Research Investigation

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  • Topic: Commedia dell'arte, Carlo Gozzi, Comédie-Italienne
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  • Published : February 6, 2013
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Natalie Blenker

Mrs. Harris

I.B. Theatre HL2 Period: 7

March 1, 2012

A research investigation on what specific skills an actor would need learn in order to convincingly portray the role of Silvio in Carlo Goldoni’s, A Servant of Two Masters.

Carlo Goldoni wrote the comedy “Arlecchino servitore di due padroni”, which translates into modern English as The Servant of Two Masters, a commedia dell’Arte-style play. The performers of Commedia were often illiterate, and as such there was no point to write down scripts and record the performance, it was improvised and modified, preserving the aspects the audience found amusing and excluding those that were less successful. In this way, Carlo Goldoni’s writing down of the play strictly goes against commedia traditions, as it is not the way things were done when it was originally staged. Despite performing all their plays in Italian for the first twenty or so years, Commedia troops had phenomenal success, perhaps because the slapstick nature of their comedy mingled with its vulgar humor was relatively easy to follow. The themes of the play, including love, romance, deception and the status between masters and servants, combine to create an enjoyable and greatly comical performance. The play also scrutinizes social boundaries that were once present. Such as, the idea of a woman being dressed as a man this was much more controversial in the 1700’s and especially a woman who defeats a man in combat, as Beatrice (comes to Venice dressed as a man in search of her beloved Florindo, She is also a part of the first lover couple along with Florindo) defeats Silvio. Smereldina (the maid of Clarice, she is an extremely feisty and slightly bitter character who wants more than

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anything to find a man and get married) also confronts Silvio and scorns him, which is something unparalleled in that time, a woman of the serving class reprimanding a man of status. The play also explores the lengths people will go to for the sake of love, the hopelessness of Florindo (a man banished from his home in Turin for his murder of Federigo Rasponi, and the lover of Beatrice who comes in search of him) and Beatrice’s relationship to find each other, as well as commenting on the importance of never giving up hope, because as they are about to kill themselves they find each other again. This is also reflected in the many difficult predicaments Truffaldino (the servant of both Florindo and Beatrice, he is a mischievous, hungry man who is seeking ways to better himself, he is comic relief and also the main protagonist) finds himself in, as no matter how hopeless his situation looks, he keeps on envisaging himself getting out of his tricky situations and eventually he does get out of trouble. The behavior by those of the dominant class of the servants is a very noticeable theme of the time period, and an important social observation. The serving class of Truffaldino, Smereldina and the Porter (she carries the bags places at different times during the play and has a fairly rough time of it, carrying very heavy loads only to be ridiculed and left unrewarded for her labor) are regarded with little respect and trust throughout the entirety of the play. As the early performers of this play were more than likely lower class individuals, this play is an insightful parody of their own difficulties. Commedia dell’Arte is an Italian theater style, characterized by masked performers and improvised scenes based on simplistic scenarios. Carlo Goldoni categorized four elemental types of stock characters in Italian comedy: Pantaloon, a miserly Venetian merchant, easy to anger, disrespected by everyone and a born loser; Dottore, a pedantic lawyer-type from Bologna; Brighella, a serenading servant who enjoys thieving, and bragging; and Arlecchino, a basically

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thoughtless servant permanently in despair over unreturned love. A Servant of Two Masters is set in...
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