An historical survey of the characteristics of sixteenth-century commedia dell'arte and the application of those characteristics in the creation of an original one-act script written in the commedia style
Hawks, Arlene S.
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The Renaissance of Italy was a glorious time for the development of companies with bright, carefree performers who provided a foundation on which to build a new theatre called commedia dell'arte. This thesis surveys historically the development of commedia dell'arte, particularly the stock characters and their scenarios. The research from sixteenth-century theatre histories and the works of the commedia itself show that whether playing farce, parody or political satire, these roles always represented types of characters rather than specific individualized persons. These stock characters reappeared in play after play under various names with similar scenarios. The dialogue, for the most part, was improvised from plot-outlines or scenarios. The lazzi (stage tricks) within the plot gave a special zeal and spontaneity to the productions. The thesis goes on to show that this spontaneity and zest can be rediscovered in the caricatures of modern slapstick and burlesque. The skeleton of the commedia type, then, is within the characters on both the wagon stage of the sixteenth-century market and the high-tech stage of the twentieth-century arts center. While names, costumes, and settings differ, the images of commedia are recognizable and popularly accepted in the theatre of this century. Finally, this thesis brings to the present day the sixteenth- century lazzi of the commedia partners in a one-act play. While the play is set in contemporary surroundings, it obviously remains a work of commedia with characters and a scenario, not only comparable, but essentially the same as those of the sixteenth century.