Commedia Dell' Arte and Moliere

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Commedia Dell’ Arte was a distinctive form of stage art in the 1600’s and the famous playwright Moliere furthered its acceptance and import throughout his life. Originating in Italy, the popular art form spread quickly with the aid of traveling troops. One area that was greatly affected by this form of theater was France. The French people adored this theater and made it fit in with their culture. This can be seen in an essay by Gustave Lanson when he states, “In Paris Italian farce had replaced French farce.” The success of Commedia Dell’ Arte during the reign of Charles IX is well-known” (Lanson, 137). This effect can be seen through one of the country’s most famous playwrights, Moliere. Moliere was a renowned playwright and actor that continues to be well-known today. He was greatly influenced by Commedia Dell’ Arte. “Well-known definitions of the Commedia Dell’ Arte are that it was a semi-literary form of theatrical performance based primarily upon effective gestures and lazzi, and involving a limited number of generally accepted types who in their contrasting relation provide the setting for a light and flimsy action linked somehow by the eternal theme of love”( 704). His showing of the art form can be seen through his three most famous plays Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, and The Imaginary Invalid. As Lanson stated, “From soiling the noble and pure conception of comic genius given to us by The Misanthrope and Tartuffe” (Lanson, 134). With the progression from an earlier play to his final play, we can see where Moliere used aspects of Commedia Dell’ Arte and where he veered away to fit his own personal tastes and that of France’s. Moliere was born Jean-Baptise Poquelin in 1622 to a father who was an upholsterer for th...

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...seen were Moliere applied Commedia and were made to fit in the French form in the The Imaginary Invalid. The French had a tight hold upon theater in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was seen as political propaganda and anything that was put on the stage was heavily criticized. Moliere, being a prominent playwright, had to endure these criticisms. Moliere was greatly influenced by this form of theater, and it can be seen where he used it and where he applied Neo Classicism, the other popular art form. By looking at his three most famous plays, Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, and The Imaginary Invalid, through Commedia Dell’ Arte, with the characters, plot line, the authorship or structure, it can be seen where Moliere had his influence and when it was applied. “The tradition in playing Moliere is preserved in France by the Comedie Francaise” (Bertram-Cox,am-cox, 301).

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