The Characters

These characters are i Sebastiani's interpretations. While they are realistic, they are not definitive to the genre. Characters always differ from one troupe or one actor to the next.

Character Types
In Commedia, stock characters are reused from one show to the next. There are three types of characters in Commedia:
  • Vecchi ('Old people') - Pantalone, il Dottore, Olivia. They often strive to keep the lovers apart despite their servants. They're frequently preoccupied with basal desires.
  • Innamorati (Lovers) - Isabella, Flaminia, Oratio, Flavio. They are usually young, unbridled by material concerns. Though the lovers long to come together, they would be as turtles on their backs without the help of their servants.
  • Zanni (Servants) - Arlecchino, Brighella,, Pedrolino, Ricciolina, Francescina. Poor and uneducated, the servants usually develop and carry out the plans which bring the lovers together. They know what's going on because they run things.
  • Il Capitano - Spavento.  As he well knows, is in a class of his own.
In Commedia, several characters are portrayed using masks. The masks make use of fantastical face shapes to exaggerate features of the character's personality and diminish others. In 16th century Italy, a characters would have been easily recognizable by his mask.
    While masked characters have the benefit of exaggerated facial features, having one's face blocked means it's more difficult to show facial expression. A separate variety of gestures are therefore needed to convey these expressions through the mask.
The most common masked characters include Pantalone, Gratiano, Arlecchino, and il Capitano. The innamorati are never masked.

Physical expression is central to Commedia. Actors needed to be brimming with energy, even elderly ones. Physical expression of various characters is a matter of elocution: body language is used as a reflection of the character's personality traits.
    Basal characters like Gratiano tend to exaggerate their abdominal areas during movement. Romantic characters like the innamorati move about as if they are floating from a balloon positioned in their chest. Intellectual characters like Pedrolino focus expression on their heads.
    One characteristic movement of Pantalone was, while hobbling across the stage, to trip wildly and roll back to his feet before continuing to hobble. The Dottore might suddenly fall asleep while talking and Arlecchino would do some cartwheels while he waits for the Dottore to wake up again.

'Lazzi' is the plural form of 'lazzo'. A lazzo is a short act or speech which is improvised by one or many characters. You can think of a lazzo as a 'gag' or a 'bit' which fills in the gaps between parts of the plot and provides most of the humorous content of a Commedia show. Commedia actor would accumulate an enormous vocabulary of bits through her life which she could easily string together in performance.