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Chapter 15
Renaissance Italy
• Italian theatre set the path toward illusionism
• The 3 contributions
– 1. neoclassical ideal in playwriting and criticism
– 2. Italianate system of staging and architecture
– 3. A popular theatre known as commedia dell’arte
Neoclassism: “new classicism”
Verisimilitude and decorum
Purity of genres
Three unities
Five-act form
Two-fold purpose: teach and please
• Truth seeming
• Truth resided in the essential, general, typical
and class not particular, individual or unique
• Get rid of what was temporary or accidental
to showcase fundamental and unchanging
• Truth meant truth
• Elimination of events that could not be
reasonable to happen in real life
• Language-monologues and soliloquies were
eliminate in favor of dialogue to confidants.
• Characters conducted self with decorum
• Indecorous characters drove the plots
• God ruled the world
• Dramatic action according to moral principles:
good was rewarded and evil punished
Purity of Genres
• Verisimilitude meant no mixing of comic and
tragic elements.
• Tragedy
• Comedy
The Three Unities
Plays needed to unfold within reasonable time
and place
Five-Act Form
• Five acts as probably influenced by Horace
and Seneca
• Suggested five sections separated by choruses
To Teach and To Please
• Teach morality while entertaining an audience
• Dual purpose of drama
• Playwrights made sure they both purposes
were incorporated
The five points influenced European theatre for
the next two hundred years (from late 1500s to
late 1700s)
• Vitruvius (Roman) influenced Italian
understanding of theatre architecture
• Linear perspective-representing spatial depth
on a two-dimensional surface
• Perspective-artistic revolution in Italy
• Sebastiano Serlio- Dell’ Architecturainterpretation of Vitruvius
• Problems: Roman theatre was outdoors and
round, modern theatre was indoors and
• Tearto Olimpico-5 onstage doorways-each
doorway had it’s own vanishing pt.
• Serlio provided tips for colored lighting, fire
effects, fanciful costumes and pasteboard
Italianate Staging
• Single-point perspective
• Wings-the paired flats farther way from
audience that were slanted upstage toward
the vanishing pt
• Backdrop-the vanishing point
• Shutter-wings pushed together or opened to
reveal deeper perspective
• Raked Stage-slanted upward from front to
Copyright ©2011, 2008, 2003 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights Reserved.
Slide 13
• Movable set-chariot-and-pole system to move
the flats on stage (created by Torelli)
Commedia Dell’Arte
“professional playing”
Included both male and female
Stock characters
Who’s Line
Sharing companies, 10-12 people in a troupe
Ephemeral- lasted for the moment but not
didn’t leave records
No Credit for the Italians
• While they greatly influenced European
(especially English and French theatre), they
faded into the background
• Opera-most famous for
• England and France surpassed Italian theatre