The characters of the Commedia dell'Arte

The zanni
The old men
The capitan


The main characteristic of the Commedia dell'Arte
is the representative nature of its characters, which are the reflection of Italian society in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Its masks and buffoons create characters that preserve the traditions and costumes of their ancient origins, but are also caricatures and contemporary parodies, and every province provides a character according to its most prominent features.
Serenade of Pantalon at the end
of the XVIth century - Stockholm
   
Anfelo Beolco, called Ruzzante
The Commedia sostuneta has already shown the way by adapting the characters of the ancient plays, but it is really with Ruzzanti that these take on a new importance.
He is certainly one of the first to draw his inspiration from the popular substratum and to make the Italian people converse in the dialects of their provinces. But if he depicts the world of the countryside with humour, the suffering and anguish of the peasants are clearly felt and this realism worries his public.
The Commedia dell' Arte follows his example, but in order to please its audience, it deliberately accentuates the grotesque and the comical nature of the characters and circumstances.
However, it never forgets satire, portraying Italy in its everyday life and social differences.
Thus, each character is taken directly from the elements of historic reality. The types are numerous, but the best witnesses of their time are the zanni, the old men and the capitans.
One can find most of the main characters in the sketches and texts of the versions of Don Juan by the Commedia dell'Arte in the 17th century.