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COMMEDIA in the modern world

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Steve Leadbetter

on 1 January 2014

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Transcript of COMMEDIA in the modern world

COMMEDIA in the modern world
Why study a theatre style that is 500 years old?
Commedia characters are what we call 'Stereotypes'.

You will find sterotypes absolutely EVERYWHERE in modern life... But none more prevalent than in television sitcoms.
The stereotypes used are more than just 'the smart one' or 'the dumb one' or 'the angry one'. They have specific characteristics - miserly, jealous, incompetent, false bravado and so on... these occur both in Commedia and today... Let's have a look.
The main Commedia characters we will focus on are:
- Pantalone
- Zanni
- Il Dottore
- Il Capitano
- Colombina
- Brighella

First, let's look at Pantalone. What are his characteristics? He is old, miserly, money-hungry and believes everyting has a price... Does this remind you of anyone?
Yep, you guessed it... C. Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons.
Next is Zanni. He is a servant, the lowest status, put upon by his masters and strives for the basest of things, somewhere to sleep and food in his belly. Think of all the sitcoms you know... There will almost definitely be a Zanni.
Did you think of this one? Manuel from Fawlty Towers is Zanni in every shape and form... Basil is also Brighella but you have to think of a different one, it ain't gonna be that easy!
Il Dottore... A master, someone in power who probably shouldn't be. Originally a doctor with solutions that are always wrong or makes simple mistakes. In modern form, Il Dottore can come in many different forms. Can you think of one?
Chief Clancy Wiggum... the perfect example of Il Dottore in a modern setting.

Or look even further into the future... Dr. Zoidberg to keep with the doctor theme.
Next is the character some would consider the most fun to play. He is a braggart, a wannabe ladies-man and definitely a coward. He is il Capitano!
How many in modern sit coms can you think of?
Gob from Arrested Development may not be an obvious choice of il Capitano but he is a very good example. Another, from animation (are we seeing any correlations between animation and Commedia?) is Captain Zap Branigan. (Futurama characters are all basically Commedia Characters)
Colombina is next. A servant (so a low status) but also intelligent, the object of at least one characters desires and often uses her level headedness to save the day.Ringing any bells?
Marge Simpson, of course, is a Columbina. Loved by Homer, she is level headed and generally keeps Arlechino (Homer AND Bart) out of mischief as much as possible.
Finally, Brighella. A servant status but the top of the servants. A shop-keeper or bartender. He is cruel but not evil, quick-witted to scheme his way out of trouble and is not above slight criminal activity. He is hppy to cause trouble for others, servants and Masters.
Basil Fawlty is a Brighella. Can you think of another from a modern sitcom?
Edmund Blackadder is a servant who is not content with his place in society. He mistreats those below him and scorns those above him. He is Brighella. Not evil but certainly not a nice guy.
And this is why it is important for us to study and understand the styles of the past, even at 500 years old. Because all those years ago, they got it right. While the scenarios might change, the characters' 'types' do not. Sitcoms are proof that these characters still work today.
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