Commedia Dell`Arte- Ava

Commedia Dell’Arte
By Ava Worthington
Grade 11 Drama
This is an ancient form of Italian theatre
beginning in the 16th century. It is
characterized and world renown for it’s use of
masks and recognizable characters. It is now
commonly referred to as the Origin of Comedy
and believed to have emerged as a response
to the political and economic oppression and
chaos that reigned in Italy during the 16th
Gallery of Characters
The analysis of Commedia Dell’Arte characters is
a long and complicated journey to fully
understanding the transformation that this
form of theatre has undergone through the
centuries. However it can be concluded that
Commedia Dell’Arte characters are the
metamorphosing of the Zanni Characters and
other influences such as Latin Commedy until
they became the defined characters at the
end of the 16th century.
The word Zanni refers to a collection of characters, all of
which are recognizable as: comical servant characters. The
definition of Zanni is a series of stereotypical servant
Characteristics that Zanni characters possess:
• Old
• Poor
• Clearly a hired servant of another character.
• His primary concerns are those of his comfort and immediate
• Clothes are white smocks and loose pants.
• His concerns do not usually coincide to those of his master.
These characteristics are often incorporated in characters and
can be recognized as Zanni characteristics.
This is a annotated timeline created in 1971 by the New
Company Theatre in attempt to reconstruct and understand
the influences and changes Comedia dell’arte has undergone.
Stock Character Gallery
Harlequin or Arlechinno
His names is closely linked to Hellechinno which is
translated to mean ‘Little Devil’. He is probably
the most recognizable Zanni character, usually
servant to Pantalone. Arlechinno seems to have
been emerged a cross from a stereotypical Zanni
character and much influenced by French
traditional wild rugged man by Rudlin.
Another primary aspect of Harlequin is his physical
agility, he will always add simple acrobatics to a
mundane task he is set such cartwheels, flips… in
order to make the task more interesting.
Harlequin has a very defined flamboyant
costume (it may vary in accordance to the
different theatres) it constitutes of small
black shoes, tight fitting jacket which is
laced and buttoned down the front and
matching tight pants. This outfit is sewn
all over with triangular patches of bright
colors (red, yellow, blue, green). There is
also a black belt worn low on the hips. He
wears a dark mask and hair is short
This character is essentially a loner who pretends to
be extremely strong, courageous and high in
status. It is ironic therefore that this is one of the
weaker characters, he is the first to run from the
battle, often very comical. He is very often large
in presence and believes that the audience is
there for him. He is not very cunning and
therefore often manipulated by the other
characters such as Pantalone who he believes to
be in partnership with, he is also very greedy.
Follows a military influence, he wears
colorful uniforms which is most
often green and blue with large
yellow triangles or patterns running
down. Usually a cape or large coat.
Large boots (not always matching).
He always carries a sword which is
ironically never used. His mask is a
large nosed crocodile mask usually
flesh colored.
This character is the female Zanni known as
Zagne. Her role was first called Sobretta or
Servetta in translation a female servant. She
is quite an attractive women and strong in
personality. Most often always has an apron
and carries a basket. Her poses are all inspired
by ballet positions and her movements must
be graceful as such. She is a responsible, good
servant and always happy and becomes
efficient when a task is given to her. She is in
love with Harlequin but she sees through him.
Her costume is a dress showing a
lot of cleavage and connected in
colors and pattern (diamonds) to
that of Harlequin whom she
loves. In the scene where she is
independent and not in love with
Harlequin then she can be found
in white and black influenced by
the French maid outfit. She
either wears a small mask that
only covers her eyes or else no
mask and heavily made up eyes.
He is very high in social status and controls the
world of finance in Commedia Dell’Arte,
therefore his orders are always obeyed. His
physical appearance is old, tall and thin.
Pantalone is the voice of the rude masculine
consciousness and is only concerned in affairs
when there is something in it for him. He
always carries with him a handkerchief and
money pouch at his waist. His position and
stance is always bent over with age.
Always in dark colors of red
and black and his name
suggests he wears
pantaloons (red) and yellow
slippers. Loose, long black
cloak. Wears a dark brown
or black mask with a long
hooked nose and very bushy
eyebrows and white bears.
The Innamorati-The Lovers
The characters Isabella, Lelio, Flavio and Vittoria
are all part of the Innamorati. These
characters are all helplessly infatuated with
one another so although they used to be high
in social status they all descend due to their
pursuit of their lover. They must all be young,
attractive and gallant to their lovers. Ironically
they are seen as quite ridiculous through the
eyes of the other characters due to their
This is where the latest fashion in the
period of time is expressed. Males
can be seen wearing military and
cadet uniforms. Women are seen
wearing beautiful silk gowns often
Renaissance influenced with
necklaces of gold and pearls. The
characters show off their sense of
youth and fashion by changing
several times throughout the play
displaying a variety of outfits.
Dottore is often a father of one of the lovers. He
controls what surrounds medicine in
Commedia Dell’Arte, however ironically and
comically the Doctor has never cured a
disease or illness throughout any of the plays.
H is known for boasting of his travels, always
carries a book and a handkerchief. He
demands a large amount of space, as he is
quite fat and has large arm movements. He is
quite a greedy man and the other characters
are bored by him.
Always in black, long jacket reaching
his feet, slippers, large puffy
sleeves, belt worn low under his
protruding belly and stockings,
and small cap. The only color is
his white ruffled collar and
handkerchief. His mask covers his
eyes and nose revealing his
reddened cheeks (expressing his
softness for his liquor).
Accessed Tuesday 2 November 2010. Goldoni, C. (n.d.). La commedia dell'arte
(xviie au xviiie siècle). Retrieved from
Accessed Tuesday 2 November 2010. Zanni. (Published: 2010, August 24).
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Accessed Tuesday 2 November 2010. Character analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Accessed Tuesday 2 November 2010. Rudlin, J. (n.d.). Character analysis. Retrieved
Accessed Tuesday 2 November 2010. Rolfe, B. (n.d.). Character analysis. Retrieved
Accessed Tuesday 2 November 2010. Ducharte, P.L. (n.d.). Character analysis.
Retrieved from
Mario and Flavia picture retrieved from