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Commedia Del'Arte

Commedia Dell'Arte

Literally means: "theater performed by people of art." In the 16th century, the word “art” was used to talk about a profession. The “comedy of art” was therefore the comedy performed by those whose job it is to make the public laugh, in other words professional comedians.

Commedia dell'arte is a popular comic theater that appeared in Italy in the 16th century where each character spoke in a different dialect representing the various regions of the country.

To play the many characters of the commedia dell'arte, the actors came together in a troupe,
or theater company. They traveled from town to town and set up the stages of the open-air theater in the streets or squares and sometimes even went outside their country. The actors improvised and embroidered their text from a framework (scenario set in advance) written or not. The comic emphasis of the plays was mainly gestural (antics) and the actors had to be able to improvise, to invent a thousand good tricks and fantasies while they were on stage. To entertain the public they became acrobats, mimes, singers and musicians just like the clowns whose distant ancestors they are. Almost all the actors wore a mask which did not cover the lower part of the face and left the mouth free. The actors could thus make multiple faces and were not embarrassed to speak loudly.

As for the types of comic characters, there are four main ones: the zannis or servants, the old men, the soldiers, and finally the characters without masks: lovers and servants or maids. Some characters were obligatory.

Molière, as a child, frequently attended commedia dell'arte shows in Paris. He was then often inspired by these antics to write his own comedies. This is how commedia dell'arte gave birth to comedy as we still know it today!

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Commedia Del'Arte