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Look Inside Performance and Literature in the Commedia dell'Arte

Performance and Literature in the Commedia dell'Arte


  • Date Published: December 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521172387

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About the Authors
  • This 2002 book explores the commedia dell'arte: the Italian professional theatre in Shakespeare's time. The actors of this theatre usually did not perform from scripted drama but improvised their performances from a shared plot and thorough knowledge of individual character roles. Robert Henke closely considers commedia dell'arte texts to demonstrate how the spoken word and written literature were fruitfully combined in performance. Henke examines a number of primary sources including performance accounts, actors' contracts, letters, popular poems, memorials of deceased actors, scenarios, and printed plays, among other documents. Henke analyzes the character system in the commedia dell'arte, individual roles, Venetian buffoni, and provides detailed case studies of early actors and actresses. While previous studies have concentrated on either the oral or the literary aspects of commedia dell'arte, this was the first book to consider how these two elements might have worked together to create this rich and fascinating theatre.

    • Other studies have concentrated on either the oral or literature aspects of the commedia dell'arte, but have not considered how they might have worked together
    • Provides close readings of many commedia dell'arte texts: performance accounts, actors' contracts, letters, popular poems, memorials of deceased actors, scenarios, etc., many never before analysed
    • Supplies detailed historical and cultural contexts for the commedia dell'arte
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '… teacher friendly … inspired insights … this engaging and worthwhile perspective on the commedia dell'arte offers plenty of food for thought.' Journal of Theatre Research International

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521172387
    • length: 278 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.41kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    1. Introduction
    2. Improvisation and characters
    3. Residual orality in early modern Italy and the commedia dell'arte
    4. Venetian buffoni
    5. Early male actors
    6. Early actresses
    7. Zanni texts, 1576–88
    8. Conclusions and caprices: early texts of the Dottore and Pantalone
    9. Tristano Martinelli: a company buffone
    10. Theatrical and literary 'composition' in Francesco Andreini and Flaminio Scala
    11. The generation of Cecchini: technical, moral and dramaturgical publications

  • Author

    Robert Henke, Washington University, St Louis

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