Brief overview of Commedia Dell’arte Began in Italy around 1545 Began in the Renaissance as a result of a rise in the middle class (merchants, scientists, artists, educated) Theatre moved away from religious morality/passion plays Art became more realistic, a move away from religious art, a focus on humans rather than gods. Secular. Means “comedy of the profession”
Commedia Dell’arte Performances Seldom used scripts; used detailed scenarios and improvised dialogueSeldom used scripts; used detailed scenarios and improvised dialogue 700 scenarios survive today.700 scenarios survive today. Setting is usually a street because they were usually performed outdoors (Markets, Carnivals)Setting is usually a street because they were usually performed outdoors (Markets, Carnivals) Most characters wore masks (the bigger the nose, the less intelligent the character! )Most characters wore masks (the bigger the nose, the less intelligent the character! ) Evolved in into vaudeville and influenced animated cartoons, situation comedy, and even pro wrestling!Evolved in into vaudeville and influenced animated cartoons, situation comedy, and even pro wrestling! Root of Improvisational TheatreRoot of Improvisational Theatre
Stock Characters Definition: a character who displays the same character traits in many different productions. Examples today are: The brainy nerd; the peppy cheerleader; the “dumb blonde”; The “jock” Can you think of others? Some Commedia dell’arte Stock Characters follow in the upcoming slides!
Pantalone Upper class Middle aged or elderly man Generally the father of young girl Overly protective of daughter and money Has several servants (zanni) (think Mr. Burns on Simpsons)
Dottore Upper class Pantalone’s arch-rival or best friend Law professor or medical doctor Lacks common sense/ absent-minded Master of double talk and jargon Black coat
Capitano Working class Boastful, cowardly Spaniard who brags of battles never fought and romances never experienced Cowardly guard Big, bold movements to appear important
Harlequin (Arlecchino) Either clever and wise-cracking clown, or a buffoon Clever schemer and prankster Excellent at acrobatics: always moving. Usually the servant to Pantalone, Dottore, or Capitano His mask looks a little like a cat's face. The eyes are small, round holes The forehead is low, and the eyebrows are a little crooked with evil intentions. The nose is not very big, since he is very intelligent.
Other Zanni Zanni are clown-like servants! Pulcinella: hunchbacked; “stupid” Brighella: Thief and bully Scaramuccia: mustached, sometimes clever, sometime cruel. Zanni's movements are very big, broad, and exaggerated
Fontesca/Columbina Clever and high spirited Flirtatious The maid, often to the Innamoratae Often corresponded with Arlecchino Ballet-like movement Carried a basket and sometimes a tambourine
Young Lovers: Innamorati/Innamoratae Upper class Speak a refined, flowery language: –"My love for you makes all the diamonds on the earth look like grains of sand, and your beauty makes them all dull." Very concerned with appearance; beautifully dressed to the style Often spoke love poems which were memorized poems Overly dramatic
In action Commedia dell 'Arte A Brief History and Performance How-To for Middle- to High School Students d Performance How-To for Middle- to High School Students http://www.american.edu/IRVINE/jenn/home.html
Scenarios These are some quick Commedia scenarios 1) Pantalone enlists Arlecchino's help in getting a date with Lavinia, who doesn't know he exists. Arlecchino gives him a lot of bad advice about his clothes and how he should act. 2) Capitano enters. This is a new town to him, and he has heard that a rich widow lives here. He wishes to marry her, and asks Zanni for his help in meeting her.
3) Isabella has received a letter from her lover, Ottavio, and has taken all of his compliments the wrong way. She sees him on the street, and sends her servant, Zanni, to him with a verbal message. Zanni, of course, gets the message wrong, and Ottavio sends a message back to Isabella. Zanni is sent back and forth with messages, until the two lovers meet face-to- face.
4) Alessandra tries to get her father Pantalone's permission to marry Fabian. Pantelone has promised her hand to Capitano in exchange for a large dowry. 5) Arlecchino has stolen some money from Pantalone. When Pantalone realizes his money is gone, he asks Zanni to fetch Dottore for advice. When Dottore finally arrives, he gives Pantalone several medical diagnoses.
Thanks to the following for information and pictures: Commedia dell’^C^Arte http://www.flash.net/~trshane/columbina.htm, accessed 11/5/02. Info on Fontesca and picture of Columbina and “In action” Commedia dell 'Arte: A Brief History and Performance How-To for Middle- to High School Students http://www.american.edu/IRVINE/jenn/home.html, accessed 11/5/02 Info and pictures unless otherwise noted Theater: Preparation and Performance by Charlotte Lee and David Grote, Published by Scott, Foresman, and Co, Glenview Illinois, 1982. The Stage and the School by Harry H. Schanker and Katherine Anne Ommanney, Glencoe, New York, 1997.
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