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Commedia dell'arte: Arlecchino

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zoe voice

on 12 January 2014

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Transcript of Commedia dell'arte: Arlecchino

Arlecchino is a stock character in Commedia, and is usually played as a servant to Pantalone, although he can be seen often as a servant to Il’Capitano, or Il’ Dottore. His constant attempts of trickery - usually for money or food - display moderate intelligence although they often fail through his over complication and he is often distracted by something else quickly.

He is technically a zanni as he is a servant although he falls into the category his dress and characteristics are more vibrant.

He is incredibly comedic, a very energetic and over exaggerated and has three main goals: sex, food and money. He is very unreliable as a servant: often falling asleep or forgetting his aim.

He is described as either very vocal or completely silent - there is rarely and inbetween - similarly with his tempo and movement
Commedia dell'arte: Arlecchino
Origins of Alrecchino
Costume, mask and props
Masks - As you probably know were just as much a part of revealing the character as the costumes were - probably more so. The nose indicated the intelligence of the Zanni which although his is quite large was smaller than that of the other servant characters to indicate his 'alert' state - this is also why the eyes are rounded to indicate awareness. The bump on the head is very common in lower class characters as it shows clumsiness or stupidity.
Most Zanni are dressed in white baggy clothing to indicate their lack of wealth - however Arleccino's costume has developed over time into either a jumpsuit or trousers with several diamond shaped colourful patches which again indicate his poverty but also that he takes from other and makes it his own (there are several opinions that the diamond patches are pieces of more expensive clothing.) This colourful design makes Arleccino one of the most recognisable stock characters of Commedia. He has also been known to wear a hat as the other Zanni although it is not crucial.
A prop that is consistently used in all portrayals is a 'slapstick'. This stick was really two attached together: when this prop was hit lightly against something (usually another character) it produced a very loud sound which made it look like the strike was far violent then it was to prevent actors from hurting each other in physical scenes
Variations of Arlecchino
Points to remember
Introduction to basic movements
One word you could use to describe Arlecchino is acrobatic. He is always moving and jumping thus is very demanding on the actor.

His knees are always bent to give him a 'springy' movement. When standing still his hands rest on his belt and his elbows are always as bent as possible.

Curves the base of the spine and provokes suspicion by never walking in a straight line - instead it is always in zig-zags and is very exaggerated to promote the comedic value. He walking to a 3/4 beat.

This character
leads with their mask again with exaggeration
Bent knees and elbows - low center of gravity
Lead with 'mask'
walk in zigzag
3/4 beat
The female version of Arlecchio is called Areleccina - portrayed as his wife or love interest in many scene. She shares almost all the same characteristics as him. However she is considered to be more quick-witted, vivacious and is very flirtatious.
Over time, Arlecchino has evolved to be known as the 'Harlequin' character, which is now a term used to describe a mischievous but loveable character in any piece.
Other forms; Harleqino, Harlechino, Harlequinus, Arlechino, Arlechin, and Arlequi
The origins of Alrecchino's name are actually unknown exactly however it is pinpointed that his name came into being in 1576 and there are several theories to explain where the character came from. Some think that he was based upon the devil Alichino in Dante's inferno, or a Hellequin from french passion plays. Both of these played the role of leading dammed souls into hell - which could be where the mischievous nature springs from.
The importance of Commedia Dell'arte
Commedia Dell'arte can be considered the template of almost every practice of theatre. Beginning in 1600's in Venice, It was one of the first combinations of literary art which was seen as one of the highest forms of entertainment and street improvisation which was considered one of the lowest. It was also the first theatre practise to use women.
All of the stories were improvised and the stock characters were designed to be representative of the people they performed to - concerned with love and money.
Melodrama, Restoration and comics such as Chaplin are incredibly derivative of the typical over-the-top humour present in Commedia, especially in the character Arlecchino.
all last seen 08/01/2013
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