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Commedia dell'arte

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Christina Nelson

on 4 November 2014

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Transcript of Commedia dell'arte

Performances could be staged wherever necessity demanded
Ideally indoors where it was easier to monitor ticket revenue and to control the various aspects of the performance
No elaborate sets, possibly a single market or street scene if there was a scene
Used props to create the scene: animals, food, furniture, watering devices, and weapons

What is It?
Unwritten, improvised physical comedy based on plot lines / scenarios. No pre-written dialogue
Usually wore conventional dress with masks, oftentimes
stock characters would have a traditional costume that was known immediately (ex. robe for dottore, patchwork for Arlecchino)
sometimes no real costumes, but each character had a certain tone of voice, stances, and gestures that would immediately distinguish them
The traveling Commedia troupes consisted of usually 10 professional performers
There were no playwrights or directors.
The company manager (
) would announce the title and theme of an evening’s performance, making a scenario or
available to the performers.
The Performance
Most scenarios are approximately three pages long and describe the basic plot points of the story with character entrances and exits indicated
Performed through skillful mime, stereotyped stock characters, traditional lazzi's (signature stunts, gags and pranks), masks, broad physical gestures, improvised dialogue and clowning
The dialogue was not scripted for comedies
Major Characters
There are a few stock characters that appear in most every performance
They each have certain chracteristics that are presented through action and gestures, language isn't important, they might even speak different languages, but are still understood by the physical aspect
The Red Hat
Copyrighted by Jeff Suzuki
Commedia dell'arte
Historical Context
Vecchi (The Old Men)
Zanni (servants
Innamorati (the Lovers)
Il Capitano
Servant, usually to Pantalone, but also frequently Il’Capitano, or Il’ Dottore.
The later the piece, the more major the role.
Stance: lowered position, yet this increased gravitational pull is compensated by an irrepressible upward energy in the torso. Elbows are bent, arms in a jug-handle position. Crisp and staccato movements, or completely clumsy and sloppy.
He is quick and physically and slow mentally.
Animal: Cat/Monkey, sometimes a fox.
He is basically reactive rather than proactive. Complications of plot often derive from his mistakes.
His character is a mixture of ignorance, naivete, wit, stupidity and grace. Makes an effort to be intelligent.

A loner. Il’Capitano is never indigenous to the town where the scenario is set and is able to pretend to high status as a result.
Large presence on stage.
Slow, deliberate and mechanical. – Fletcher
Feet planted apart in order to occupy maximum space, chest pushed forward, back straight, hips wide. – Rudlin
Animal: peacock or a dove.
Brags about his achievements to impress others, ends up impressing himself only
A coward who tries to keep up his appearances
Our Adaptation
Originally a servant, but played other roles such as the young lover or the innkeeper.
White powdered face, sometimes. No mask. Wide range of facial expressions.
Young, personable and trustworthy.
Walks in straight lines, his head moves like a chicken, looks down until he arrives at his destination.
Animal: chick or baby bird.
Loves Colombina.
Merchant from Venice.
He is the one in charge of the money. Everyone listens to him and obeys him.
Carries a money bag with with him everywhere. Assumes anything can be bought or sold with money.
Only concerned about himself.
Chases women and thinks he’s very good at it.
He leads with his head, always bending over to protect his money bag.
His head moves quickly like a bird, but the rest of his body moves slowly

The characters of Isabella, Lelio, Flavio, Vittoria, etc. are all part of the Innamorati.
Young and beautiful.
Didn’t wear any masks.
Feet in ballet positions. They are very light.
They glide instead of walking.
Full of breath, but when the situation is too hard, the completely deflate.
Very much in love with love. Love is their only focus.
Love each other and love themselves.
Always carry a mirror to check how they look.
Melodramatic and over the top.
Il Dottore
Not often a real doctor, more likely a professor, a lawyer, philosopher.
Often spouting knowledge at the most inopportune time. He talks all the time.
Bachelor or widower.
Huge. Weight back on heels, belly forward, hands gesturing in front. Slow movement.
His walking posture descends while he thinks (out loud, of course) and rises up again on the solution of the problem.
Animal: a pig.
Pantalone, a merchant
Arlecchino, his servant
Isabella, his daughter
Clarice, her servant
Oratio, a young law student
Pedrolino, his servant
Spavento, a Spanish Captain
Maria, Spavento's mother
Francheschina, her servant
Gratiano, a scholar
Also known as Franceschina, Smeraldina, Oliva, Nespola, Spinetta, Ricciolina, Corallina, Diamantina, Lisetta, etc.
Personal maid to the innamorata
Sometimes she wears a mark. If she does, it only covers the eyes.
One knee bent, the other leg extended. Slight forward tilt from the hips to show best features. Tiny waist and wide hips. – Rudlin
She is happy and carefree, yet when assigned a task moves quickly. A good and efficient servant.
In love with Arlecchino
Multiple story lines
Katritzky, M. A. The Art of Commedia: A Study in the Commedia Dell'Arte 1560-1620 with Special Reference to the Visual Records. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. Print.

Wilson, Edwin, and Alvin Goldfarb. "The Theatre of the Italian Renaissance." Living Theatre: History of Theatre. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.






Used stock characters, who most of the time wore masks.
Renaissance Italy- thrived from 1550-1750
first commedia performers may have been the successors of Greek and Roman mimes. It evolved from ancient mime, the plays of Plautus and Terence, and medieval farces
Unique in that women were not prevented from performing

These "commedia troupes" performed for and were accessible to all social classes.
Language was no barrier, with their skillful mime, stereotyped stock characters, masks, broad physical gestures, improvised dialogue and clowning they became widely accepted wherever they traveled.
Incorporated actors skills including talents like acrobatics and dancing
Started out performing in public squares , festivals, streets
Important Groups
Influence of Commedia
Some of the first commedia acting troupes included the Gelosi, Confidenti, and Fedeli, who performed in Pedua (northern Italy) around the turn of the 17th century.
I Gelosi (translated, The Zealous, 1569-1604): most acclaimed commedia troupe in Europe, primarily in thanks to the art form's most famous couple, Francesco and Isabella Andreini. The Andreini’s became friends with members of royalty throughout Europe, helping to spread the popularity of commedia dell’arte.
Comici Fedeli (translated, Faithful Players, 1605-1652): formed by Giambattista Andreini, son of Francesco and Isabella, and Tristano Martinelli. Never achieved the same fame as I Gelosi, but helped to propogate the influence of commedia for over a quarter of a century after the former stopped touring.
Commedia very quickly became popular across all of Western Europe, particularly France;
French artists such as Jean-Baptiste Pater and Antoine Watteau based many of their artwork off of scenes from commedia.
The improv of commedia has also influenced many 20th cent. theatre companies
A Broadway show called Fool Moon featured commedia-style “clowning” in the 1990s
Performances of several early film comedians, such as Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, and Abbott and Costello, contained many elements of commedia dell’arte.
Marx Brothers: improvised dialogue, each character had specific mannerisms and dress
Shortened version, used only Act III, cut out parts about Pantalone's death prediction and Oratio's betrothal to Laura, took some from beginning to make it more clear.
Inserted modern day references/slang: they did that in old Commedia as well
Use of gibberish: different languages but using Pedrolino's constant English to unify all and help our audience.
Inciting action: Gratiano and Pantalone get an astrological predictions book. Gratiano begins to cast everyone's future.
Plotline/Storyline 1
Gratiano predicts that Pantalone will die a very wealthy man in three days
Pantalone tries to give away all his money to forestall his impending death
Just as Pantalone finishes his will, It is found out that Arlecchino got his birthday wrong so the prediction is untrue in the first place,
Plotline/Storyline 2
1. Gratiano predicts that Isabella will marry a man in a red hat or else all will be lost
2. Oratio had a red hat but his servant, Pedrolino, lost it. Also Oratio betrothed to girl named Laura.
3. Arlecchino found hat and decided it fit best on Spavento. Now Isabella thinks she has to marry Spavento.
4. Spavento tries to woo Isabella but Oratio and Isabella love each other (cannot be together due to red hat on Spavento and Oratio's Laura)
5. Pedrolino and Arlecchino steal back the hat, put it on Oratio, Spavento's mother drags him back to Spain and Isabella and Oratio get married
Changed strength and characteristics of Pedrolino to carry story/plot more
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