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In its early stages, Commedia dell’Arte used to be known as Comme Zannesca, Commedia Improvvisa, Commedia Mercenaria (mercenaria= paid = professional), Commedia Italiana. There have been several other classifications, however, all together, they outline the most important meanings: Zannesca = popular; Arte, Mercenaria = professional; Improvvisa=improvised, directed by actors; Italiana= origin, style, rhythm. All this together creates a genre.

A genre that does not deviate from its nature, the theatrical one: Commedia dell’Arte is Theatre; as a profession, which has been since its very early days , it does require a certain degree of organisation and it does organise everything: the Acting Company, every single Specialization (Fixed Types), the dramaturgical structure, which has not changed for centuries, not even today; Commedia dell’Arte organises the location, the settings, the audience; even the payment system thanks to the invention of the ’ticket’, which originally was the simple rental of a chair.

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Pulliciniello e Signora Lucretia, i Balli di Sfessania, Jacques Callot 1592–1635

Commedia dell’Arte talks about real people in real situations in a very spectacular manner: it is the Big Show of the collective truth, of us all.

By Commedia dell’Arte we usually mean comedy. However, ’Commedia dell’Arte’ is rather a summarising expression of a production system that combines different genres: comedy and poetry as in the Pastoral Comedy, in the Boschereccia, Marinaresca and Piscatoria ones; epic in Opera Eroica; tragedy in Opera Regia.