Commedia dell’Arte
(723 words)

The term Commedia dell’Arte (“professional theater”; from the Italian commedia, “comedy/theater” and arte, “art/trade”) appears for the first time in the 18th century in the theoretical writings of Carlo Goldoni. The actors and troupes that performed these comedies of type and improvisations from the 16th century never used it. Goldoni used the term to distinguish theater of mask, masque and improvisation from the written character comedy that was his own field. The actors called their art la Commedia degli Zanni (“servant comedy”), la Commedia a soggetto (“scene com…

Cite this page
Mehnert, Henning, “Commedia dell’Arte”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 19 October 2018 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_018116>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20170206



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