Commedia dell’arte

The Characters:

 Harlequin  Mezzetino  The Captain
 Brighella  Pantaloon/Pantalone  The Women
Scapino  The Doctor  The Lovers

Some Terms

Some Links

HARLEQUIN

PERSONALITY:

  motley  acrobatic  agile
 violent movements  extravagant tricks  very stupid but he has occasional moments of brilliance
 poor  uses his bat at every opportunity  servant

 

 COSTUME:

 

MASK:

 

 black with a wart on the cheek.

 tiny holes for eyes.

 quizzical arch of eyebrows.

 strong wrinkles on forehead.

 bushy beard and eyebrows.

 half mask + a chin piece.

BRIGHELLA

(THE INTRIGUER)

PERSONALITY:

 slender figure  a dancer  has a killer instinct
 a valet  it's a good policy to make sure that he's done his work before he gets paid—he has a tendency to stop working as soon as he has money.   Jack of all trades.
  hangs about the tavern he's a heavy drinker  a liar, a perjurer, a drunkard, and a debaucher.
  he prowls  quick and piercing eyes  he’s the guitarist serenading from underneath a window
  rascal  flexible spine  infinite ingenuity

COSTUME:

 

MASK:

 olive tinted mask  hook nose  thin beard
 dark eyes  thick lips  moustache like a fop (thick and twirled up at ends) 

 

SCAPINO

(Brighella’s brother)

PERSONALITY:

 

 the name Scapin comes from the word scappare which means ‘to flee’ or ‘to escape’ (and Scapino never forgets this)  amorous  falls in love for the sake of it
 there is no logic in his thoughts or actions  Scapin would prefer to run away from a fight.  Like Brighella, he’s a servant and Jack of all trades
 very forgetful  always does the first thing that comes into his head  flits from one love to another

 

COSTUME:

 

 

 

MEZZETINO

(THE HALF-MEASURE)

PERSONALITY:

 

 a singer, musician and dancer  very gentle manners  is open to bribes and is capable of betraying his master
 in his relationship he is capable of cheating on his wife  he is also frequently cheated on by his wife  sometimes he is devoted to his master

 

 COSTUME:

 

PANTALONE/PANTALOON

(Gerontio and Orgon are direct descendants)

 

PERSONALITY:

 lecherous old miser  retired from active business  very rich
 can small money  he is usually punished for being so greedy—fate works against him  sometimes he's a father/sometime a bachelor.
 he’s a peace loving man  his daughter is usually one of the following: ISABELLA, ROSAURA, CAMILLE, SMERALDINE  if he is married, his wife is typically young and pretty

 his wife usually deceives him

 she makes fun of him because he coughs, spits, and his nose runs.

 The servants usually take advantage of him  he’s usually tricked into spending money that he doesn’t intend to spend  he's often tricked into letting his daughter marry her lover
 he hates being beaten (but usually events turn out in such a way that a servant beats him with a stick)  as a master he usually starves his servant  he sometimes tries so solve disputes amongst other characters but usually ends up being beaten by them

 

COSTUME:

 

MASK:

 brown mask

 hooked nose

 grey and sparse moustache

 white beard stretched from ear to ear and comes down to a sharp point.

 

THE DOCTOR

PERSONALITY:

 he can be a philosopher, astronomer, barrister, diplomat, and physician  he’s spent his whole life learning everything he can but he tends not to understanding anything  very foolish

  Quotes Greek or Latin (very badly)

 his best friend is Pantaloon  very pedantic

 

 

COSTUME:

 

MASK:

 black or flesh-coloured mask  covers forehead and nose.  cheeks smeared with red.

 

 

THE CAPTAIN

PERSONALITY:

 pretentious  bombastic  always carried a sword

 

COSTUME:

  

MASK:

 flesh-coloured  a big nose  large moustache

 

THE WOMEN

THE CANTARINA, THE INAMORATA, THE SOUBRETTE, ISABELLA

 

PERSONALITY:

* constant companion of Harlequin.

* eternally in love with rascally valets

* a maid

* costume is a large wide apron, and no corset (otherwise similar to the wealthy women)

  

COSTUME:

 

 

MASK:

 

 

THE LOVERS

 PERSONALITY:

 well set up  gallant  courteous
 young  the man courts the Servetta as well as Isabelle  lovers have no other ‘character’ trait than being in love.
 love often makes the lover appear absurd—they act irrationally even though they’re ordinarily rational  their declarations of love seem to be truthful yet there is usually a comic side to the way they express this love.  always sophisticated

 

 

COSTUME:

 has no particular costume

 is always dressed in the latest fashion of the period

 

MASK:

 no mask.

SOME TERMS

commedia dell’arte

Therefore commedia dell’arte means ‘professional theatre’

Contrasts with commedia erudita = ‘academic theatre’

Zanni: the name given to the masks of Harlequin and Brighella (i.e. servants)

lazzi: ® ‘knots’ (comes from the Tuscan word lacci)

® means ‘turn’/‘trick’/‘Italian business’

® used by the buffoons to interrupt the story with irrelevant pranks

Slap-stick/bat: favourite weapon of Harlequin and Scapin.

 

SOME LINKS

 

 La Comédie-Italienne [Don't let the French scare you on the first page!  There are some sensational links to English sites once you get started.  Head for Ressources sur la Commedia dell'arte sur Internet and look for the word Anglais which is French for 'English'.]

 An Annotated Bibliography of Commedia dell'Arte, Music Hall, Panto, and Other Diversions 

 Commedia

Commedia dell'Arte

 

 

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