Commedia dell’Arte as the foundation of comedy
The consensus by many scholars today that Commedia dell’Arte is the basic foundation of all comedy is agreeable because majority if not all of the modern television shows are modeled after Commedia dell’Arte. Commedia dell’Arte translates, as “comedy of skills” is style of theater characterized by improvisation by the actors drawing from only scenarios. The origins of Commedia dell’Arte could be traced to its birthplace in Italy during the sixteenth century when it remained popular until mid-eighteenth century (Rudlin, 2003). To illustrate that the influence of Commedia dell’Arte is still prevalent, I will discuss specific characteristics of the characters and production style commonly associated with Commedia dell’Arte found in examples from the television show “Family Guy” and Goldoni’s play “A Servant of Two Masters” where the similarities to Commedia dell’Arte overlap.
The characters of Commedia dell’Arte usually represent fixed social types. It has three main stock roles: servant/zanni, master, and lovers/innamorati (Katritzky, 2006). Rudlin (2003) maintains that the characters themselves are often referred to as "masks", which, cannot be separated from the character. These characters, whose roles, characteristics, and costumes were well defined and widely known where often instantly recognized from their dressing and character traits to their expectations. In A Servant of Two Masters, some of these stock characters included Servants (Truffaldino & Smeraldina), Lovers (Silvio & Clarice, Beatrice & Florindo). While in Family Guy, the cartoons always look Commedia dell’Arte; the masks are like caricatures of the types of people in our communities. The lovers could be the children (Meg, Chris and Stewie), who are concerned with things like school, love and peer pressure. Brian, the dog could pass for a servant/zani with Lois and Peter as the Masters. This stereotyping of characters made it enjoyable and exciting...
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