1st Edition

The Venetian Origins of the Commedia dell'Arte

ISBN 9780415698764
Published November 26, 2013 by Routledge
250 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

The Venetian Origins of the Commedia dell'Arte is a striking new enquiry into the late-Renaissance stirrings of professional secular comedy in Venice, and their connection to the development of what came to be known as the Commedia dell’Arte. The book contends that through a symbiotic collaboration between patrician amateurs and plebeian professionals, innovative forms of comedy developed in the Venice region, fusing ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture in a provocative mix that had a truly mass appeal.

Rich with anecdotes, diary entries and literary – often ribald – comic passages, Peter Jordan's central argument has important implications for the study of Venetian art, popular theatre and European cultural history.

Table of Contents

Part 1. The 'Commedia dell’Arte'  The comedy of the profession  Ancient and modern characteristics  Innovation: risks and rewards  The rise of the comic  Part 2. Laughter, Humour and Comedy  Evolutionary origins  From ‘play panting’ to the ‘belly laugh’  The paradox  Professional comedians  Part 3. Magnifico and Zanni  Venice and Bergamo  First mentions  The comedy of status  A cultural lightning rod  Part 4. Why Venice?  The Most Serene Republic  On the cusp of decline  Freedom and diversity  The winning combination  A theatre for all  Part. 5 The Companies of the Hose  Background  Names and titles  Family ties  Statutes and women  Saint Ursula and the virgins  Marriage and comedy  Part 6. Professionals and Amateurs  The theatre of the Companions of the Hose  Comic innovators – Angelo Beolco and Pietro Aretino  Innovative comics – Domenico Tagliacalze and Zan Polo  Other contributions  Part 7. Pantalone: A Case Study  ‘Magnifico messer Pantalone de’ Bisognosi’  The name  The costume  The mask and other accoutrements  The character  Pantalone’s ‘Caprices’  Part 8. The First Companies and their Connections  1574 – The republic entertains royalty  The success of the Gelosi  Trouble with the Church  A web of patronage  Security and the seeds of demise  Part 9. A Lingering Legacy  Two centuries of evolution: Shakespeare; Jonson; Molière; Marivaux; Gozzi  Goldoni’s reform  Persistent traces  Attempts at revival  Museum piece or living art?

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Dr Jordan has been a theatre practitioner for over thirty years, touring throughout Europe and elsewhere, performing in English, Italian and Cantonese. He was a founder member of the Fortunati and an actor with TAG Teatro of Venice. He has variously acted in, directed and translated plays by Goldoni, Ruzante, Molière, Marivaux and Shakespeare. As an instructor, he has worked at a number of leading drama schools and universities, and was for many years Head of Acting at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Apart from his acting and directing credits, his professional portfolio also includes fight direction, movement choreography, script development, musical performance and composition. His productions have toured to Canada and Australia. In recent years, he directed and composed for award-winning versions of Les Misérables, Cyrano de Bergerac and Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, as well as directing the world premiere of Ho Chi Minh in Hong Kong.


'Peter Jordan has, in The Venetian Origins of the Commedia dell'Arte, written a impeccable, funny, learned and extremely well-documented book. Jordan was for many years the head of Acting at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and has thirty years of experience in European theatres as actor, composer, musician, director and translator.' Angelo Paratico, Asian Review of Books

'[The Venetian Origins of the Commedia dell’Arte] is a successful infusion of practical experience into research which is based on solid academic criteria...This book is thoughtful, comprehensive, and based on a full direct acquaintance both with archival sources and with recent scholarship...Jordan’s arguments provide genuine food for thought, and direct our attention more firmly to facts which cannot be overlooked.' Richard Andrews, Modern Language Review

'Peter Jordan is the first scholar to take up the “origin” challenge in years, and he rises nicely to the challenge in his important, interesting, and persuasive book...which makes a vital contribution to commedia dell’arte studies.' Robert Henke, Renaissance Quarterly