The Influence of Commedia dell’arte on Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare Commedia dell’arte had great influence of Shakespeare’s comedy “Much
Ado About Nothing”. This form of theatre shows many comparisons to
the Shakespearian comedy. Commedia dell’arte created elements within a
comedy that became standards across comedic literature. Love,
deception, matters of out witting one another and jealousy are
components that make up the back bone to a comedy. “Shakespeare made
use of many typical elements found in commedia scenarios” (McQuinn,
Anne), creating plots that parallel those of the Italian comedies. The
characters in Commedia dell’arte have somewhat universal traits and
stereotypical characterizations that were able to cross over into
Shakespeare’s Elizabethan period of writing. Although the
Shakespeare’s plays did not take on the exact form of Commedia
dell’arte; many themes, characters, societal and social based plots
blended into “Much Ado About Nothing”.
Commedia dell’arte is the Italian meaning of “comedy of the
professional artists” (Wikipedia). It is a form of improvisational
theatre that follows a “rough storyline, called Canovaccio”
(Wikipedia). This allowed for the actors to express themselves
fully, as there was no written script to follow. Since the actors had
free will over the script “the dialogue and action could easily be
made topical and adjusted to satirize local scandals, current events,
or regional tastes, mixed with ancient jokes and punch lines”
(Wikipedia). Shakespeare bases most of his plays, including “Much
Ado About Nothing”, on the mockery and lifestyle of the aristocrats.
Although his plays are not improvised, he was influenced in his
writings by the expressed art form of the Commedia dell’arte. “Art
always reflects the cultural sentiments within the society from which
it stems” (McQuinn, Anne), the art of commedia allowed for Shakespeare
to create stories which reflected societal views of the aristocrats.
It was “entertainment by the people and for the people; and it is this
very close relationship with humanity which gives this highly
theatrical form its life” (McQuinn, Anne).
Commedia dell’arte offered Shakespeare rich and thoughtful stock
storylines that created the base of a universal plot. “Commedia found
the depth within its performances to cover both the genres of comedy
and tragedy” (McQuinn, Anne) as did Shakespeare in “Much Ado About
Nothing”. A “comedy, beginning in turmoil but ending in harmony,
celebrates life; but tragedy's course from prosperity to calamity
expresses rejection of life” (Snyder, Susan- session 2). “Much Ado
About Nothing” could of end up as a potential tragedy with the unjust
and false accusations...