Commedia dell’Arte: Comedy of Professional Craftsmen Essay

Commedia dell’Arte is a traditional form of comedy meaning ‘comedy of professional craftsmen’. It is a form of drama that has been used and performed throughout the world as a style of drama. Commedia dell’Arte was immensely popular between 1550 and 1750 and was performed firstly in Italy and then quickly spread across Europe. It is a very crude, boisterous and irreverent form of drama. This essay will discuss the different styles of comedy commedia uses, a modern comedy containing the elements of commedia, the original characters of Commedia and the themes and structure within commedia.

I have chosen to analyse the very successful, modern animated comedy, The Simpsons. The Simpsons is the perfect example of a modern comedy that possesses the characteristics of Commedia dell’Arte as it has very similar characters and scenarios. This term, we have only studied nine of the many stock commedia characters. These are Pantalone, Il Dottore, Il Capitano, Brighella, Arlecchino, Columbina, Flavio, Isabella and Tartaglia. Pantalone is a sleazy old man, who prides himself on his money. Pantalone is represented, in The Simpsons, as Mr. Burns. ll Dottore is always portrayed as a doctor or lawyer who talks a lot and makes generalisations, acting as though he knows everything. This character is depicted through Dr. Nick. Columbina is a deceiving maid who uses her charming looks and sexuality to get what she wants. This persona is shown through the character of Mrs. Krabappel. All of this clearly indicates that The Simpsons is a successful television show through its use of Commedia dell’Arte elements and depiction of stock characters.

Commedia is not just a block form of drama with just one element, Commedia incorporates many different Italian styles such as lazzi, burle, satire and innuendo. Lazzi is a form of commedia which is an improvised comic dialogue or action. Lazzi may be used to fill in time or to ensure laughter throughout the show and is often repeated several times. It is commonly called a ‘catch phrase’. Lazzi can either be physical or verbal. An example of verbal lazzi in The Simpsons is Homer’s ‘Doh! ’ and Dr. Nicks ‘Hi Everybody’. An example of physical lazzi in The Simpsons is Barneys burp, Mr. Burns hand gestures when he says ‘Excellent’ and Homer’s continuous strangling of Bart. Burle is the simple form of drama that contains practical jokes. Burle is evident in The Simpsons when Homer gives Bart his ‘daily’ strangling. It is also very apparent in the comical sketch of Itchy And Scratchy, within The Simpsons. Sattire is a form of drama that is not only used in Commedia, however it is often what makes up the whole scenario of a commedia performance. To satirise something means to pull apart the everyday behaviour of something and make it comical.

This is normally particularly easy if you can look at things from a different point of view. The Simpsons satirises well and this is evident in the family alone. The show is clearly satirising an American family by having stereotypical characters as follows: Homer being the overweight, senseless father who does nothing to help around the house. Marge – The general housewife who runs around after her family. Lisa – The smart child of the family and Bart – The rebel child. And last but not least, innuendo. Innuendo is an important element within commedia.

Without innuendo, the performance would never be as funny. Innuendo is the art of saying something, but implying another thing. This element normally makes the drama crude and boisterous, by giving it a ‘dirty’ twist. Innuendo is evident in The Simpsons when. All of this clearly proves that there are many different elements within Commedia, and without them commedia would not be as comic. It also shows that The Simpsons incorporate these elements proving that it is a show that still uses today, the bases of Commedia.

Themes and structure are very important when it comes to commedia as without the themes to make scenarios out of, there would not be such a thing as commedia. Structure also gives the performance somewhere to go and is very important to allow correct timing for pauses to make something comical. Some themes that are evident in commedia are love triangles, greed, jealousy, misunderstandings and anger. These themes make the drama as without them, there would not be any scenarios to come from.

Structure is a very important element in commedia as it gives the right timing to allow pauses in the right places. This is important to give the performance a comical side. All of this clearly indicates that structure and themes are important to commedia. Overall, the comedy program that was analysed contains characters that portray characteristics similar to the original stock commedia characters. Commedia entertains a modern audience through its use of themes and structure. Commedia will continue to succeed in bringing laughter and amusement to audiences throughout the world.