The Character of Zanni in Commedia dell'Arte

Pages: 2 (502 words) Published: August 25, 2013
Zanni in Commedia dell’Arte

The Zanni are often referred to as ‘servant’ characters. However, Zanni have traditional uses for filling out other types of careers ranging from shopkeepers to politicians. They all are most commonly shows to be servants of the vecchi (which means ‘old men’) and innamorati (which means the romantic leads, also known as the ‘lovers’). The origin of the term Zanni indicates that rather, they are meant to represent commoners or the everyman. The Zanni are the most versatile of the commedia characters; they may be either working for someone, or may have their own motivations apart from any sides. Some stories, for example, The Marvellous Malady of Harlequin, omit the other character types altogether and focus squarely on the Zanni. The Zanni are often described as masked characters. The main trait which all the Zanni share is that they are supposed to be entertaining. This is most often achieved through comical behaviors and speeches, but can also be done through other methods like acrobatics or dancing. There were common qualities between all the Zanni characters: they all possessed common sense, intelligence, pride, a love for practical jokes and intrigue.

The Zanni have a common costume which was a baggy white one, which was originally made of flour sacks:

Their mask originates from the full-face Carnival mask:

Their signature props include bags, letters, valuables, food and etc., that belongs to someone else. Zanni stands with an arched back, with his knees bent and apart and his feet spread out. The support knee is bent with the other leg extended, toe pointed. The character changes feet repeatedly while talking or listening within the same position and without its head bobbing up and down. The elbows are bent and the arms half-lifted. There are six types of Zanni walk: 1) little Zanni walk: this is a development of the basic stance, foot changing but taking a small step forward on each shift, 2) Big Zanni walk: a...

Bibliography: * "Commedia Stock Characters Zanni." Shane Arts Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2013. <>.
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