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The Zanni

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on 10 February 2016

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Transcript of The Zanni

What is Commedia Dell'arte?

Commedia dell’arte began in the north of Italy in the fifteenth century.
It is considered a form of non-text based theatre meaning that actors have the liberty to improvise their lines.
Each performance consists of a basic plot and unique characters from varying parts of a social hierarchy. Commedia originated in the marketplace but the earliest known commedia company was formed in 1545 in Padua.

The social status of the zanni
The generic zanni is a servant who is found at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The behavior of the zanni correlates to its status. In other words, because they are low class characters, they are always looking to please or for food and other things that will benefit them.
The Mask of the Zanni
The origins of the zanni mask can be traced back to medieval times. During these times, it is said that the masks were used for rituals. Therefore, certain aspects of the mask that did not cause amusement because of its demonic features.

The zanni made its first appearance towards the end of 15th century where it was meant to be a poor and stupid servant. As the zanni’s popularity increased and was adopted as one of the commedia dell'arte masks, the zanni’s original demonic nature changed to a very comedic one.
The Mask 2.0
the most obvious trait is the long nose of the Zanni (the longer the nose, the more stupid the zanni is)
has a wrinkled forehead with low eyebrows that are meant to make the zanni appear confused and stupid
Costume & Props
Name & Origin
The name of the Zanni derives from the name Giovanni, which is the equivalent of the English name “John”. The term zanni is refers to male servants. Surprisingly, commedia dell’arte was once universally referred to as Dei Zanni which means The Zanni.

The zanni is said to originate from Bergamo, Lombardy in Italy.
The Zanni
Description of the mask:
The zanni is usually wearing a white shirt and white pants or a big white jumpsuit. Since the zanni can’t afford much, it is not uncommon for there to be rips in the costumes. Also, a zanni is almost always wearing a hat that is
white (often black or any other color).

The zanni can be carrying:
a heavy sack
a dagger or belt pouch
The zanni does not carry much because they are poor.
The Stance and Walk
The zanni’s actions are very exaggerated. The zanni walks with his head and nose leading the rest of his body meaning that his nose sticks out and wherever his head goes, his body follows. When the zanni goes somewhere, his movements are quick.

The zanni rarely stands still but, when he does, his back is arched and he has one leg in front of him for balance.
The zanni is often compared to bird, specifically a pigeon.

A "Traditional" Depiction of the Zanni
Influence in Modern Times
By: Jailene Peralta
Personal Influence
In the end, learning about the zanni has influenced me as a student and artist because the character has allowed me to realize how important comedy and improvisational theater are. More importantly, studying the zanni has taught me that there is more to improv than just saying something funny.
The fact that the zanni barely uses words yet still makes the audience laugh demonstrates that it is important to be aware of who you are as a character. Overall, through studying the zanni, I learned that every character in commedia dell'arte has a unique impact on society, history, and culture.

Felix, Talia. "Zanni - La Commedia Dell'Arte." Zanni - La Commedia Dell'Arte. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <https://sites.google.com/site/italiancommedia/the-characters/zanni >.

Meagher, Jennifer. "Commedia Dell’arte | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. MET Museum, July 2007. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/comm/hd_comm.htm >.

"Zanni." Zanni. American University, Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://www1.american.edu/IRVINE/jenn/zanni.htm >.

"Zanni | Stock Theatrical Character." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, Web. 09 Feb. 2016. <http://www.britannica.com/art/zanni >.
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