Mask Resource Sheets

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Mask Resource Sheets


A creation of the peasant class he has no status. Movements are quick and often are best compared to those of a chicken. This aspect is enhanced by his appearance. Guttural sounds form the basis of his vocals and he often uses grammelot/ gibberish. He is always a servant and is good-natured, but lacks any social graces and is driven by the most basic of needs i.e. food, bodily functions and sleep (which he can do whenever and wherever). Uses slapstick comedy approaches extensively and engenders the sympathy of the audience. He is always a victim often a messenger and a pawn

Il Dottore

A flamboyant and somewhat loveable character he moves with energy and a clear purpose. He is supposedly well educated and his costume and mask add to this façade. He really makes up his Latin phrases and babbles on liking the sound of his erudite voice. Is entertaining and harmless - often sold physic while the show was on to augment the company’s income. Appealed to the audience’s disdain for the overeducated who really did not know how to survive in the real world.

Il Capitano

A loveable and loud bombastic character that struts around the stage with flair and misplaced energy. Often compared to a Stallion, his movements are over the top and designed to draw ridicule to this cowardly soldier. He is unequal in his success and ability as a source of real amusement for the audience who were often dragooned into the army and could laugh at his faults. Everything about him was bug hence his mask, addition of a large sword and even an oversized hat with absurd feather that is more of a hindrance than a decoration.


A member of the Zanni he has the specific role of the ultimate servant. Always willing to please has more status than zanni but just. Physicality is still of the basic zanni with the addition of a mask. As well, he uses his hands as living properties with open palms always offering service.

Is often in love with a female zanni who is a servant, however, he never gets the girl. Open to abuse by the masters the audience would empathise with him as he uses pathos to gain a response.


One of the best known of the character and the least liked. Is an old man, a miser, clearly a lecher and has only two things on his mind – sex and money.

His movement are predictable as he sneaks hunched over around as he protects both of his precious pouches, When he is still he stands tall to show his status and attributes. Audiences are at times sympathetic to him when he is taken advantage of but only for a minute as his ingratiating vocals reveal his negative qualities


A female zanni of the servant class, she is traditionally unmasked and has a feminine side flick to her pert walk. She is on the surface sweet but underneath she is as hard as nails as the times dictated because she is a woman and was often open to abuse. Often ‘’plays’ the position of the femme fatale and/or the helpless female manipulating masters especially Pantalone with the sole purpose of getting money. Can be forgiven because times are hard and she is a woman and the audience could identify with her lack of status and need to be streetwise and survive.

Annotated Bibliography

Commedia Dell’arte - An Actor’s Handbook

John Rudlin

Routledge London and New York 1994
Rudlin’s book provides invaluable information about all of the stock characters.

Each character is detailed under the following headings:

  • Significance of Name

  • Status

  • Origin of Costume

  • Mask (with photograph)

  • Props

  • Stance

  • Walks (with easy to follow descriptions)

  • Movement

  • Speech

  • Characteristics

  • Relationships

  • Relationship to Audience

  • Plot Function

Activities are also arranged under the headings of

  • Improvisation Exercises

  • Repertorio

  • Canovaccio

  • Sample Dialogue

The Comic Routines of Commedia del arte

Mel Gordon

This book provides extensive examples of Lazzi divided into categories like:

  • Comic Violence / Behaviour

  • Food

  • T transformation

  • Stupidity/ Inappropriate Behaviour

  • Social Class Rebellion

  • Stage Properties as Lazzi E.g.:

Lazzo of the shampoo

Arlecchino attempts to clean Pantalone’s hair with an overlarge rake

Lazzo of the Tooth Extractor

The Doctor [or Arlecchino disguised as a dentist] fools Pantalone into thinking that rotten teeth are causing his noxious breath. Using Oversized or ridiculous tools, the doctor extracts two or more good teeth from Pantalone’s mouth

Drama Studies - an Introduction for Senior Students

Mark Gauntlett and Barry O’Connor

Longman 1995

Chapter 5 - Improvisation in Commedia Dell’arte

  • Provides a sound prose description with some useful written activities

  • Makes use of string walk activities that allow weaker students to realise the physical demands of the movement component

  • Has a useful approach using neutral masks as a way of getting into Commedia mask work

  • Has an accessible lazzo for pairs that allow students to explore carefully choreographed approaches to performance tasks

Commedia dell’arte Masks - An Instructional Video on the use of Commedia Masks.

Produced by Dark Side Masks (Contact Ross: 49693223)

This video is in two parts. The first part is 30 minutes of a workshop, and the final 15 minutes is a summary of the characters.

Characters covered: Arlecchino, Pantalone, Il Dottore, Il Capitano, Pulcinella, Brighella and Tartaglia

Ross also has a website which provided the mask images which he also makes and sells.

Internet Resources

  • www.http// provides an interactive site, worksheets for students and is a basic introduction– at times the language is quite conversational but the pedagogy is sound

  • has a brief history and details of some stock characters

  • useful timeline

  • has a sound overview and summary of stock characters

  • sound history and overview of the characters

LOTE Faculties

Most schools would also have some material on Commedia as a resource for Italian culture and history. Whist they may be in Italian, the images and the style are still accessible.

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