The history of theatre
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The History of Theatre. The Renaissance. What was the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a period of great scientific, exploratory, and cultural expansion in Europe It began in the 14 th century in Florence, Italy It spread through the rest of Europe over the next 300 years. The Masque.

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The history of theatre

The History of Theatre

The Renaissance

What was the renaissance
What was the Renaissance

  • The Renaissance was a period of great scientific, exploratory, and cultural expansion in Europe

  • It began in the 14th century in Florence, Italy

  • It spread through the rest of Europe over the next 300 years

The masque
The Masque

  • Renaissance theatre took the developments of the medieval era and expanded upon them

  • Masques were evolved from courtly shows done before kings and queens

  • They combined music, dancing, theatre, and elaborate sets

  • They usually celebrated the life of the noble it was written for

  • Royals often had a role in the masque. Louis XIV of France danced ballet in his masque.


  • In England, the dumbshow was a kind of masque with an allegorical theme

  • Dumbshows were silent pantomimes, and were often included as a “play-within-a-play”

  • One of the most famous dumbshows seen today is the “Murder of Gonzago” scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Commedia dell arte
Commedia dell’Arte

  • Commmediadell’Arte emerged in Italy during the 16th century

  • The name translates to “comedy of art”

  • Commedia was generally improvised theatre, which was inspired by given scene ideas or “Scenarios”

  • Commedia also utilized several stock characters in the performance of the scenarios

The main roles of commedia
The main roles of Commedia

  • The characters originally were meant to represent different districts and towns in Italy

  • There were three main divisions of characters in Commedia dell’Arte

    • Servant

    • Master

    • Innamorati (lover)

  • Some of the most notable named characters in Commedia were Harlequin, Pantalone, Il Dottore, Il Capitano, Scaramucha, and the Innamorati


  • The innamorati were the lovers in Commedia

  • Their sole purpose was to be in love with one another, and more importantly, themselves

  • They were usually separated by some force at the beginning of the play

  • By the end, they are almost always reunited


  • Scaramucha was a clown

  • He usually wore a black mask and black clothing

  • He was usually a buffoon or boastful

  • Was in some ways related to Il Capitano

Il capitano
Il Capitano

  • Often a foreigner, Il Capitano claims to be a military hero

  • His reputation is often safe only by his foreign nature

  • Boasts of his bravery and conquests, but is often the first to run from a fight

  • Has trouble talking to women

Il dottore
Il Dottore

  • Il dottore is an old man whose purpose is to be an obstacle to the young lovers

  • Is usually lonely, angry, and never listens to anyone else

  • Usually obese, constantly eating and drinking

  • His mask is unique in that it only covers the forehead and nose


  • Pantalone is the “money man” in Commedia

  • He is rich and exceedingly greedy

  • Becomes the butt of many jokes in the play

  • Usually the father of one of the lovers

  • Wears red tights and jacket, black hat and cloak, and a mask with a hooked nose


  • Harlequin is one of the most well-known characters in Commedia

  • A comic servant or “Zanni”

  • Physically agile, but also gluttonous

  • Has a distinct costume of black and red diamonds

The influence
The Influence

  • The influence of Commedia dell’Arte on theatre was immense and is still seen today

  • Many of the scenarios used in Commedia are still utilized as plots in comedies

  • One classic example was William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”

  • The stock characters can be seen in many characters in TV and film today