Commedia dell’Arte

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Commedia dell'Arte
The most famous masks of the Venetian Carnival

The Commedia dell’Arte is a literary genre born in Italy from the mid-sixteenth century and concluded at the end of the eighteenth century.

The characteristics of the Commedia dell’Arte were the staging of an improvised representation, without a script, where fixed characters were joined by stock characters: some with a mask, others with a costume always recognizable, others with well-defined physical characteristics and characteristics although sometimes slightly changed. From the servant Zanni, who over time turned from a sly servant to a foolish servant, to the “old men” like the lord, to the ever-present female figure of the astute servants, able to “raise” in pride those women otherwise represented by the “sad” young mistress. A change from the past, with the need to create a theater more complex than the previous one and, through the sale of tickets, the possibility of making sure that anyone could use it.

It was Carlo Goldoni, slowly, to reform a theatrical genre that had given birth to the masks but not really a life being these remained in the years “still”, stereotyped, fixed in interpretations and jokes that by now had become unable to excite the viewer. 

Goldoni, therefore, replaces the characters captured in their individuality but also psychological varieties. Not only that: it contextualizes them in an environment reproducing something verisimilar. No more improvisation then but very specific stories and corresponding to a script. From this revolution the masks remained in the collective imaginary as allegorical memory of vices and virtues of the population of the various parts of Italy even after the death of the theater that consecrated them constantly characterizing the Carnival party, born as early as 1296 with an edict of the Serenissima, but reached its maximum splendor in the eighteenth century, an era that definitely launched it throughout Europe.The masks that are still famous today and live in the ways of saying and traditions are: Arlecchino (Harlequin), Pantalone, Colombina, Brighella, Pulcinella, Stenterello, Meneghino, Balanzone, Gianduja, Rugantino. 

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