The story in Commedia dell’Arte (the Royal Dramatic Theatre-speech part 2)

The story behind the plots is always the same in Commedia dell’Arte. It is about death and resurrection and it is always told in a festive context. It doesn’t matter if we play a show for political reasons, as a romantic comedy, as pure entertainment or to speak about psychological processes or whatever it may be.

The plot in Commedia dell’Arte doesn’t first of all tell a thrilling story. We already know how it is going to end. In the old days the end of the play was even told in the prolog.
But just as unimportant as the plot is for the story behind it, the ritual elements are important for the story. It is them that justify the whole performance. It is never about what it told or what is going to happen – but how.

Pantalone must lose by the end of the show and the young Innamorati must find each other.
They represent, not just young love, and they also represent regeneration. They are the ones that makes life move on. They derive from the May rituals with its fertility rituals.
In the same way Pantalone, is not only the patriarch that has to be do out of his power, but he also represents death and old age. He is the old time who stands in the way for regeneration. Therefore he must die and make room for the young lovers.

Commedia dell’Arte is a typical example of Vulgar Comedy, the form of theatre that is closest to rituals and the primeval forms of theatre. It is from the rites and the popular festivals it has its origins.
Therefore Commedia dell’Arte is not just a festive element. It is in itself a feast. It is celebrated together with its audience, not before it. It that way the bystanders becomes just as much participants as the actors and the masks.
All talk about taking away the forth wall becomes ridiculous since there has never been a forth wall in the first place and the thought itself becomes a contradiction.
On the contrary the actors in Commedia dell’Arte always talks direct with their audiences. It is not a question about asides or apartes where one for a moment breaks the illusion on stage. There is no illusion to break in the first place. It is a constant dialog with the audience.

This is the second part in a series of six from a seminar I held at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm about Commedia dell’Arte and its relevance in a modern context
See also Part one, three, four, five or six.

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