V. Italian Theatre and Drama
Around 1485, Italian rulers began to finance productions of Roman plays and imitations of them. This prompted interest in rewriting Roman plays into Italian as well as the writing of new plays. One of first important vernacular tragedy was Sofonisha by Giangiorgio Trissino. A chorus of 15 was used, in keeping with the number in the Roman choruses. Between the 14th and 16th centuries Renaissance drama developed in Italy, marking an end to medieval practices and a release of traditional Roman ways of presenting drama.
The neoclassical ideal was formed in Italy and spread throughout Europe. This ideal was characterized by an interest in literary theory and a desire to read and understand theoretical works such as Horace's Art of Poetry and Aristotle's Poetics. The neoclassical ideal demanded versimilitude which dealt with the strong appearance of truth. Because of versimilitude, fantasy and supernatural elements were avoided in neoclassical plays. The chorus and soliloquies were also discouraged. Reality was stressed in drama along with plays that teach moral lessons.
In Italy staging was made popular by using perspective architecture and painting. These methods gave audience members the illusion of distance and depth. Scenery and stages were raked or angled to increase the illusion and create a perspective setting. Books such as The Two Rules of Perspective Practice by Barozzi da Vignola and Nicola Sabbattini's Manual for Constructing Theatrical Scenes and Machines were guides for staging in Italy and the rest of Europe. Italians also came up with new methods of shifting scenery using wings and painted canvas coverings. The chariot and pole system of shifting scenery was created by Giacomo Torelli in 1641, and it was so popular it was used in other theatres throughout Europe.
The Italians were also interested in the architecture of the theatres themselves. The teatro olympico was built between 1580 and 1584 and was used for many productions. The teatro farnese at Parma was considered the prototype of the modern stage, and it boasted a large proscenium arch. The Italians used music and dance in most of their ceremonies, festivals, and theatrical presentations. Festivals were important and revived much of the lost spectacle of Roman times.
Commedia dell'arte was comedy of professional players. This was separate from amateur drama because of the high level of performances. Every aspect of the drama was top of the line from the scripts to the costumes. Two aspects of Commedia dell'arte were improvisation and stock characters. Some of the reason improvisation was so well done was because actors would play the same characters their whole lives. The strong reputations of the companies brought in huge audiences.
This page is the property of Scott R. Robinson and may not reflect the opinions of CWU nor any of its departments
Material on this web site may be used for educational purposed, if this footer is included.
Grateful appreciation is extended for all the links that assist in sharing this information with my classes.
All Rights Reserved © 2000 - 2010