Analyse the extracts from Teatro Comico by Carlo Goldoni. What aspects of the Commedia dell’Arte do they bring to the fore? Discuss the problematic issues raised by Goldoni through the characters and how these relate or conflict with the tradition of Commedia dell’Arte.
In Teatro Comico by Carlo Goldoni, the playwright, through his characters, sets out his vision to reshape and reshuffle the Commedia dell’Arte, seeking to breathe into it new life that would be able to better reflect the social climate of the time. In challenging the Commedia, Goldoni is faced with opponents who question this necessity, for its traditions were thought to be the backbone of the Italian Theatre; to remove them would threaten to bring comic theatre into disarray. This essay, in supporting Goldoni’s reform, will argue that these changes to the Commedia dell’Arte were a necessary and inevitable stage as the tastes and preferences of his audiences evolved. Furthermore, his proposals, in answering these societal changes, were able to ensure the Commedia’s survival and continued relevance to the public.
According to Goldoni, audiences were ready for a new genre of theatre that could offer more than the stock type characters, improvised, repetitive plot lines that they had been accustomed to. As Placida laments in the outset of the play: “Il mondo è annoiato di veder sempre le cose istesse, di sentir sempre le parole medesime”. What they craved were characters of substance who had individuality and real psychological complexity, something he viewed to be concealed by the character’s traditional masks. Moreover, audiences sought to remove vulgarity in the theatre altogether and push towards refined, sophisticated narratives that could teach lessons of good nature and morality. This desire of reform, which is expressed through the characters Placida and Orazio in the Teatro Comico, did not derive from Goldoni’s personal distaste, but rather as a result of an Enlightenment mentality which developed in the late 1700s that favoured rationality and good sense. Furthermore, in this same period, Venetian society was witnessing the emergence of the bourgeoisie middle class ‘intellectuals’ who were quickly gaining greater awareness of their positions in society . They too sought recognition for their role in society and Goldoni in seeking to fill this gap, took it upon himself to make plays that were more representative of this class of individuals. For Goldoni, the middle class would become his model characters, setting moral standards and embodying prudence and moderation in their behaviour . And so within this new social environment, Goldoni wanted to gradually move away from frivolous, light-hearted narratives to natural and realistic themes that could help promote positive social behaviours to aspire to.
Indeed, the new genre of theatre which Goldoni believed could bring the change needed was the commedia di carattere. In Teatro Comico, the characters allude to...