Befriending the Commedia dell'Arte of Flaminio Scala

Befriending the Commedia dell'Arte of Flaminio Scala: The Comic Scenarios

Natalie Crohn Schmitt
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt9qh945
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  • Book Info
    Befriending the Commedia dell'Arte of Flaminio Scala
    Book Description:

    Schmitt demonstrates that thecommedia dell'arterelied as much on craftsmanship as on improvisation and that Scala's scenarios are a treasure trove of social commentary on early modern daily life in Italy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1917-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Part One: Context, Culture, and Aesthetics
    • chapter one Befriending the Text
      (pp. 3-16)

      So begins act 1 of the first scenario in Flaminio Scala’s collection ofcommedia dell’artescenarios entitledIl teatro delle favole rappresentative(The Theatre of Representative Plots), 1611,¹ probably the single most important document remaining to us from one of the most significant Western theatre movements. The collection provides a vital link to our understanding ofcommedia dell’arteat its height, 1570–1630, shows thecommedia dell’arteto be full of the life of its times, and includes spirited works of art. With this book I elaborate upon these claims. I seek to dispel a number of common misconceptions: (1)...

    • chapter two Character Relationships
      (pp. 17-59)

      Traditionalcommedia dell’artecharacters are routinely seen in isolation from one another. The scenarios, however, show relationships between characters in a large variety of situations, and these relationships reflect, in theatrical form, actual interactions within society at the time. Early modern selfhood was experienced relationally. People were largely defined by their part in a nexus of relationships.¹ In this chapter I therefore direct my attention to the nature of interactions between people in the society, the tensions within them and the representations of these in Scala’s scenarios. In the last half of the book I read characters primarily through the...

    • chapter three The Setting and Life in the Street
      (pp. 60-87)

      In accordance with the convention established earlier for Italian scripted comedy, the comic scenarios ofcommedia dell’artewere devised for fixed street settings, however simple their representation may have been in practice, given the expense of set construction and the difficulties of travel for the itinerant performing troupes. In this chapter I first take up the theatrical appropriateness of the fixed street setting and describe the set. I then show how it is of a piece with the life represented in the Scala scenarios, and, in recovering that life, I continue to put on view an important part of the...

    • chapter four Invention
      (pp. 88-120)

      Despite their appeal as social representations and imitations of life, the scenarios would also have appealed as self-defining artefacts with references to prior works of art, distinguishable parts, and qualities of style. In this chapter I explore some of the ways in which the scenarios are highly imitative of models and are artificial constructs. Scala called themfavole(plots or fables).

      I limit my examination of Scala’s artifice here to three concepts: imitation of the work of others, copiousness, and variety. In the first part of this chapter I make clear the meaning and significance, in the period in which...

  6. Part Two: Scenario Reconstructions
    • Method
      (pp. 123-124)

      The new English translations of the four Scala scenarios that follow, each in a separate chapter, are provided by David Harwell. Margherita Pieracci Harwell was helpful in providing clarification for certain obscurities in Scala’s text. I edited the translations. They are based on Ferruccio Marotti’s 1976 edition of them and follow Marotti’s editorial practices. Marotti’s angle brackets for the characters that Scala neglected to specify in his list of characters have been retained, as has Marotti’s addition of square brackets for the characters that Scala lists for each scene that are not syntactically integrated into his opening for the scene....

    • chapter five Day 6: The Jealous Old Man
      (pp. 125-150)

      The Jealous Old Man, the best known of Scala’s scenarios, is frequently summarized and praised, no doubt because the double plotting proceeds apace, there are no scenes of disguise, which are often difficult for a reader to follow, and the ending even summarizes the central action in a sort of novella.¹ The form seems more familiarly literary than that of most of Scala’s scenarios. Scala brilliantly solves the problem arising from the need to have the dramatic crisis (an illicit sexual intercourse between two young lovers) occur offstage, by providing an onstage festivity, consisting of storytelling, musical interludes, eating, dancing,...

    • chapter six Day 21: The Fake Sorcerer
      (pp. 151-180)

      The Fake Sorcererdoes not provide the clearly unified plotting ofThe Jealous Old Man. Instead it provides what Kenneth Burke has explained as a qualitative unity, not of structure but of feeling or tone, that one often finds in early modern drama, here in the relationship of contrasting tones:¹ melodramatic and farcical. The scenario brings together a large number of images of “the grotesque body” (pregnancy, urine, vomit, feces, drinking to excess, and eating) that Bakhtin identified with Carnival. Its further imagery, which Bakhtin would also have identified as carnivalesque, includes “festive” madness, suspension of the social distance between...

    • chapter seven Day 25: The Jealous Isabella
      (pp. 181-210)

      The Jealous Isabellacan be more clearly identified with a single source play than can most of Scala’s scenarios, namelyGl’ingannati, written in 1532 by a member or members of the Academy degli Intronati di Siena. Andrews helpfully details the relationship betweenGl’ingannatiandThe Jealous Isabella.¹ I examine the scenario, quite different fromGl’ingannati, in its own right as one of Scala’s very inventive works, just as others have examinedTwelfth Night, Shakespeare’s play, also based onGl’ingannati. Gl’ingannatiwent through fifteen editions before the end of the sixteenth century and was perhaps the most influential Italian play of...

    • chapter eight Day 36: Isabella [the] Astrologer
      (pp. 211-241)

      The genre to whichIsabella Astrologabelongs,commedia grave, was developed by playwrights in the latter half of the sixteenth century, notably by Sforza Oddi and Giambattista Della Porta. They borrowed from the romances andnovelleof the period to show heroic intent, tragic potential, and exalted self-sacrifice. They began with an unhappy situation that was attributed to fortune and typically subjected their strong female heroines to various trials and adventures, throughout which they exhibited their constancy in love. Consistent with the relative seriousness of the scenario, the plot unravelling depends not on trickery but on the resourcefulness of an...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 242-244)

    I began, in Mark Edmondton’s words, to befriend Scala’s scenarios. I read them as Scala said he wanted them to be read, as a mirror of life, making clear what that would have meant for him in the context of the ideas about representation in the period. I read them, as Scala’s close friend Francesco Andreini referred to them, as plays, in all but the words. I read them not merely as iterations of earlier literature, dramatic and otherwise, although they surely are that, but as we might read any literature, as independent works of art. I read them in...

  8. Appendix: List of All Scala Scenarios
    (pp. 245-250)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 251-290)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 291-312)
  11. Index
    (pp. 313-328)