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Italian Renaissance Theatre
Drama 1
Fall 2003
 The
Italian Renaissance was
from 1550-1700 AD.
 The plague was still around, so
theatre was not incredibly
 As before, it was kept alive by
wandering troupes.
New forms of theatre
– Dialogue is sung rather than spoken
– Actually a mistaken recreation of the
Grecian chorus led to the
development of the form of theatre we
now know as Opera
Commedia dell’arte
– Performed by a troupe of actors that
traveled from town to town
– Entirely improvised (made up)
Characters in the commedia
 All
characters were stock
 There were three main groups
of stock characters
–The lovers
–The masters
–The servants
The Lovers
 The
lovers were the only
characters that did not wear
 They were beautiful, welleducated, innocent, noble, and
 They are often opposed in their
love by one or more of the
The Masters
Il Capitano (The Captain)
– a braggart, cowardly soldier who
claimed prowess in both love and
battle but was often a failure in both
Il Dottore (The Doctor)
– a physician or professor who often
spouts inaccurate Latin
Pantalone (The Merchant)
– a greedy, lustful, meddling man
The Servants
The servants were called zanni.
There were usually at least two
servants, typically one smart and one
less smart.
The leader of the zanni was Harlequin.
Much of the humor comes from the
actions of the servants.
Commedia Design
Most of the lazzi
were low comedy
 They were
using physical
based on
scenarios often humor
given by the
 Slapstick comedy
developed and
was named after
 Interspersed in
the action were the actual
slapstick used to
lazzi, or comic
beat characters
Commedia Costumes
 All
characters except the lovers
wore masks.
–Masks covered only the top
half of the face and often had
distinguishing features
 The costumes were stock
(repeated for characters in all
Set Design in Theatre
Perspective was used in all theatres
including opera.
Scenery was layered to create a three
dimensional effect.
The floor of the stage was painted with
tiles using perspective to show depth.
More Scenic Inventions
Created a chariot and pole system to
enable multiple flats to be moved at the
same time.
Stages were raked to create upstage
and downstage areas.
Humanistic Theatre
Highly formal.
Was performed by the upper class for
the upper class.
Purity of form--tragedies were tragic,
comedies were comic and there was
NO mixing of the two.
The Rules
Verisimilitude--events in the play must
be realistic.
No violence on stage--do not offend the
No low language--do not offend the
Follow the unities of time, place, and