enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Commedia dell’Arte

“Commedia dell’arte” is a form of improvisational theatre that emerged in Renaissance-era Italy. “Commedia dell’arte” involved the West’s first professional theatre troupes (called companies), and these troupes included women.

The actors played stock characters with exaggerated personalities and physical traits. Examples of the characters include Arlecchino, Colombina, Il Dottore, Pantalone, and Innamorati. The plays consisted of acrobatic set pieces during which actors would give highly inventive and often humorous performances. Each actor would wear a particular mask and costume depending on the character being portrayed, and the scenes and acts were loosely based on scripted scenarios called “canovaccio”. However, actors improvised to a great extent, modifying their performances in response to the audience and adding creative jokes and flourishes called “lazzi”. “Commedia dell’arte” took its subject matter from everyday life. The plots were about servants (“zanni”) outwitting their masters, people making fun of stubborn elders (“vecchi”), and so on. The plotlines and performance forms of “commedia dell’arte” influenced later forms of Western theatre, including the plays of French playwright Molière.