The famous Commedia dell’Arte companies and their time.

During the heydays of Commedia dell’Arte, from the fifteen sixties to the middle of the seventeenth century, there was some real famous companies. Many of them were established as soon as around 1570 in larger parts of Europe. Many of those famous companies in the end of the sixteenth century could work relatively independent as artist. Among others we know that Francesco Andreini refused a contract with the duke of Manuta in 1585. Some of these actors were not even attached to any specific company and work as freelance.

It is also these groups and actors we know most about since they often played at banquets, anniversaries and state visits at the great courts among the intelligentsia in contemporary Europe, where they often got described in letters and diaries. Many of the members of the famous companies were also educated and from better families. Off course that helped to gain social and cultural recognition and thereby get accepted and be able to enjoy stardom in royal and other powerful circles.

Francesco Andreini

The elite of the Commedia dell’Arte groups were, as we can see HERE, inter-braided in networks or coteries where everyone must have known each other. It is easy to think that they also functioned as separators, where they were careful not to let in any other competing companies in the elite that could tour the royal castles and palaces of Europe. We also know about the harsh competitions among the companies. (See HERE)

The famous groups were either in service at one of the courts or had strong tires to a powerful patron. To be engaged at a court was at the time the only possibility to gain social status and be recognized.
The duke of Mantua, Vincenzo Gonzaga, married the young Commedia dell’Arte actress Aurelia. Connections with the duke, who was a great theatre lover, was a backdoor to stardom for actors.
As these successful Commedia dell’Arte groups become recognized they also became more aware of their strength, both professional and social. Many of them got letters of insurance, both from their own patrons and from other rulers. That could protect them from other princes who might not be as benevolent.

See also:
The life among Commedia dell’Arte companies
The comic, dramatic combat in Commedia dell’Arte
Commedia dell’Arte-lecture

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A list of actors from the heydays of Commedia dell’Arte

What we will be looking at are the actors from the most famous Commedia dell’Arte groups of its time. It is also those actors we have most and most interesting information about. Let us not believe that they are representative for al Commedia dell’Arte groups from the time. That would be like studying that Rolling Stones or Lady Gaga to learn about the general music scene today, or that Broadway or European royal institutions would be representative for today’s theatre just because it is what the media writes about. Neither are there any evidence that they would be better than their less fortunate colleagues.

Here is a list of actors of some of the most famous actors from the middle of the sixteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth century:

Here is a list of actors of some of the most famous actors from the middle of the sixteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth century:

  • Andrea Frajacomi da Bologna                  Uniti                                            Trivellino
  • Andrea Mangini da Genoa                         Uniti                                            Adriano
  • Adriano Valerini da Verona                        Gelosi                                         Aurelio
  • Antonella Bajardi                                        Gelosi                                         Vittoria (The role that Vittoria Piissimi created)
  • Batta Fiorillo                                                Uniti                                            Scaramuzza, at least from 1614.
  • Battista da Treviso                                      Uniti                                            Franceschina, 1584
  • Domenico Bruni                                           Gelosi, Confidenti                 Innamorato 
  • Drusiano Martinelli                                    Confidenti , Uniti, Accesi    Arlecchino, capocomicofrom 1587. He was also Tristanos older brother. He also travelled to England 1570 with his wife Angelica.
  • Girolamo Fiorillo                                         Uniti                                            Innamorato
  • Diana Ponti                                                   Desiosi, Uniti                           Innamorata och capocomico in Desiosi
  • Domenico Biancolelli                                  the Fiorelli company            Arlecchino
  • Flaminio Scala                                              Gelosi, Confidenti, Accesi and Desiosi. He was Innamorato and capocomico for Gelosi and Confidenti.  He was Gelosis first leader. We don’t know when he abdicated to Francesco Andreini, but it was after that he joined, and sometimes led, other groups. He also wrote the first printed collection of scenari, Il Teatro della Favole Rappresentative in1611 and Le Bravure del Capitano Spavento in 1607.
  • Francesco Andreini                                     Gelosi                                         Innamorato, Capitano, Dottore, and more. He was for the longest time Gelosi’s undisputed leader. He was faithful to Gelosi and dispended the company and quit acting when his wife Isabella died in 1604.
  • Francesco Gabrielli                                    Confidenti, Uniti, Fedeli     Scapino
  • Gabrielo Panzanini                                   Gelosi                                         Franca Trippa
  • Girolamo Salimboni da Firenze              Gelosi                                         ZanobioFedeli
  • Giovan Battista Andreini                         Fedeli, Gelosi                          Innamorato, Arlecchinooch capocomico. The son of Francesco and Isabella
  • Giovanni Gabrielli                                     On his own                               Charlatano The father of Francesco Gabrielli
  • Giovanni Pellesini                                       Accesi, Uniti, Fedeli              Pedrolino
  • Giulio Pasquati da Vicenza                       Gelosi                                         Pantalone
  • Isabella Andreini                                        Gelosi (Uniti, Confidenti)   Innamorata and primadonna or Isabella, the role she created herself and wish got her name. She was Commedia dell’Arte’s and the sixteenth century’s mega star.  
  • Jacomo Braga da Ferrara                        Uniti                                            Pantalone
  • Lidia de Bagnacavallo                                                                                        Gelosi             Innamorata
  • Luigi Riccoboni                                           His own company                  Innamorato
  • Ludovico da Bologna                                  Gelosi                                         Dottore
  • Nicolo Barbieri                                            Confidenti, Fedeli                 Beltrame
  • Ottavio Bernardino da Roma                   Uniti                                            Franceschina
  • Orazio Nobili                                               Gelosi                                         Innamorato
  • Orsola Cecchini                                           Accesi                                         Innamorata
  • Pier Maria Cecchini                                   Accesi                                         Fritellinoand capocomicoHe seem to be known for being a selfish leader and hard to work with
  • Ricci Frederigo                                           Accesi                                         Pantalone
  • Ricci Frederigos son                                  Accesi                                        Innamorato
  • Silvia Roncagli da Bergamo                    Gelosi                                        Franceschina och Lesbino
  • Silvio Fiorillo da Napoli                           Uniti, Accesi, Desiosi            Capitano Matamoros
  • Simone da Bologna                                  Gelosi                                        Arlecchino
  • Tiberio Fiorilli                                           the Fiorelli company            Scaramuccia och capocomico Probably son to Silvio Fiorillo
  • Tristano Martinelli                                   Confidenti , Accesi, Desiosi                         Arlecchino and later capocomico He wrote Compositions de Rhetorique in 1601. It can also be he who ”invented” Arlecchino.
  • Vittoria Piissimi                                         Gelosi, Uniti, Confidenti,    Innamorata and probably Gelosi’s firs primadonna capocomica. Her stardom was probably gradually overtaken by Isabella Andreini, who joined the group about 1578, 16 years old.
  • Virginia Ramponi/Andreini                      Fedeli                                         Innamorata, Giovan Battistas fist wife
  • Virginia Rotari/Andreini                           Fedeli                                         Innamorata, Giovan Battistas second wife
  • Zan Ganassa                                               With his own company       Second  Zanni and capocomicoHe and his group was the first we know the name of, but apart from that we don’t know very much.

See also:
What we really know about Commedia dell’Arte
Theories of Laughter and Comedy
About Micke’s Workshops and lectures

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Understanding the mask

The task of the mask is to enlarge and, at the same time, clarify the character of the mask/role. We have already mentioned that the masks are representing archetypes, that they are driven by their urges, appetites and desires rather than psychology, since they don’t have a past, nor a future. The masks are still human – even if they never become “real humans” – with their own special urges.

When we put on a mask we must, in a way, limit ourselves. The mask does not only have its own way of moving, but also a way to see the world. It is the limitations of the mask that create its character. We must give up for the mask and obey its limitations.
The easiest way in to the masks is through their bodies; their posture, gestures and bodily attitudes. Commedia dell’Arte for example have, during its 500-years of tradition, developed the masks in a way that not only make them visually distinct for the audience, but also physically obvious for the actors, in a way that when putting on the mask, use its posture and voice the actor immediately understands the driving forces and limitations of the mask. When we, for example, use the mask of Pantalone; bending our knees and forward our hips until its hard even to take a step, bend our backs and shoulders as if protecting his purse and genitals, letting the hands from the elbow be constantly active; we can, by listening to what our bodies, in that position, has to say understand that he is an old but virile man, who’s interest is about sex and money.
It is surely good to talk about the mask, its urges, its approach and so on. But the most important work for the actor, to understand the mask, is to simply obey it. It is not an intellectual process – it is the mask that through the body, tells the actor how it is supposed to be played.

The mask is one-dimensional and static. It only shows one side of the human. (See HERE) The actor cannot express him- or herself through the mask. When the actor no longer is letting the mask control the actions, he starts to compromise its limitations and thereby complicate the mask. He decompose the character of the mask. 
Neither does the mask change and therefore cannot develop as individual. Even if the mask goes from happy, uncaring to losing all in shame he will not learn. The mask is the same that it ever was, just as any cartoon.
That also goes for the external circumstances. If the masks would change status and presumptions the contrast between them would, and much of the, drama die. This is also the main reason why the it is very hard to exchange the roles in in modern drama for masks.

On the other hand we may talk about, at least in Commedia dell’Arte, the swing of the character[1]. Every mask includes its opposite. The mask can in any given moment suddenly play its opposite if the plot allows it. These moments are always most temporary and the masks always goes right back to their usual characters, in order not to be obscure.

See also:
Mask and the Sense of Time
The Official Theatre
Micke’s Commedia dell’Arte Lecture

[1] A term that comes from Dell´Arte International School in Blue Lake, USA.

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Commedia dell’Arte and text

Hearing about how the great Commedia dell’Arte groups trained and prepared their masks, we also hear a lot about how much they read (See example). It doesn’t necessarily mean that they used the texts on stage. It can just as well have been to learn from the style, metaphorical language and the tone they were written in and in that way use the written/learned way of speaking. Except from that we can once again point out that most of our sources come from the groups with better means who both could read and had access to books, we can also see how the theatre begins to glorify the written word and literature as something “finer” than movement and the expression of the body.
Among the most ridiculous examples of that from own time is when Swedish actors, up until the fifties, played Strindberg talking in a pronounced written language from the last turn of the century. They did that to venerate the author by not change in his text, while Strindberg himself definitely wanted his lines said in a spoken language.
Commedia dell’Arte was naturally still a physical form of theatre even among the big groups all the way up to the eighteens century. We can see that in lazzi, collections of burle and the rich material of images we have.
Among the about 800 scenari that are still preserved, the plot was mostly taken from Commedia Erudita, but much was also from popular traditions like fairytales and narrativetraditions, the dramatic exercises from the carnival, the diavolas etc. Therefore we cannot say if the scenari of Commedia dell’Arte was original (just as if Shakespeares plots ever were). Since there were no laws about copyrights, it was open to steal from other group and shows. In that way they develop each other’s ideas. The value of the shows was not in the plots or scenari, but in the actor’s performance.
That is also why the actors did not value a scenario as high as their own zimbaldoni, since it was more personal. Scenari could be used of others, changed or was printed for publishing, while an actor’s zimbaldone was his own repertoire book filled with personal lazzi, monologues concetti, burle and so on. It was also his livelihood with his unique collection of knowledge that was held secret for others.
It is also there where the actors found their ready rehearsed lazzi and so on, that they used in their shows. Most of those so mystified improvisation in Commedia dell’Arte performances are more to be seen as compositions of already prepared elements.

1601 is the year that Arlecchino is first mentioned in writing in France. It was written by Tristano Martinelli, who also played Arlecchino, in a pamphlet named: Compositions de Rhetorique.

When talking about Commedia dell’Arte during its first years, no one mentioned the use of mask, even though we have lots of images that clearly shows the use mask. I seems as it was more or less obvious or that one did not make very much difference between the roles that wore mask and those who didn’t.
We would not know the name of Pier Maria Cecchini if he hadn’t published books. In all other sources about him he is only called Frittelino. Neither do we know the name of a certain Flaminia, who shows up in a lot of documents.
We must remember that the first Commedia dell’Arte actors did not just take over already existing masks. They also created them to their needs, from old traditions and by observe their contemporary. The mask was also created for the specific actors that first wore them, after their knowledge and talents.

The first scenari that was published was not meant to be a tool for actors, but for just reading. Those who published their scenari wanted to make money or a place for themselves in the literary world.

See also:
Commedia dell’Arte
Commedia Erudita
Micke’s videos

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To play mask

The mask demands in itself vast energy. If the actor doesn’t “fill” the mask it doesn’t come to life. Everyone who has seen an actor act in a mask without the energy it demands, with movements just like ordinary life, … Read the rest of this entry

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Commedia dell’Arte – mocking the power

Also the great famous Commedia dell’Arte group mocked the power, by the dethroning of the old man and by pointing to the static preservation of the society as a representative of the stagnant. We can thank Henry III of France for letting this continue in such proportions, according to Dario Fo. Both Henry III and his queen Catherine de’ Medici had taken Tristano Martinelli (the first Arlecchino) to their heart, a fact that Tristano used rampantly to mock the power. He was allowed to ridicule the politicians and nobility. As a raillery with the learned establishment and possibly the censors he published his Compositions de Rhetorique with 59 of the 70 pages empty. It is not a kittle guess that the king could use this to gather political points. If Tristano in that way could freely mock the nobility they would disrupt them and in that way secure his power. And at the same time Henry III maintained Commedia dell’Arte as an outspoken form of theatre.
But it was normally not easy for the Commedia dell’Arte actors to mock the power. They could not mock the central powers, they who had the absolute power, the dukes, princes and so on.  Pantalone for instance was never a leading capitalist in society, neither were the doctors that were role models for Dottore other than quack doctors and pettifoggers. It was not just to keep ones head in place that the actors avoided conflict with the authorities; they were also a great employer.

It is not even sure that it was a goal in itself to mock the power, even though It is a great part of the Carnival tradition to turn hierarchies around, dethronize and show potentates from their worst sides and let the laugh expose hypocrisy. But to see Commedia dell’Arte as a more conscious political or satirical form of theatre is more dubious, even though there are those who, on good grounds, think so. Commedia dell’Arte gives al the opportunities with its consequent mocking of types of people, or rather more precise types of people in society: the learned prestigious humanist; the greedy merchant and patriarch; the invading mercenary solider and so on. But I think that has more to do with the traditions from the carnival and the popular demand of seeing their persons of power dethronized. It was not that they wanted to make a revolution and change history. But in the same manner as in the dethronement of the old man the public demanded to see their lords dethronized and ridiculed.
The actors had always to balance on a thin line. The popular demand was very demanding and it was, after all, the people that payed the tickets for those who were not lucky to play in courts and palaces. And sure as fate cam the criticism, chiefly from the church. It was foremost about that they only played for money.

See also:
Life among Commedia dell’Arte companies
Vulgar Comedy and the Church

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A few dogmas, concerning mask acting

To act in a mask is a technique in itself. It means that there is a lot of rules of how to handle the mask. Sometimes they are really helpful, sometimes we find there are just too many guardians of those rules.
Of example it is not recommended to touch the mask with ones hands. But there are plenty of exceptions that sometimes works, like using gloves, touch the sides of the mask, grip an extremely long nose and so on. There are simply no strict rules to follow. We must explore ourselves what works or not.
What it is about is that the mask, with its burlesque size and static expression, dies when it comes to near a living hand. The actual dead material as the mask consists of reveals itself in a too close comparison.

It is wise, in most cases, to avoid showing skin when acting in a mask in general and when playing comedy in particular. That goes for the whole costume. It is something essential that happens with comedy when showing skin. It makes us see through the psychological eyes of realism on violence, sex and oppression that most of the comedy boils down to. But that way the comedy transforms into naturalism or action.

There are countless quotations and aphorisms about how the mask lies or conceals the truth. That is something that has followed the mask since the early Christianity and is the same for all three monotheistic religions. The monotheistic cultures regards humans as only one nature and that behind the mask lies the only truth. In polytheistic cultures, that have a much closer relation between the divine and the human, the mask is seen as a channel for a God or a transformation or transportation to the world of spirits.

Instead I believe that it is contrariwise, even if we emanate from the monotheistic culture, and especially when we move in a theatrical reality. When we no longer can hide our intentions with our faces, with looks and grimaces, our body language becomes much more obvious. Since we have for so long strained ourselves to express ourselves through the face, we have not put any importance in the expression of our bodies. But off course we see and interpret the body language we see, even if it is done unconsciously. (See HERE) And since the body is just as expressive the body will reveal our lies.

See also:
Why mask
Carnival and the popular feast
Micke’s mask making workshop

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Commedia Erudita – Music and performance spaces (Part 4)

Commedia Erudita, just as Commedia dell’Arte, was very musical genre. It has also contributed to the birth of opera as an art form, with composers as Orazio Vecchi and Adriano Banchieri and even Alessandro Striggio and Giovanni Croce. As early as 1567 Alessandro Striggio wrote: “Il Cicalamento delle done al ducato” a comic cycle of madrigals without a sustained plot. Later in 1597 Orazio Vecchi wrote his L’Amfiparnaso. It is still not known how it was thought to be played even though it has a plot taken from a Commedia dell’Arte scenario. The prolog says: “… And the city where this story takes place is the great Theatre of the World; therefore everyone desires to hear it. But yet you should know that this spectacle of which I speak is seen in the mind, where it enters through the ear, and not through the eyes. But be silent, and instead of seeing, now listen.”
We also have Adriano Banchieri who wrote three full Commedia dell’Arte operas: La Piazza Senile (1600); Il Metamorfosi Musicale (1600); Il Zabaione Musicale (1603) and later La Saviezza Giovanile (1608).
There are also opera actors working with opera like Virginia Ramponi who had the lead role in Monteverdi’s Ariannna.

In the first of Commedia dell’Arte performance that are described (in Bavaria 1568) the music played the role of intermission entertainment,  but by time it got part of the performance where it could be a comical part or be used to carry the action further. Orlando di Lasso may have been the first to use polyphonic music in a Commedia dell’Arte performance. Something that have been widely used ever since.

The Commedia Erudita shows were almost entirely played in the huge banquette halls in the castles and palaces. There were a few stages built for hosting Commedia Erudita shows, even a few built solely for Commedia dell’Arte. One of these where found in the Uffizi palace in Florence, another one was the Teatro all’antica in Sabbioneta that had statues of Commedia dell’Arte mask overlooking the stage.
We can thank the Commedia Erudita for much of modern theatre design, their shaping, the stage opening and the painted backgrounds. The stages represented usually a town square with entries to the houses of the persons on stage.
In 1585 was Andrea Palladio’s Teatro Olympico ready. It was Europe’s first indoor theatre, modeled from the old roman theatres with a stage full of statues of old noble men. It was not seen as a step forward in the development in stage design. It was more of a relic from the ancient Rome or early Commedia Erudita. When Palladio built his theatre the roman stage solutions was already abandoned.
Even though the courts was the most common stage for the comedies they were also played in such different places as bordellos and monasteries, the latter was probably more homiletic farces. Men where also not allowed in the nunneries.

Go to:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

See also:
A Commedia dell’Arte chronology
Laughter, Humor and Comedy
Commedia dell’Arte workshop

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Commedia Erudita – The gaze upon Commedia dell’Arte and its collaborators (Part 3)

Throughout the sixteenth century there were lots of encounters between the Commedia Erudita with its literary culture and Commedia dell’Arte with its practical know-how. The latter came here to meet the humanistic culture and especially the classic comedies. This contributed strongly to the sophistication of Commedia dell’Arte, when the Commedia dell’Arte groups went from court to court in order to make an earning in different festivities. It was also common for Commedia Erudita and Commedia dell’Arte groups to work together. Often professional Commedia dell’Arte groups would play in the intermissions in between acts in the written plays or the leading roles would be played by professional actors. High and low, amateur and professional theatre intermingled.
Many of the actors in Commedia dell’Arte were learned men and women and even noble, for example Francesco Andreini with his Gelosi. The first time someone separated Commedia dell’Arte and Commedia Erudita was Pier Maria Cecchini and Andrea Perrucci in the seventeenth century (something that Luigi Riccoboni wrote about in 1728).
Even though the Commedia dell’Arte groups played for a much broader public, since they played a much more popular comedy, they became gradually more famous within the finer salons.
By time some of the Commedia dell’Arte groups also replaced the Commedia Erudita. Many Commedia dell’Arte groups started out as Brigante groups, like Compagnia della Calza, that had been a central part of the theatre life in Venice, instead became the more famous group Accesi in 1565.

One thing more was that those who played Commedia Erudita, just as the English actors at the time (and long in to the nineteenth century), only got their own lines (and their cues) in the script, while the actors of Commedia dell’Arte always had the whole scenario at hand. This way they had an overview of the whole plot.

As Commedia dell’Arte grew more popular it also attracted more slanderers from scholarly circles. They wanted to see the Commedia dell’Arte actors as a band of tramps, without either pride or capability, who did not have any real knowledge but were con artists (quite like today in Sweden where the theatre establishment look at actors that have not gone to any of the four state theatre schools in Sweden in the much the same way). Commedia dell’Arte was not looked upon as less refined or advanced as Commedia Erudita. But the Commedia Erudita was also played and written by the courtiers themselves.
Even though Commedia Erudita was foremost literary theatre it was the acting that counted in Italy, not the written text. This tradition goes back all the way to the Greeks. Euripides and Aeschylus acted themselves in their plays since the acting was much better payed then the writing.
The great Commedia dell’Arte companies of the time were naturally never persecuted in the same way as those who played on the streets since they played in the castles and palaces for noble and dukes even for kings. Furthermore many of the actors were educated and from good families.
As an example we can look at this letter that describes a performance by the Gelosi at the wedding between the princess Christine of Lorraine and the grand duke of Tuscany Ferdinand Medici I in Florence 1589. It is Isabella Andreini’s great show-piece La Piazza d’Isabella:

Meanwhile Isabela, finding herself deceived by Flavio’s snare, and not knowing how to remedy her misfortune, became wholly possessed by her grief, and thus dominated by her passion, and allowing herself to be consumed by rage and fury, was beside herself, and like a madwoman wandered through the city stopping now one person, now another, and speaking now in Spanish, now in Greek, now in Italian, and in many other languages, but always quite without sense. Among other things she began to speak in French, and also sing songs in the French manner, which gave such pleasure to the Most Serene Bride [the Dukes wife] that no one could have been more delighted. Then she began to imitate the ways of speaking of her fellow-actor – the way, that is, of Pantalone, Gratiano, Zanni, Pedrolino, Francatrippe, Burattino, Captain Cardone and Franceschina – in such a natural manner, and with so many fine emphases, that no words can express the quality and the skill of this woman.

The great groups of the Commedia dell’Arte were reminded also of the Commedia Erudita, and they did not just play comedies even though it was them they were famous for. Taste changed from one place to another and through the times. For example around 1570 Ferrara had an obsession for pastorals, while in Florence they preferred comedies and used willingly Commedia dell’Arte companies to do the comical intermissions in between acts in serious plays played by amateurs, and in Mantua, where they might have had their greatest income, it seems they did not have any preferences but liked all kinds of theatre.

Go to:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

See also:
Vulgar Comedy
Women in Commedia dell’Arte
Micke’s video trailers

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Commedia Erudita  – The academies and other groups  (Part 2)

During the renaissance the first literary academies were born. They were – and still is – arranged in democratic order. When women were parts of the academies they were equal members. Isabella Andreini was a member of Accademia degli Intenti and the Swedish queen Kristina started her own academy, Accademia reale, in Rome 1674, after she abdicated from the Swedish crown in 1654.
The academies had as its mission to support the Italian language and its literary traditions against its decay and influence from foreign influence. They studied, practiced and tried literary theories. Rhetorical and improvisational exercises were also a great part of the activities. Improvisation was an art form just as good as any art form in sixteen century Italy and was not a specific peculiarity for Commedia dell’Arte. One exercise (That I still use for Dottore by the way) was to give a specific word to two pedants to hold an improvised lecture from, with different verbal pronunciations, and esoterical interpretations concerning a historical incident. It was also their task to stage the comedies in within festivities and before selected guests. With this in mind it is not so hard to see why the Swedish Academy gave the Nobel price to Dario Fo.
They had names such as Gli Alterati (The Changeable), Gli Intronati (The Astonishing), Gli  Intronati (The Dumbfounded) or Gli Umidi (The Vaporish). The names were inspired from the French medieval romances of chivalry that were often recited and played in the streets. Much of the manners and etiquette that were cultivated in the Italian courts and among the nobles had its roots from it.
Many Commedia dell’Arte groups, especially among the most famous ones, took their names from the same tradition as the literary academies, as: I Gelosi (The Eager), Gli Uniti (The United), I Confidenti (The Convinced) or Gli Accesi (the Burning). Even though the names are from the same tradition they also got a hallmark of courage, aggressiveness and adventure. The used these names, not to make fun of the academies, but to place oneself among the finer culture.

Other groups of actor were so called brigante, meaning roughly “informal assembly of friends”. It was loosely held groups that liked to paint set pieces, saw costumes, and act.
The groups were often commenting on each other in the plays. They also commented on themselves, their own play, the stanze they were playing in or they gave comments to other, modern or antic, comedies. They created a sort of meta theatre where they were playing with the theatre as idea. The shows became a game between the actors and the audience where the audience was supposed to have seen or at least read the plays they were referring to.

Some playwrights had their own companies, like Ruzante in Padua. Most groups where formed as companies, but they were still amateurs, without ambition to be professional.
Ruzante, or Angelo Beoloco as his real name was, is interesting as the most well known in his genre, his way of using dialects and how he wrote actor centered plays with room for improvisation and physical comedy. He created his own fixed types which not have so much to do with the masks of Commedia dell’Arte when it comes to characters. Ruzante took his name from one of his fixed characters, a clumsy, garrulous peasant, who just as Angelo Beoloco came from Padua. Even if his plays took place among peasants and the poor, urban population, he was himself from a rich family and his plays were only intended for a rich and aristocratic audience.

Go to:
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

See also:
Micke’s productions
The content in Commedia dell’Arte
Micke’s courses

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