This colorful and extremely theatrical art form is based on the interaction of traditional stock characters in improvised scenarios that facilitate a comic plot to arrive at a humorous climax. Commedia dell'arte comedy of artists originated in streets and market places of the early Italian Renaissance, although it's roots can be traced as far back as far as Ancient Greek and Roman Theatre. These Italian street performers, donning masks with exaggerated comic features to draw additional attention to themselves and complement their physical and acrobatic skills, eventually teamed up in troupes of actors often with a traveling stages to firmly establish commedia as a genre in it's own right by the mid's.
Three Gentlemen and Pierrot, c. The Atellan Farces of the Roman Empire featured crude "types" wearing masks with grossly exaggerated features and an improvised plot. By the midth century, specific troupes of commedia performers began to coalesce, and by the Gelosi became a distinct company.
In keeping with the tradition of the Italian Academies, I Gelosi adapted as their impress or coat of arms the two-faced Roman god Janus. Janus symbolized both the comings and goings of this traveling troupe, and the dual nature of the actor who impersonates the "other.
Despite fluctuations the Gelosi maintained stability for performances with the "usual ten": These scenari are highly structured and built around the symmetry of the various types in duet: In the s, English theatre critics generally denigrated the troupes with their female actors some decades later, Ben Jonson referred to one female performer of the commedia as a "tumbling whore".
By the end of the s, Italian prelates attempted to ban female performers; however, by the end of the 16th century, actresses were standard on the Italian stage.
By the early 17th century, the zanni comedies were moving from pure improvisational street performances to specified and clearly delineated acts and characters.
Marivaux softened the commedia considerably by bringing in true emotion to the stage. Harlequin achieved more prominence during this period. It is possible that this kind of improvised acting was passed down the Italian generations until the 17th century, when it was revived as a professional theatrical technique.
Commedia evolved into various configurations across Europe, and each country acculturated the form to its liking. For example, pantomimewhich flourished in the 18th century, owes its genesis to the character types of the commedia, particularly Harlequin.
The Punch and Judy puppet shows, popular to this day in England, owe their basis to the Pulcinella mask that emerged in Neapolitan versions of the form.
In Italy, commedia masks and plots found their way into the opera buffaand the plots of RossiniVerdiand Puccini. During the Napoleonic occupation of Italy, instigators of reform and critics of French Imperial rule such as Giacomo Casanova used the carnival masks to hide their identities while fueling political agendas, challenging social rule and hurling blatant insults and criticisms at the regime.
It was not reborn in Venice until Actors were versed in a plethora of skills, with many having joined troupes without a theatre background. Some were doctors, other priests, other soldiers, enticed by the excitement and prevalence of theatre in Italian society.
Actors were known to switch from troupe to troupe "on loan," and companies would often collaborate if unified by a single patron or performing in the same general location. These compagnie traveled throughout Europe from the early period, beginning with the Soldati, then, the Ganassawho traveled to Spain,  and were famous for playing the guitar and singing—never to be heard from again—and the famous troupes of the Golden Age — These names which signified daring and enterprise were appropriated from the names of the academies—in a sense, to lend legitimacy.
However, each troupe had its impresse like a coat of arms which symbolized its nature. The Gelosi, for example, used the two-headed face of the Roman god Janusto signify its comings and goings and relationship to the season of carnivalwhich took place in January.
Janus also signified the duality of the actor, who is playing a character or mask, while still remaining oneself. Magistrates and clergy were not always receptive to the traveling compagnie companiesparticularly during periods of plague, and because of their itinerant nature.
Actors, both male and female, were known to strip nearly naked, and storylines typically descended into crude situations with overt sexuality, considered to teach nothing but "lewdness and adultery This was in reference to the nomadic nature of the troupes, often instigated by persecution from the Church, civil authorities, and rival theatre organisations that forced the companies to move from place to place.
A troupe often consisted of ten performers of familiar masked and unmasked types, and included women. They would travel in large carts laden with supplies necessary for their nomadic style of performance, enabling them to move from place to place without having to worry about the difficulties of relocation.
This nomadic nature, though influenced by persecution, was also largely due in part to the troupes requiring new and paying audiences. They would take advantage of public fairs and celebrations, most often in wealthier towns where financial success was more probable.
Companies would also find themselves summoned by high-ranking officials, who would offer patronage in return for performing in their land for a certain amount of time. Companies in fact preferred to not stay in any one place too long, mostly out of a fear of the act becoming "stale.
List of known commedia troupes  [ edit ] Compagnia dei Fedeli:The impact of commedia dell’arte on European drama can be seen in French pantomime and the English harlequinade. The ensemble companies generally performed in Italy, although a company called the comédie–italienne was established in Paris in A History of Commedia dell’Arte Commedia dell’Arte (which translates as “theatre of the professional”) began in Italy in the early 16th Century and quickly spread throughout Europe, creating a lasting influence on Shakespeare, Molière, opera, vaudeville, contemporary musical theatre, sit-coms, and improv comedy.
THE title, Commedia dell'arte ("Comedy of Art" or "Comedy of the profession"), means unwritten or improvised drama, and implies rather to the manner of performance than to the subject matter of the play. This peculiar species had a long life in Italy, probably of about four hundred years (from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century); but it flourished especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Although the precise origins of the commedia dell’arte are difficult to establish, its many similarities with the skills of the Origins and development Many attempts have been made to find the form’s origins in preclassical and classical mime and farce and to trace a continuity from the classical Atellan play to the commedia dell’arte’s emergence in 16th-century Italy.
Pierrot (/ ˈ p ɪər oʊ /, US also / ˌ p iː ə ˈ r oʊ /; French:) is a stock character of pantomime and commedia dell'arte whose origins are in the late seventeenth-century Italian troupe of players performing in Paris and known as the Comédie-Italienne; the name is a diminutive of Pierre (Peter), via the suffix -ot.
His character in contemporary popular culture—in poetry, fiction. This article was originally published in A Short History of the Drama. Martha Fletcher Bellinger. New York: Henry Holt and Company, pp.
Like the court comedies of Ariosto and Machiavelli, the Commedia dell'arte was concerned mostly with disgraceful love intrigues, clever tricks to get.