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COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE. The Historical Background Italy in the High-Middle Ages. Being the Core of the mighty Roman Empire, Southern Italy in the XIIIth and XIVth century was partitioned between many small countries

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    2. The Historical BackgroundItaly in the High-Middle Ages • Being the Core of the mighty Roman Empire, Southern Italy in the XIIIth and XIVth century was partitioned between many small countries • The Northern Part was highly developed because of the strong trade links after the crusades • The European economical boom of that era was highly experienced in Italy – this helped the numerous city-states to become independent from the Holy Roman Empire in XIII century • The agriculture flourished in the inner city-states • The Italian Mediterranean routes were also major sources of knowledge and cultural exchange • Many Byzantine scientists and scholars who came after the Ottoman invasion in XV century, revived the academies in Italy • From Egypt and the Levant, the scientific, philosophical, and mathematical thinking of the Arabs entered Northern Italy • The XIV century was marked by a collapse of the European economy as a whole – due to the English-French War, “Little Ice Age”, and the Ottoman Empire in the East • Constant wars for dominance between the city-states followed by a peaceful period at the end of XV century

    3. The Renaissance in Italy • A period of Great cultural achievement in Europe, it encompasses the period between the end of the XIVth century to about 1600 • The Italian Renaissance is considered to be the opening stage of the entire epoch in Europe • It marks the transition between the Medieval Ages to the Early Modern Age • The Italian Renaissance began in Tuscany, Florence and Siena • Some of the most important figures of the era are Petrarch, Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Castiglione • Reawakened interests in Ancient Greek and Roman thought and achievements • As a cultural movement the Renaissance affected only small portions of the society

    4. The Italian Theatre • The Ancient legacy was revived and this led to occasional performances of Roman comedies in many small states in Italy – known as Neoclassicism in Italian Theatre • The initial purpose of the Italian Theatre was to reflect the glory and power of the ruler and the theatrical productions were secular • Another major feature of the Italian Theatre was the desire to read and understand the basics of the works of Aristotle, Horace and other prominent ancient philosophers • The Renaissance Drama began developing in Italy at that time, marking the end of medieval practices • Fantasy and supernatural elements were avoided in neoclassical plays • The chorus and soliloquies were also discouraged. Reality was stressed in drama plays along with plays that teach moral lessons

    5. The Italian Theatre (contd) • The creation of a frame (proscenium arch) for the pictorialized scenery became standard and remained so till today – the oldest theatre with permanent proscenium is Teatro Farnese in Parma, built in 1618 • The themes and topics of the Italian plays were drawn from ancient mythology • At first the Italians did not have any permanent theatre halls. They used to set up temporary performance stages in large halls, used for different purposes • The acceptance of perspective scenery brought the foundation of movement from architectural to representational and pictorial stage – the stage can be modified according the specific production • The architectural methods of perspectives gave the audience the illusion of distance and depth • Teatro Olympico was built in 1584 – used for a variety of productions

    6. Sebastiano Serlio’s stage • A prominent Italian architect known for his high-quality illusions and plans for theatrical scenery and stages • in his Architettura Book II (1545), interpreted what he thought were classic ideas on perspective and the periaktoi and published the first designs on the definitive types of sets to be used—for tragedy, palaces; for comedy, street scenes; for satyr plays, the countryside.

    7. Commedia Dell’arte • It means – “Comedy of Art” or “Comedy of the profession” – opposite to the literary comedy “Commedia Erudita” • It began in the XVth century and kept its popularity until the late XVIIIth century (still performed today in some theatres in Italy) • For the first time women had the right to participate in theatrical production (in contrast to the Elizabethan age). The number of female roles increased, even though these didn’t become as permanent and deep as the male characters • The troupe consisted usually of 10 people (7 men and 3 women), traveling around the country • The plays were supported at the beginning by donations and the were free to watch • The plays were held outside initially with poor props and modest requisite • Outside Italy it was known as “Italian Comedy” • Improvised drama, implying the subject matter of the play than the manner of performance of the actors • Some of the plays can be traced back to the plays of Plautus and Terence • The play was adjusted though improvisation and most of the plays had satiric character • Characters in plays were portrayed by actors wearing masks • Amusement in the form of acrobatics and juggling was also provided

    8. Commedia Dell’arte • The material was divided into acts and scenes with a prologue • The situation (scenario) had been clearly determined and outlined, although the actors improvised the dialogue and the action to some extent • The performances created the impression of spontaneity because the behavior of the actors was quite unexpected by the other actors on the stage • The actor was the “heart” and the emphasis of the play • There were few scenarios which were tragic, melodramatic, musical, and most of them were comic, revolving around love affairs, intrigues, disguises and others • Many actors were required to record appropriate sentiments from poetry and popular literature

    9. Characters • Lovers – the had the most realistic roles. They gained popularity very fast because they did not wear masks and were dressed according to the latest fashion trends at that time. Usually the “lovers” were children of the “Masters”. Their affairs were directly related to the opposition of their parents • Masters – The plutocrats, rich merchants, bank owners and ship owners. E.g. Pantalone, Dottore, and Capitano. They had dual characteristics. They were intelligent and braggart, but later their controversial personality is revealed by the plot • Servants – Most of them were male actors. They were the most diversified part of the plays. E.g. – Arlecchino, Pulcinelo and others

    10. Characters Arlecchino Brighella Columbina Pagliaccio Pantalone (Truffaldino)

    11. Characters • Arlecchino – a poor and illiterate servant from Bergamo, who sought for his fortune in Venice. He is also an acrobat and a clown. Arlecchino was originally created in the French Theatre, but later he was adapted by the Italians • Brighella – A friend of Arlecchino, who always being made the joke of. He was always not allowed to do something but his eagerness brought him into very funny situations • Columbina – a maidservant, a lover of Arlecchino. She is intelligent and in many cases she gets involved into love intrigues and scandals • Pantalone – and old, rich and miserly merchant from Venice. He employs Arlecchino and treats him cruelly. He always speaks in a Venetian dialect • Pedrolino – A kind and courteous servant who has always been blamed for the others’ troubles and things he has never done.

    12. Characters Arlecchino and Colombina, or Arlecchino the Seductor, Antoine Watteau, 1716-18 Pantalone, Jacques Callot, eau forte, 1618

    13. The Masks • They played crucial role in Commedia Dell’arte • All personages (except the “lovers”) wore color leather masks • They were used to resemble and utilize the personages and also to extinguish them from each other • As a means of character identification they demanded extremely advanced mimicry and sometimes acrobatics • Many of them were similar to masks used in the Ancient Roman Theatre

    14. The Masks Arlecchino Brighella Pantalone Smerdaldina Truffaldino

    15. Carlo Goldoni(1707-1793) • One of the Italy’s (Europe’s) Greatest playwrights, born in Venice in 1707 • He attracted the theatre-goers by creating characters that were similar to them, and often through dramatizing the conflicts and dramas of the contemporary middle-classes • Initially he wrote tragedies but later he found he is better in the comedy genre • He was the first to realize that the Italian stage needs reformation and adoption of the Moliere’s model • He created his first real comedy in 1738 – “L'uomo di mondo ("The Man of the World")” and later he founds his special line • During his adventures and journey throughout Italy he was discovered as a talented playwright of the Venetian Theatre and was assigned by Medebac (a famous theatre manager at that time) and later by other managers. • He also creates Momolo Cortesan in 1738 • He gradually develops his unique cross-style (writing through the Moliere’s style and and the model of Commedia Dell’arte, along with his wit and vigour style) – “La Donna Di Garbo” • His main idea was that the Italian life was susceptible to artistic treatment

    16. Carlo Gozzi(1720-1806) • He was born in Venice, he came from an old Venetian family • First he joins the Dalmatian Army, and 3 years later he returns to Venice • The old Italian dramas of Pietro Chiari and Carlo Goldoni, based on the French model, threatened to defeat the society’s efforts for uniting • Gozzi became popular after he published a satirical poem in 1757 – “The Love for Three Oranges” – a parody of the writing manner of the other two poets of that time • Gozzi produced a series of dramatic pieces, as a response of the Goldoni’s works • In his later years Gozzi wrote tragedies, in which the comic element was largely introduced. The innovation was reviewed with skepticism by the critiques • Later he turned to the Spanish drama, from which he obtained models for various pieces • Gozzi was one of the Greatest dramatist of that era in the Italian theatre (and art)

    17. “The Servant of Two Masters”by Carlo Goldoni • Written in 1745 by Goldoni for a Venetian commedia dell’arte troupe • Panatalone and Brighella are presented with entirely new traits • In contrast to other commedia plays, here the middle-class characters were treated with respect and the women are much more sensible than the men • The cast of characters belongs to commedia (Arlecchino, Brighella etc.) • The coarse and sexual topics here are avoided • The plot is based on disguise, coincidence and misunderstanding • The whole dialogue is written by Goldoni, but the improvisational elements were based on scenic behavior and comic manners • The play consists of three acts, with a total of ten scenes • The play was written for the typical of that time theatre – box, pit, and gallery arrangement of the auditorium, picture frame stage with perspective scenery • “The servant of two masters” does not achieve a high level of characterization or social commentary

    18. The Influence and Popularity of Commedia Dell’arte • By the beginnig pf the XVIIth century Commedia Dell’arte spread outside Italy, gaining popularity especially when women did not wear masks • Moliere was strongly influenced by the commedia • Some aspects were passed onto the silent tradition of the “Mimes” (or the French “Pantomima”) • Many classical composers used the personages from Commedia Dell’arte in their works (Stravinsky, Strauss etc.) • The characters and tropes were used in many novels (“Scaramouche” by Rafael Sabatini in 1921) and other literary works • Its influence in written dramatic forms, helped Commedia Dell’arte survive throughout the centuries (even till recent times)