms of Lazzi: Lazzo of…

      • Fear

      • Weeping and laughing

      • Knocking at the door

      • Fight

    • Influence of Commedia dell’ Arte

      • By 1600s, it became popular in other European countries

      • Moliere—French playwright during 17th century

      • Punch and Judy show

      • Shakespeare’s plays such as “The Tempest”

      • The silent treatment of mime

      • Beaumarchais’ Le Barbier de Seville

        • Innamorati of the Count and Rosine

        • The zanni Brighella is Figaro

References


Ball, Robert J., and Oscar G. Brockett. The Essential Theatre. United Kingdom: Thomson Wadsworth, 2000.
Chaffee, Judith. Judith Chaffee’s Commedia Website. < http://www.commedia-dell-arte.com/>
Claudon, David. A Thumbnail History of Commedia Dell’ Arte. 15 Oct. 2003. http://www.davidclaudon.com/arte/commedia.html
Commedia dell’ Arte. 20 Sep. 2006. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commedia_dell%27arte
Herrick, Marvin T. Italian Comedy in the Renaissance. London: University of Illinois Press, 1966.
Smith, Winifred. The Commedia Dell’ Arte. New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc, 1964.


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