Influence of Commedia Dell'Arte on Shakespearean Comedy

Twelfth Night, Olivia (Twelfth Night), Commedia dell'arte

Flavy Sen Sharma (848) ; Diwita Mathivanan (132)
The Rise of the Modern West
25th March, 2013

The Influence of Commedia Dell’ Arte on Shakespearean Comedy The European Renaissance as a cultural revolution affected every sphere of life from the 14th to the 17th century. The French term ‘Renaissance,’ meaning rebirth, refers to the period of rediscovery of classical Greek and Roman texts, art and culture. This movement originated in Italy from where it spread northwards and impacted England in the 16th century. The notion of Humanism was an important feature of this period and directly related to this was the literary doctrine of ‘imitation.’ The extent of pervasion and impact of the Renaissance on society can be best noted from the theatre of period. The degree to which the Italian Renaissance theatre impacted English Renaissance theatre demonstrates the ways in which cultural ideas spread through the continent. Theatre provides an understanding of class structures in the Renaissance societies by portraying stereotyped personalities. Thus, in most of the theatrical works of the Renaissance, the society constituted a significant part of the context. This art form also appealed to large sections of the population, thus acting as means of preaching and educating the masses. By examining the influence of Commedia Dell’Arte (Italian Renaissance Theatre) on Shakespearean comedy, it is easier to comprehend the extent of the spread of ideas during the Renaissance and further understand the hierarchical nature of the social structure in Europe. The English Renaissance theatre signifies English drama which was written during the period extending from the English reformation (1517) to the puritan revolution (1642). This period of drama falls under the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), King James I(1603-1625), King Charles I (1625-1642) and accordingly came to be known as the Elizabethan theatre, Jacobean theatre and Caroline theatre. Queen Elizabeth was a...
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