Performance and Literature in the Commedia dell'Arte

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The actors of the commedia dell'arte (the sixteenth-century Italian professional theater) usually did not perform from scripted drama. They improvised their performances from a shared plot and thorough knowledge of individual character roles. Robert Henke analyzes commedia dell'arte texts to demonstrate how the spoken word and written literature were combined in performance. Henke examines primary sources including performance accounts, actors' contracts, letters and other documents.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Henke's study is a valuable addition to the scholarship on the Commedia dell'Arte."
- Renaissance Quarterly

"For theater artists and educators interested in producing commedia dell'arte today, Henke's text provides a tremendous resource for re-creating authentic performances... This text should become one of the fundamental reference sources for this subject, standing alongside the works of Nicoll, Smith, Ducharte, Oreglia, Lea, and Fo."
- Sixteenth Century Journal, Andrew Vorder Bruegge, St. Cloud State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521172387
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/16/2010
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Henke is an Associate Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature at Washington University, St Louis. The recipient of fellowships from Fulbright and Villa I Tatti, he has published articles on Shakespeare and Italian Renaissance drama in Comparative Drama, Genre, and Theatre Survey, among other journals. He is also the author of the book Pastoral Transformations: Italian Tragicomedy and Shakespeare's Late Plays.

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Table of Contents

List of figures; Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; 2. Improvisation and characters; 3. Residual orality in early modern Italy and the commedia dell'arte; 4. Venetian buffoni; 5. Early male actors; 6. Early actresses; 7. Zanni texts, 1576–88; 8. Conclusions and caprices: early texts of the Dottore and Pantalone; 9. Tristano Martinelli: a company buffone; 10. Theatrical and literary 'composition' in Francesco Andreini and Flaminio Scala; 11. The generation of Cecchini: technical, moral and dramaturgical publications; Notes; Bibliography.

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