Monday, August 1, 2011

Will you do the Fandango?

A few nights ago a friend planted a song virus. The line she posted on her facebook status: "I see a little silhouette of a man..."  You know the reply! I bet you've already sung it in your head:

"Scaramouche Scaramouche will you do the fandango?"

Actually, his name is Scaramuccia and he was a stock character in la commedia dell'arte. The character was invented in the 1600s. He's "a big boastful clown" with affected speech and gestures.
"The exact origins of commedia dell’arte are unclear. Most scholars believe it was influenced by ancient Roman and Greek comedy and by the medieval traditions of carnival acrobats and jugglers."

Commedia was also the first time where women were accepted as performers. I suggest downloading the pdf linked above. It's a Student's Guide to Commedia and is well written and more informative than a mere wiki article. It also discusses how commedia is still influencing today's comedy entertainment, including everything from Saturday Night Live to the buffoonish dad popular on so many sit-coms. Commedia is the first situation comedy.

There were stock characters: the old man, the bufoon, the zanni (zany!) aka servants, the damsels, the heroes and so on. With each actor committed to a character, only the situation would change. Each had their routine comedy bits or tags which were used in every sketch (d'oh!).

Some of the regular "gags" aka lazzi:

Two servants carry in a ladder and spin around, hitting everyone as they set up (make em laugh!)

Pantalone, a stock character, was famous for having a comic heart attack (Fred Sanford: You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you honey!)

Scaramuccia was a later edition to the world of commedia, and thought to be derivative of an early character, Il Capitano. The first recorded commedia performance was in 1545. The fandango and Scaramuccia weren't invented until later. Can we guess his schtick was dancing the fandango? ;)

From the holy wiki:

Conventional plot lines were written on themes of adultery, jealousy, old age and love. Many of the basic plot elements can be traced back to the Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence, some of which were themselves translations of lost Greek comedies of the 4th century BCE

Recently I've been pulled towards studying the Italian Renaissance. Looks like this is the start!

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