Commedia dell'arte Italy's original sketch comedy

Commedia dell'arte is a mostly improvised style of theater that uses stock characters, leather masks and physical comedy bits called "lazzi".

The following are a few of the most popular stock characters you might see in a commedia dell'arte performance.


Arlecchino is the most popular servant character. He is acrobatic, mischievous and has very basic motivations like food and sleep. Arlecchino's mask traditionally has a large bump on the forehead and an upturned "pig-like" nose. He is most often seen wearing a costume made of colorful patches.

Brighella and Columbina

Brighella is often a leader among the servants. He is a cunning, sometimes malicious character and usually wears a costume with green piping or braiding.

Columbina is often depicted as Arlecchino's love interest. She is very crafty and easily outsmarts other characters. Columbia is one of the few characters in commedia dell'arte who is not masked.


Capitano often brags about his bravery and expertise in battle but is really a coward whenever danger is near. He's rarely seen without his sword and cape.

Capitano's mask is unique because it is red leather while all other masked characters wear masks in different shades of brown leather.

Pantalone and Dottore

Pantalone on the left is a greedy merchant who rarely parts with his money. He usually carries a pouch of his gold with him and counts it every chance he gets. He's often seen wearing red pantaloons with a long black coat. Pantalone's close friend and rival is Dottore. Dottore is highly educated but for some reason knows absolutely nothing. His job is usually that of a judge or doctor but he rarely ever gets the right answer. He most commonly wears a scholarly robe and his mask only covers the actor's face and bridge of the nose.

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