La Commedia dell'Arte

By: Cooper, Anna, Acelynn and Trevor

The Middle Ages in 3 1 2 minutes

Basics of the Time Period

During the medieval time period, also known as the middle ages many changes occurred. People went from illiterate to scholars, and they survived the black death. The Medieval time period spans from the 5th century to the 15th century.

During the middle ages living conditions were very poor. Many people lived in poverty and suffered malnutrition. Because of these poor living conditions many people became sick and died, giving the smallest cuts the ability to become deadly. Among sicknesses, diseases were prominent also, including Leprosy and the Black death.

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In the middle ages, the Roman Catholic church played a big role in everyone's daily life. It provided social unity after the fall of the Roman empire and the dark ages. In the early medieval ages many people were illiterate at a time when religion was big. This led to the creation of the mystery play, a play based off of religion to explain religion to the illiterate people.

As the middle ages progressed the living conditions became better and better, and the once illiterate people became scholars. The rise of commercial, artistic and other activities anchored in the secular role occurred, defining the time period.

Towards the end of the middle ages, Commedia del'arte became popular. Commedia is a type of comedic play that is largely based off of improv. Commedia became popular as the mystery play went out of popularity due to the lack of illiterate people.

Usually troops went throughout Europe performing their plays. The play would be a little different each time as it was loosely based off of a story, but was mostly improv. Some of the more popular troops even performed at royal courts in France.

Commedia also occured during the Tudor time period which is directly following the middle ages. The Tudor time period encompassed the tudor dynasty which included the succession of many kings and queens.

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Comedia del’arte or comedy of art is mostly improvised, causing the plays to have the same general outline but aren't the exact same every time because they don’t have an exact script. Here are some of the plays from this time period. The first of the three plays is Haunted House a brief description of the play is Pantalone refuses to allow his daughter Lavinia to wed her lover Flavio, because he believes Flavio's house to be haunted. Flavio is willing to oblige Pantalone's wishes and sell the house, but Mezzetino, who has been profiting from the rumors of hauntings, seeks to find another means to the end.
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The second play is Doctor Dodypoll. This play is Apparently conceived as a knockoff of Shakespeare's Midsummers Night Dream, the story concerns several lovers in difficulty, and the fairy's love-potion replaced with the inept doctor's love-powder. Albertus the Merchant is an obvious Pantalone variant.
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The final play is Sleepless in Siena and a brief description is that Aurelia and Orazio are in love. However, Orazio’s father, Doctor Graziano, refuses to let him marry anyone but a very rich girl with a large dowry, since Orazio does not seem inclined to get a real job. Likewise, Aurelia’s father, the wealthy but stingy merchant Pantalone, refuses to let her marry anyone but an extremely wealthy man, because he is too cheap to pay his daughter’s dowry. Unable to see each other, Aurelia and Orazio communicate by letters, secretly delivered by their respective servants, Columbina and Arlecchino.

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Commedia dell'Arte: A Historical Overview

Conventions of the time

Platea​,​ in medieval theatre, the neutral acting area of a ​stage​. In medieval staging, a number of mansions, or booths, representing specific locations, were placed around the acting area. The actors would move from mansion to mansion as the play demanded. The ​platea​ would assume the scenic identity of the mansion that was being used. The ​platea​ was also used as the actingnarea for places not specified by individual mansions, such as streets and open country
The religious plays of the Middle Ages were performed at first within, and later in front of, the church, with the separate scenes organized around an open space. This form of staging continued when the plays were moved into the street, but the individual platform scenes became more elaborately built up, and there was widespread use of machinery and traps. Information about medieval lighting is uncertain although it seems likely that torches, both moving and stationary, were utilized.‘ Because there was no artificial lighting then, most plays would occur during the day time.
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Move able Staging consisted of pageant wagons. These were particularly used with the Cycle Plays in Britain. Each wagon held one play and the audiences stayed while the wagons moved from place to place.
Medieval Engineers - Survival Construction , Build Stages

Major Playwrights

Commedia dell'arte is set on improvisational theatre, therefore there were no published form of playwrights.

However, in the later years in an effort to reform the drama, playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707-93) borrowed from the older style to create a new, more realistic form of Italian comedy.

Although this form of theatre developed without any formal playwrights, it had an important influence on many playwrights to come in theatre history including Moliere and Shakespeare.

Carlo Gozzi, helped the sacchi company. he did not like to make characters then pick actors.

Compagnia dei Gelosi, (Italian: “Company of Jealous Ones”), one of the earliest and most famous of the commedia del'arte companies of 16th-century Italy. Their fame spread abroad, and they were asked by King Henry iii to perform before his court in 1577.

The first documented actors' troupe-for-hire was formed in padua in 1545; by 1560 companies included women, and in the early 1570s several were touring abroad. Among the constantly merging prominent troupes were the Gelosi, the Desiosi, the Fedeli, the Confidenti, and the, at different times featuring leading performers of the day.

Quiz Time!

1. What diseases were prominent during the time period?

a) Malaria

b) small pox

c) the black death

d) ebola

2. Over what years did the medieval time period occur?

a) 2000-2001

b) 500 bc-300 bc

c) 900 bc-1500 ad

d) 5th century -15th century

3. What are two types of plays from the medieval time period?

a) mystery play and commedia

b) romance and dramatic

c) dramatic and comedy

d) comedy and romance

4. What is another name for the medieval time period?

a) the renaissance

b) the middle ages

c) the 21st century

d) the end of time

5. What is one of the most popular plays?

a) sleepless in sienna

b) romeo and juliet

c) Wicked

d) Grease

6. What type of stages were used?

a) platforms

b) pageant wagons

c) both a and c

d) none of the above

7. What type of lighting was used?

a) flashlights

b) lightbulbs

c) the sun

d) spotlights

8. What other playwrights did commedia dell'arte inspire?

a) plato

b) Molier

c) writers from 500 bc

d) all of the above

9. What is a pageant wagon?

a) a type of car

b) a movie theatre

c) a stage used for commedia

d) a bath house

10. What did you learn most?

11. Do you enjoy learning about medieval theater?

12. What type of play is the most like commedia today?

a) drama

b) comedy

c) improv

d) romantic movie

13. What was the name of another one of the plays?

a) doctor dodypoll

b) west side story

c) Cats!

d) Mama mia

14) What was the name of one of the famous playwrights?

a) carlo goldoni

b) Steve carrel

c) Johnny depp

d) Tim burton

15) What are troupes?

a) military

b) circus like groups that go around and perform

c) random people

d) none of the above