*7* Nothing would make me happier!!

What do you want to know?

Commedia dell’Arte (translates roughly to ‘theatre of the professional artist’ because of the talented career performers who populated it) is basically a genre of theater, first recorded and identified in 1567CE but most likely begun far earlier than that. It spread from powerful roots in companies and troupes from Renaissance Italy to unique niches in both England and France, and birthed images still known from Japan to Russia to America.
It’s structured improvisation, meaning that there are no scripts and the actors make up their lines (which can be wicked difficult thanks), with a special emphasis on comedy. This comedy ranges from broad slapstick (a term which was originally coined by Arlecchino’s ever-present stick used to abuse his fellows, and extends to silly physical gags like running into doors) to bawdy songs, lascivious innuendo, bad pickup lines, disguises and trickery, clever repartee dialogue, exaggeration and running jokes, elaborate somersaults and acrobatics, and making utter fools of one another. The comedy ‘bits’, where actors fill in blank spots in the structure for humour, are referred to as lazzi.
Commedia is also usually defined by its most unique quality: the stock characters, referred to as the Masks because each character is represented by a certain type of mask or face. I could write an entire post on the nature of the stock Masks alone, and probably will some day. There are maybe seven or so well-known characters, and dozens of littler-known regional variants. The most famous characters are generally known as Pantalone, the miserly merchant; il Dottore, the know-nothing know-it-all ‘professional’; the innamorata and innamorato, two youths who are obsessed with romantic, chivalric love and pine desperately for one another; Columbina, the high-headed, devilish and clever serving maid; il Capitano, the blustering braggart; and Arlecchino. Ahh, Arlecchino. Acrobatic, energetic, excited, happy-go-lucky fool and hero and servant alike, Arlecchino is something of an Italian folk hero. I could talk forever and a day about him alone, because wow he’s so important I just cannot even.

…So! What are the top things we associate with Commedia dell’Arte?

  • is performed all’improviso,
  • includes copious lazzi,
  • relies on stock characters and personalities that the audience can identify by masks and other visual cues on sight.

I’ve got loads of material on various aspects of the Commedia dell’arte, and I eagerly welcome any questions on any aspect of the topic- from the masks, to the entire history, to influences on various playwrights or philosophies and culture, or any other key traits!
I’ve also devoted a lot of blog space to information on Commedia dell’arte, so do check the tags I used for this post and explore around a bit. I have a lot of online sources and book recommendations as well as my reblogs, too

-Am I overwhelming here, or informative? I find this whole thing relevant to my path in life, and to my future career in theater, so I can spend a lot of time on it,… but I take it very seriously, so I don’t know how much the average hobbyist would care about every aspect.


  1. fuckyeahcommediadellarte reblogged this from tokyograndpa
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  4. tokyograndpa reblogged this from seeyouspoopcowboy and added:
    Oh, incorrigibly happy, I’m afraid. 8)a 1) Yes, yes indeed! Good of you to pick up on that. Shakespeare was more than...
  5. seeyouspoopcowboy reblogged this from tokyograndpa and added:
    Whoa. That was the most educational thing I’ve read in a while. And I have a few questions (which probably makes you...