Commedia Dell’arte in English Literature – Meaning & Characteristics


“Commedia Dell’arte” was a popular form of Italian theatre that was introduced during the Renaissance period. Although originating in Northern parts of Italy, it reached its heights in Europe in the 15th century. 

Characteristics of the Commedia Dell’arte:

Physical Comedy:

Commedia Dell’arte was a crucial development in theatre and drama, especially comedy. In this form, physical comedy, such as slapstick comedy, is mainly used. 

Stock Characters:

Stock characters are used wherein the audience is aware of who they are but they perform with the usage of masks. This obscuring is done to draw attention to the archetypal characteristics they represent. 

Common Characters:

The three common fixed characters are The Servants (Arlecchino or Columbina), The Masters (Pantalone) and The Lovers (Isabella and Flavio). 


To heighten the entertainment value of such plays, characters often indulge in spontaneous dialogues, improvised acting, and comedic plots such as mistaken identity, humorous love, and so on. 

Commedia Dell’arte Major Poets List and Their Important Works:


More than single individuals, Commedia Dell’arte was effectively made to reach a wider audience and garner fame and success were Comici Dell’arte troupes. Some of the notable ones were the ‘Confidenti’, the ‘Gelosi’, and the ‘Fedeli’. 

Dario Fo:

Fo was a prominent playwright. He also acted in the plays and wrote them inspired by Commedia Dell’arte. His most famous works were “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” and “Tutta casa, letto e chiesa (All House, Bed, and Church)”. 


Molière was a French playwright who interweaved elements of Italian Commedia Dell’arte in his plays. Famous works of his include “The Misanthrope”, and “Tartuffe”. 

Comedy of Humors in English Literature – Meaning & CharacteristicsConclusion:

Hence, Commedia Dell’arte was an important milestone in the history of English drama, the effects of which can be seen in contemporary drama