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Scripts and Scenarios: The Performance of Comedy in Renaissance Italy

Overview

The Italian Renaissance produced a new type of stage comedy, experimental and even revolutionary in its time, by copying and updating the dramatic formats of Plautus and Terence from ancient Rome. The influence of these innovations on European drama - Shakespeare, Jonson, Moliere, Lope de Vega - is a familiar fact in outline, but the Italian plays themselves are unfamiliar to English-speaking readers and audiences. They were written and performed for private audiences, and show a surprising variety of tone, from ...
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Overview

The Italian Renaissance produced a new type of stage comedy, experimental and even revolutionary in its time, by copying and updating the dramatic formats of Plautus and Terence from ancient Rome. The influence of these innovations on European drama - Shakespeare, Jonson, Moliere, Lope de Vega - is a familiar fact in outline, but the Italian plays themselves are unfamiliar to English-speaking readers and audiences. They were written and performed for private audiences, and show a surprising variety of tone, from sober moralism to scurrilous farce. Authors range from the well-known and respectable Ariosto and Machiavelli through the anarchic Aretino to the barely accessible genius of Ruzante - and some plays, not the least successful, had collective authorship. This book gives an account of how the new dramatic experiment was born anew, moving from closed courtly audiences to a wider public. By concentrating on the order in which things happened, it underlines the novelty of almost everything that was produced. By highlighting performing qualities, rather than literary ones, it is able to show how improvised commedia dell'arte depended to a surprising degree on these relatively respectable antecedents. Scripted and improvised comedy are treated as part of the same phenomenon - and in this way a crucial phase in the development of European theatre is explored for the first time. Scripts and Scenarios will be of interest to scholars and students in both theatre history and Italian studies.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Simplicity and clarity are exactly the major merits of this excellent volume that should be welcomed especially on this side of the Atlantic for filling up a gap in the history and evaluation of the Italian theater of the sixteenth century....[An] excellent book." Robert C. Melzi, Sixteenth Century Journal

"The volume is...both an excellent introduction to sixteenth century Italian theater and an innovative approach to the development from amateur learned comedy to professional comic theater. The emphasis it places on the texts as works to be performed rather than as literature to be ananlyzed is a welcome change and a solid contribution to the histroy of Italian theater in the Renaissance. And it its synthetic, chronological approach it is so highly suitable for class adoptions that one hopes the publisher will soon offer it in a a paperback version." Konrad Eisenbichler, Wintev

"In his insightful and witty study, Richard Andrews remedies the disparity between scholars' recognition of Italian Renaissance playwrights' pioneering role in 'a modern European concept of theatre' and their inadequate familiarity with the actual texts, performances and audiences." Richard Andrews, Renaissance Quarterly

"...Lew Andrew's book makes important scholarly contributions to our understanding of the narrative tradition and its place in the art and culture of the Renaissance." Sara Nair James, Sixteenth Century Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521034159
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Italy in the sixteenth century 1
1 Precedents 9
Some definitions 9
Uses of comedy 10
Patterns of performance 21
The classical models 24
2 The first 'regular' comedies 31
Revivals of Roman comedy 31
First steps in the vernacular: Ferrara 34
Ariosto's dramaturgy 40
Rome and Florence 47
The comic text: Bibbiena and Machiavelli 56
3 The second quarter-century, outside Venice 64
Demarcations 64
Aretino in Rome and Mantua 66
Ariosto's verse comedies 77
The Congress of Bologna: Tuscany 87
Siena and its Academy 89
Florentine comedies 108
4 The second quarter-century, Venice and Padua 121
Spectacle and politics in Venice 121
Ruzante 125
Multilingual comedy 144
Aretino in Venice 154
Dolce and Parabosco 161
5 Improvised comedy 169
Definitions and evidence 169
Improvisation and modular structure 175
Larger units of improvisation 185
Scenarios 195
The comedy of commedia dell'arte 199
6 Obstacles to comedy 204
The rise of theory 204
Theory of laughter 208
Theory of decorum 216
Suppression and censorship 220
La pellegrina 225
7 Scripts and scenarios 227
La pellegrina as 'serious' comedy 227
The Florentine festivities of 1589 233
Plays and authors after 1550 237
Conclusions 244
Notes 249
Chronological bibliography of comedies, 1500-1560 271
General bibliography 280
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