Commedia dell'arte By benjamin sParrow

Brief History of Commedia dell'arte

Commedia dell'Arte first Began in the early 16th century and it spread through Europe rapidly, leaving a lasting effect on Shakespeare, Molière, opera, vaudeville, contemporary musical theatre, sit-coms, and improv comedy. It originated from the streets and markets of the early Italian renaissance, however its roots can be traced back to Ancient Greek and roman theatre. These street performers wore masks with exaggerated comic feature to draw attention too themselves. Commedia dell'arte had the first incorporated theatre company. By the mid 1500's it had established its own genre.


Character 1 - Comico

no mask is required but sometimes a gold leather mask that has a nose like a birds beak. Comico leads the commedia dell'arte performers, he is in charge of holding and organising the rehearsals and organise everything, he is rarely in performances. A nice material that stands out from the rest of the group like royal blues, yellows and other bright colours. He is presentational and extravagant. He speaks loud, clean, enthusiastically and crisp. He is very concerned about integrity and is very artisitic, he always hopes to goes have a good effect on the audience.

Character 2 - Arlecchino

His mask is based on an African slave, it has a a wart on its forhead and small round eyes. He is a servant, normally to pantalone. He wore a tight long jacket and trousers, sewn with fandoms patches of green, yellow, red and brown. The jacket is laced down the front and is caught by a Black belt worn low on the hips. He moves very sharp and crisply and he is sometimes clumsy and sloppy. His character is a mix of ignorance, naivety, wit and stupidity. He is generally unintelligent but is occasionally intelligent.

Character 3 - Colombina

She doesn't normally wear a mask but when she does it only covers her eyes. She is the wife of Alecchino or a maid. She is better dressed than the male servants, she wears a cap and aprons and a skirt that fell just below the knee. She is active keen and smart. She does all spzanni movements in any combinations. She is smart and has wit and can take control if something getso out of hand.


Scenarios are usually used to tell the actors briefly what is going to happen and tells them what lazzi to use.the scenario was the base for the performance and showed the general track of it. Originals do still exist however they aren't commonly used. Some examples of scenarios are Arlecchino is starving but is favourite food keeps being taken away by is master, than the lovers, and then every other character or Pantelone wants to date Isabella and turns to arlecchino for advice who gives the worst advice possible.


The different types of stages in Commedia dell'arte


Lazzi is Italian for joke, the plural is lazzi. It is an improvised dialogue or action, performers weaved these bits into the plots of scenarios. Listed below are some examples of lazzi.

Running-Around-The-Balcony Lazzo

Arlecchino, pursued, or to prove his identity as Arlecchino, leaps from the stage to the first spectator box and runs around the railing or the three sets of balconies.

Tasting Lazzo

A zanni is cooking a pot of something for dinner. He continually seasons the dish, then tastes it, then adds more seasoning, tastes again, and this goes on until there is no food left in the pot.

Glassware Lazzo

While spying or dancing, Arlecchino tips over a basket of glassware or dishes, breaking them.

Yes and No Lazzo

Zanni attempts to play a ruse on another character. When the other character asks a question, Zanni answers yes. But when the ruse is about to be exposed, Zanni suddenly changes his mind about the answer and replies no. This yes and no routine continues through a whole battery of questions.

Lazzo of Unspilled Wine

Startled, Arlecchino, holding a full glass of wine, executes a complete backward somersault without spilling the wine.


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  • Wilson, M 2010, A History of Commedia dell'Arte, Faction of fools, accessed 21 April 2017, <>.

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