Comedy and Commedia dell’ Arte

Comedy and Commedia dell’ Arte


Comedy and Commedia dell' ArteIt is a discourse of humorous nature aimed at amusing the audience and originated in Ancient Greece. In Athens’ theaters, during the first democracy, people who could cast vote were exposed to political satire played by actors or poets, which could affect the way candidates were portrayed. Greek comedy is often defined as a dramatic performance which amusingly represents a conflict between different sectors of the society.

Satire or political satire took help of comedy as a means to illustrate corruption and attribute it to certain sectors of the society (usually high society); like public institutions or governing bodies. Most members of the society that were entertained by such comical performances were plebeians; in other words, they were members of the lower social classes. Parody is another element used in Ancient Greece as a means of ridiculing the upper classes.

Other types of comedy include black comedy. It was named black because it explores, through humor, human nature and its darker depths. There are other types of comedy which recourse to humor by ridiculing societal norms such as those involving sex, race, gender roles, etc.

Commedia dell’ Arte

Commedia dell’ Arte is a type of theater which often includes characters wearing masks. This type of theater originated in Italy during the sixteenth century. What is so important about this type of theater is that it was one of the first to include real, female actresses. Up till this point, women in theater were always portrayed by men dressed as women instead. Stage clothes such as masks, for example, were characteristic elements of la commedia dell’arte. Following is a list of other typical elements of commedia dell’ Arte:

  • Comical or buffoonish characters
  • Improvisation
  • Heritage minstrels, jesters and jugglers
  • Collective inclusion
  • Interaction of the actors with the public
  • Costumes and transvestism