What Is Commedia Dell Arte?

Commedia dell’arte was a form of theatre that began in Italy during the Renaissance. It is known for its use of masks and for its improvisational style.

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What is Commedia Dell Arte?

Commedia Dell Arte is a form of improvised theatre that emerged in Italy in the 16th century. It is defined by its use of stock characters and masks, as well as its improvisational nature.

The origin of Commedia Dell Arte can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance, where traveling bands of performers would put on shows in town squares and marketplaces. These performances would often mockery or lampoon current events, as well as social satire.

Over time, certain stock characters began to emerge, such as the zanni (a servile character), the vecchio (an old man), and the innamorati (a young lovers). Masks were also worn in order to heighten the emotional expressiveness of the characters.

The genre began to decline in popularity in the 18th century, but has since seen something of a resurgence in interest. Modern takes on Commedia Dell Arte often aim to subvert traditional gender roles and explore social issues such as xenophobia and racism.

The History of Commedia Dell Arte

Commedia dell’arte is a form of professional theatrical improvisation that began in Italy in the mid-16th century and was extremely popular there for 200 years. It is still performed today, both in its original form and in modified versions.

The word “commedia” comes from the Italian word for “comedy”, while “dell’arte” literally means “of art”. The form was created by professional actors who would travel from town to town, performing impromptu shows based on a few stock characters and situations. These actors were known as “ company players”, and they would often work together for many years.

There are several features that are characteristic of commedia dell’arte. One is the use of masks – each stock character would wear a mask that helped to define their personality. This was particularly useful for audience members who might not be able to see the facial expressions of the actors clearly. Another feature is the use of physical humor and slapstick – this was often used to get laughs from the audience but could also be used to make a serious point.

The stock characters of commedia dell’arte are some of the most iconic in all of theater. They include Pulcinella (also known as Punch), Arlecchino (also known as Harlequin), Colombina (Punch’s wife), Pantalone (a wealthy old man), Il Dottore (a boastful intellectual) and many others. Each of these characters has their own distinct personality and set of mannerisms that the actor must learn in order to perform them convincingly.

Although it began as an exclusively Italian phenomenon, commedia dell’arte soon spread to other European countries such as France and England. It also had a significant influence on other forms of theater, including Shakespearean drama. Many of the stock characters defined by commedia dell’arte can be seen in Shakespeare’s plays – for example, Arlecchino became Shakespeare’s Fool, while Pantalone became Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”

The Characters of Commedia Dell Arte

There are a few essential characters in Commedia Dell Arte that appear in most if not all of the plays. The first is the zanni, or servant, who is also known as the valet. The zanni is nimble and cunning, and his sharp wit always gets him into (and out of) trouble. He is often portrayed as a lovable scoundrel. Another character type is the vecchio, or old man. The vecchio is usually rich, but he is also often stingy and vain. He is often trying to win the heart of a young woman, despite being much too old for her. The third essential character type is the innamorato, or young lover. The innamorato is handsome and heroic, but he is also naïve and impulsive. He is madly in love with his lady love, but she does not always return his affections.

The Scenarios of Commedia Dell Arte

Commedia dell’arte was a form of popular theatre that began in Italy in the mid-16th century and flourished throughout Europe for the next 200 years. It is believed to have started in Florence and was later taken up by Shakespeare and Moliere. The most notable troupe to perform this art form was the “Compagnia dei Gelosi” of Bergamo.

The name “commedia dell’arte” literally translates to “theatre of the professional”, which refers to the fact that this type of theatre was often performed by professional actors, rather than amateurs. This is in contrast to commedia dell’arte’s main rival at the time, which was opera seria (serious opera).

Commedia dell’arte was based around stock characters, which were stereotypical figures that represented different social classes or roles in society. These characters were often used in scenarios (short plays) that revolved around everyday situations, such as love affairs, family feuds, or mistaken identity.

There were several different types of scenarios that were commonly used in commedia dell’arte, including:
-The scenario of love: this type of scenario revolves around two young lovers who must overcome obstacles, such as a disapproving parent or a rival suitor, in order to be together.
-The scenario of family: this type of scenario often features two families who are feuding with each other, usually over something trivial.
-The scenario of mistaken identity: this type of scenario involves one character mistaking another character for someone else, often leading to comedic consequences.

The Improvisation in Commedia Dell Arte

Commedia Dell Arte is a form of improvisational theatre that began in Italy in the 15th century. It is based on masked characters who improvise their dialogue and action while interacting with one another and the audience.

The style of Commedia Dell Arte is physical and energetic, with characters often engaging in acrobatic slapstick humor. The masks worn by the performers allow for a greater range of facial expressions and help to exaggerate the character’s emotions.

While Commedia Dell Arte performers often improvise their dialogue, there are usually set plots or scenarios that the troupe will follow. These scenarios often involve mistaken identities, love triangles, or other comedic situations.

The troupe will typically rehearse these scenarios beforehand so that they can be performed quickly and efficiently on stage. This rehearsal process often includes the use of “stock characters” who are based on real people or stereotypes.

The Lazzi of Commedia Dell Arte

In Commedia Dell’arte, Lazzi are stock comic situations, often physical, which can be inserted into the improvised action of a play to guarantee laughs. They are the improvised equivalent of a Punchline in a modern stand-up comedy routine.

Lazzi can be broadly categorised into four types:

Physical comedy: clowning around, pratfalls, slapstick etc.
Verbal comedy: wordplay, puns, double entendres etc.
Observational comedy: sarcasm, irony, satire etc.
Situational comedy: misunderstandings, mistaken identity, farce etc.

The Music of Commedia Dell Arte

Commedia dell’arte was a form of professional theatre that began in Italy in the mid-16th century. It is known for its use of improvisation, masks, and stock characters.

One of the most important aspects of commedia dell’arte is the music. The music was used to signal to the actors what they should be doing on stage. It was also used to create a mood and atmosphere for the audience.

There are four main types of music associated with commedia dell’arte:

1) The canzonetta: This was a love song that was sung by one of the characters (usually a lover). The canzonetta was often used to signal to the other characters that it was time for them to leave the stage so that the lovers could be alone.
2) The mascherada: This was a mask dance that was performed by all of the characters on stage. The mascherada signaled to the audience that it was time for them to put on their masks. 3) The Romanesca: This was a type of dance that originated in Rome. It was often used to signal to the audience that it was time for them to put on their masks. 4) The tamburi: This was a type of drum that was used to keep time during the performance.

The Costumes of Commedia Dell Arte

One of the most distinguishing features of the commedia dell’arte is the elaborate and colorful costumes worn by the characters. The costumes are not only a visual treat, but they also help to define the character’s role and social status within the troupe. Traditionally, the characters were divided into two main groups: the zanni, or servants, and the grandi, or nobles.

The zanni were further subdivided into three categories: the innamorati (lovers), vecchi (old men), and serving men. The innamorati were typically young men who were in love with one of the female characters. They would often dress in brightly colored clothing and wear their hair in an exaggerated style. The vecchi were older men who were often portrayed as being lecherous or greedy. They would typically dress in darker colors and wear their hair in a more subdued style. The serving men were also typically older men who dressed in simple, everyday clothing.

The grandi were also subdivided into three categories: the capitani (captains), dame (ladies), and contadini (peasants). The capitani were typically portrayed as being brave and heroic. They would dress in military-style clothing and wear their hair in an imposing style. The dame were usually wealthy women who dressed in elaborate clothing and wore their hair in an extravagant style. The contadini were poor peasants who dressed in humble clothing and usually had their hair covered by a scarf or hat.

The Makeup of Commedia Dell Arte

Commedia dell’arte was a form of theatre that began in Italy in the 16th century. It is characterised by its use of masks, improvised dialogue and physical comedy.

Commedia dell’arte was typically performed by travelling companies of actors who would perform in public spaces such as marketplaces and squares. The plots of commedia dell’arte plays were often based on familiar tales and they often featured stock characters such as the curmudgeonly Pantalone, the boastful Captain or the lovesick Pierrot.

One of the distinctive features of commedia dell’arte was the use of masks. Masks allowed the performers to exaggerate their facial expressions and they also helped to create a sense of anonymity which allowed the actors to play a range of different roles.

Commedia dell’arte’s popularity waned in the 18th century but it has exerted a significant influence on many aspects of theatre and comedy since then.

The Venues of Commedia Dell Arte

Commedia dell’arte was born in the streets and vineyards of Italy, over 500 years ago. Since then this highly physical style of theatre has been performed in every kind of venue imaginable, from churches and rural barns to the great opera houses of Europe.

Commedia Venues can be broadly divided into three categories – Court theatres, Street theatres and Teatro diabolic.

Court Theatres were usually attached to a royal palace or the home of a wealthy nobleman. The first recorded performance of commedia dell’arte took place in 1545 at the court of Cardinal PompeoArigi in Ferrara. Court performances were often private affairs, involving a small invitation-only audience. The size of the stage was dictated by the space available – they were often quite small, which added to the highly intimate atmosphere.

Street Theatres were open-air public performances, generally held in town squares or market places. These were very popular with commoners who couldn’t afford to see a show at a Court theatre. Because they were performed outdoors they had to be larger and more robust than Court theatres, with wagons serving as mobile stages.

Teatro diabolic was a more experimental form of theatre that didn’t fit neatly into either category. It usually featured anti-establishment themes and satirical commentary on current affairs. This type of theatre was often shut down by the authorities and its performers arrested!

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