Imitation Is Flattery: How The Commedia Dell'arte Influenced The Work Of Molière

2521 words - 10 pages

Imitation is Flattery : How The Commedia Dell'Arte Influenced the Work of Molière Grace Hutchinson V00803689The great French playwright Molière wrote many fantastic and original works, but it is undeniable that the Italian Commedia Dell'Arte heavily influenced his writing through the characters, plot devices, and physical comedy. Commedia Dell' Arte, or "Comedy of the Artists", was popular before and during Molière's lifetime, and the characters and devices used would become very noticeable in his work. It is not difficult to see where these prompts came from, as "Molière lived and worked cheek by jowl with Italian actors, had Italian play scripts in his personal library, and was subject therefore to a heavy stream of influence". To examine the connections between Commedia and Molière, one need look no further than to two of his most celebrated works, Tartuffe and Don Juan. The similarities in Tartuffe are most noticeable through the plot, and the obvious connection to the stock characters from Commedia Dell'Arte. Although Don Juan also has some similar characters, the plot is not very similar. The biggest relation from Don Juan to Commedia is through his use of lazzi, a type of physical comedy specific to Commedia. The connection between Molière's beloved comedic plays and the Italian Commedia Dell'Arte makes itself readily apparent, and the influences are noticeably great. [1: Andres 444][2: Andrews 444][3: Gaines 263]Molière's work being compared to the Italian Commedia has been discussed frequently, with opinions ranging from it being merely influenced to it being downright plagiarism. There are moments in his works that do go beyond light influence, such as in Don Juan. This play has been critiqued many times for borrowing ideas for his plays. "Molière actually used existing scenarios from [commedia] in fashioning his story". When he was writing new plays, it is said about his writing process that "it usually involved a systematic recycling of old material- of jokes and routines... and of plot units (such as in the Don Juan story)". Although not evident from the scripts, Molière apparently also used masks as they did in Commedia Dell'Arte. "Molière also incorporated masks into his work, but instead of simply using them to define character types, Molière used the masks as a metaphor for the masks people wear to hide their true selves". It is hard to support this from the plays as there is no obvious reference to it, but it is interesting to know this while considering Molière and the influence of the Commedia Dell' Arte.[4: Andrews 447][5: Gaines 96][6: Andrews 447][7: Bruegge]In Molière's Tartuffe, the many similarities between his characters and plot devices and those of the Commedia Dell'Arte are abundantly clear. One of the key aspects of traditional Commedia Dell'Arte is the plotline of two young lovers being kept apart by other characters. This...

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