Theatre in Italy in the 17th century
The Commedia sostenuta
commedia sostenuta or erudita is a theatrical
genre that develops during the Italian Renaissance. This comedy is
in fact an intermediate form between the academic theatre of the ancient
Greek and Latin peoples,
and the Commedia dell'Arte.
To a certain extent the latter is the link between the structured
and traditional ancient comedy and that of improvisation. Its authors,
who know their classic inheritance perfectly, base their format -
a prologue and five acts - the outline of their plots and their principal
characters on Plautius,
From these basic elements, they subsequently enrich their plays with
a romantic development borrowed from other sources, in particular
and his work the Decameron. From this amalgam or synthesis
of ancient and modern inspiration, are born plots filled with adventures
and misunderstandings. Finally, they transplant themes of contemporary
inspiration and adapt the Latin characters to those of their time.
The slave becomes the valet, the slave trader turns into the go-between,
and Spanish captains replace the ancient soldiers. Other new characters
are invented, directly drawn from their time, like the preposterous
pedagogue, the inept student or the lecherous priest.
In addition , by drawing the inspiration for their characters from
the surrounding reality, the authors also allow them to speak their
own language, which is to say often in dialect. This reflexion of
every day life gives more substance to these comedies. The most popular
authors are Ariosto,
whose plays are also adopted by the French classic theatre.
Two others stand out, though, with plays that are not imitations of
old originals, but which are landmarks in the history of Italian theatre.
One is Machiavelli
who with The Mandrake writes a comedy full of irony portraying
compellingly drawn characters and a rebel woman role which leaves
tradition behind. On the other hand, the realist Ruzzanti
perfectly illustrates the peasant world of his time and writes about
ten plays of which Moschetta is the most famous. For his part,
he is at the origin of the use of dialect on stage and the introduction
of characters representative of the common people.
These two authors, on the periphery of the Commedia sostenuta, help
the evolution of the Italian comedy that thus begins to gain its originality
and approach contemporary problems. In order to be accessible to all,
and to avoid the strictures of censorship, it only lacks the impertinence
and comical drollery that the Commedia dell' Arte will be able to