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Commedia dell'arte. By Billie, Brogan, Maria Pia and Mutuayo . What is ‘Commedia dell’arte. Commedia dell’arte also known as ‘Italian’ comedy was a humorous theatrical presentation performed by professional players who travelled in troupes throughout Italy in the 16 th Century. .

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commedia dell arte
Commedia dell'arte

By Billie, Brogan, Maria Pia and Mutuayo

what is commedia dell arte
What is ‘Commedia dell’arte

Commedia dell’arte also known as ‘Italian’ comedy was a humorous theatrical presentation performed by professional players who travelled in troupes throughout Italy in the 16th Century.

performances where when and who
Performances…where, when and who?

Performances took place on temporary stages, mostly on city streets but occasionally at court venues. The better the troupes – notably Gelosi, Confidentali, and Fedeli- performed in places and became internally famous once they had travelled abroad. Music, dance and witty dialogue contributed to the comic effect. Subsequently the art form spread throughout Europe, with many of its element persisting into present day theatre.


Actors and Actresses!


Actors were paid a fair wage; a round of applause on your exit line meant you often got extra money. For the first time, there were woman actresses. Before Commedia, Literary Societies, populated with academics, often performed amateur theatre, and there were professional entertainers- ‘jongleurs’- but there were no professional theatre.


Commedia dell’arte seems to have a marriage between the academics and the ‘jongleurs’, between ideas and skills, between minds and body, and between high and low class. It was originally known as ‘Commedia all’improviso, the players taking the roles of different types found in society, from lowly servants to middle class professionals and lofty aristocrats. These types were clearly defined and contrasted to help the actors with their improvisation: high masters with low servants, lost lovers with knowing maids, cunning servants with stupid masters.

more on performances
More on Performances

As there was no written plays, the actors worked from a scenario of running order pinned behind the stage, detailing entrances and exits of players and the main points conveyed in the scene. Traditional themes involved riches and poverty, power and servitude, barrenness and fertility, wisdom and folly, and, of course, life and death.


There was no central heroes in Commedia dell’arte rather each character had a story line with a beginning, middle and end to their plight, and all these stories were woven together to end, usually with a marriage in the final scene.


As well as socially, the characters were also divided by whether or not they were masked. The masked characters are cynical and end the story by in their rightful places; the unmasked are linear and go on a journey from one state to another. Both sets of characters have lessons to learn on the way about life, love, justice and society- all topics that would concern the audience.