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The Commedia dell'arte ("comedy of the profession") was an early form of professional theater that originated in Italia and was popular throughout Europe from the 16th to the 18th century, when the term was finally coined (by Carlo Goldoni in his 1750 play "Il teatro comico"). It was distinguished by its masked characters (exaggerated social types and stock figures such as foolish old men, devious servants, or military officers full of false bravado, who each embodied a single mood), pantomime, familiar "lazzi" (jokes or "something foolish or witty"), and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. Flaminio Scala began publishing scenari in Venezia in 1611. The Commedia was probably related to Venetian carnival traditions, but the 1st known performances were in Roma in 1551, just 6 years after a performing troupe of actors in Padova established themselves as a “fraternal compagnia,” a marked departure from classical models of civically funded theater or medieval models of amateur, pan-handling, or church-funded performances. Unlike in other theatrical traditions of the time, female roles were actually performed by women as early as 1566, when Vincenza Armani began performing in Mantova. Among the most popular stock figures were Pulcinella, notable for his enormous nose (introduced by Silvio Fiorillo in 1620), and Arlecchino (Harlequin), recognizable by his checkered costume (definitively portrayed by Tristano Martinelli in 1584). Molière, who worked with Italian troupes in France, and Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare in England, adapted many of the Commedia's characters and devices, and European puppet shows, English harlequinade, and French pantomime all evolved from the tradition. However, the regional dialects that provided much of the genre's rich verbal humor was lost on foreign audiences as the genre expanded outside Italia, allowing physical comedy to dominate the performance; as the comic business became more routine it lost its vitality, and the characters became more standardized and detached from new social conditions. In the 18th century Goldoni departed from the old style to create a more realistic form of Italian comedy based on prepared scripts, and Commedia dell’arte lost its appeal.
Chinoiserie is the European interpretation and imitation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions, especially in the decorative arts, garden design, architecture, literature, theater, and music. As a style it 1st appeared in the 17th century but became especially popular in the 18th century.
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