Pulcinella in 1700 (1860) by Maurice Sand, found in Masques et bouffons: comédie italienne.
Maurice Sand is the son of famous French writer George Sand. She was a prolific writer and a woman of extraordinary vitality. She and composer Frédéric Chopin were very close friends, lovers I believe.
I looked at my post this morning, but suddenly it disappeared. I had a copy of my article and reinserted it. However, it was missing a few sentences and I had not printed the images. Besides, I had no captions and older versions of the post surfaced.
The post has been rebuilt. I can’t understand what happened.
Pulcinella (Polichinelle) was a scapegoat among stock characters of the commedia dell’arte.
Below is an excerpt from an article I posted in 2014, when our topic was the commedia dell’arte. Pantalone is a mask, a stock character. His name may differ from play to play, but his function, or role, does not change. He is the blocking character, or the obstacle to the marriage of comedy’s young lovers, the innamorati of the commedia dell’arte and, in the case of Pantalone, money prevents the marriages that comedy favours. He is an ancestor to Molière’s Harpagon, L’Avare‘s protagonist.
The portrait I am featuring above is by Maurice Sand, whose full name is Jean-François-Maurice-Arnauld, Baron Dudevant (1823–1889). He was the son of writer George Sand (1 July 1804 – 8 June 1876), who separated from her husband, but brought up her son Maurice and daughter Solange (1828–1899). She may be the most colourful woman in 19th-century France and a prolific author. We will discuss George Sand in a future post.
Molière (15 January 1622 – 17 February 1673) was influenced by the comédie italienne and, in particular, by the commedia dell’arte. He once shared a theatre with the Italians. Moreover, Molière’s first troupe, L’Illustre Théâtre, went bankrupt in 1645, the year it was founded. Molière spent 24 hours in jail and then left Paris and toured the provinces until 1658. We do not have the text of the many comedies he performed during the 13 years he lived outside Paris, but he may have posted a canevas, the plot, and members of his troupe improvised their role as did the actors of the commedia dell’arte.
Pantalone is a heavy father or an alazôn, the blocking character of comedy, or the person who opposes the young lovers’ marriage. As for Pantalone, he is a ‘needy’ blocking character or Pantalon de’ Bisognosi, Italian for ‘Pantalone of the Needy.’ His name derives from San Pantaleone, or Saint Pantaleon. (See Pantalone and Saint Pantaleon, Wikipedia.) As an alazôn, Pantalone is the opponent of the victorious eirôn (as in the word ironic), who helps bring about the marriage of the young lovers. The role, or function, of the alazôn may be played by several characters such as a braggart soldier, a miles gloriosus, or a pedant, il dottore. Roman playwright Plautus (c. 254–184 BCE) wrote the Aulularia, featuring the miser Euclio.
Pantalone is an ancestor to Molière’s L’Avare(The Miser).L’Avare‘s other ancestor is Euclio, the miser featured in Aulularia, the pot of gold, a play by Roman dramatist Plautus. Molière’s Miser wasfirst performed on 9 September 1668, in the theatre of the Palais-Royal, lethéâtre du Palais-Royal. Harpagon is a descendant of Plautus’ Euclio (see L’Avare, Wikipedia).
My article on Molière’s L’Avare(The Miser) is ready for posting, but it is too long. This post will help me make it shorter. L’Avare originates in Greek Old Comedy and Greek New Comedy (Menander c. 342/41 – c. 290 BCE). He may be a type in the Latin Fabula palliata and Atellan Farce, but Molière’s best known-sources are Plautus‘ Aulularia and the commedia dell’arte. Money, or lack thereof, is a common obstacle to the marriage of comedy’s young lovers. As we will see in a future post, Molière’s L’Avare features two young couples and two father figures.
You may notice that a large number of individuals can be associated with Plautus’ Miles gloriosusand the commedia dell’arte‘s Pantalone, il Dottore and il Capitano. Comedies, farces in particular, often feature a boastful character. But Molière’s L’Avare is the depiction of a miser, a less prominent figure than boastful characters.
Pantalone is dressed as Pantalone and his costume is part of his mask. It is always the same and he looks like a hunchback. However, he is not Victor Hugo‘s Hunchback of Notre-Dame(1831). He is a hunchback because of the bag of money he conceals. Pantalone is lustful, jealous, deceitful, selfish, lazy, full of himself (“Il Magnifico”), but, above all, greedy.
Pantalone is the metaphorical representation of money in the commedia world. (See Pantalone, Wikipedia.)
Pantalone is “di bisognosi” (dans le besoin, the needy).
Other than his hunch, Pantalone wears a red cap, red tights, yellow Turkishslippers, a short vest and a long coat. (continue reading)
The character featured above is Brighella. As we know, Beaumarchais‘ Figaro is the culmination of the commedia dell’arte‘s Brighella. However, as Figaro, Brighella is no longer a “thief, a bully, and an intriguer.”[i] He is a clever and relatively good zanni, but he nevertheless wrestles Susanna away from Count Almaviva and becomes a national hero. Interestingly, although a bevy of French Enlightenment philosophes, from Montesquieu, to Voltaire, Diderot, Jean le Rond d’Alembert, Rousseau, etc. wrote thousands of pages on the societal ills of l’Ancien Régime, Figaro, one fictional character, drove the message home.
To what extent the Count had a droit du seigneur, i.e. the right to be the first man to sleep with the bride, we cannot know. The Church was very powerful, so I doubt very much that this “right” was listed in law books. It may have been a case of entitlement.
Bergamo: Arlecchino and Brighella
Bergamo: the Birthplace of Harlequin and Brighella
Brighella‘s importance is due not only to the role he ends up playing in France, as Figaro, but he is also connected to Bergamo, an area of current Northern Italy located near Milan. Bergamo is the birthplace of Arlecchino (Arlequin, Harlequin) and Brighella. Similarly, French dramatist Beaumarchais’ plays are the birthplace of a French Brighella, our Figaro, who differs from the commedia dell’arte‘s Brighella, but not that much.
Bergamo remembered: Debussy and Fauré
Which takes us to music. I will mention two composers. The first is Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918), who composed the lovely Suite bergamasque.The second, in alphabetical order, is Gabriel Fauré’s (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924), the composer of Masques et Bergamasques. These are compositions inspired by the commedia dell’arte and written not long before Picasso started to paint Arlequins and guitars, or related instruments. The influence of the commedia dell’arte on French dramatists, comedians, artists and composers is considerable.
The Comédie italienne in France
In fact, France long had both its Comédie française and its Comédie italienne (until the second half of the nineteenth century). Italian comedians were driven out of France in 1697, because of a play entitled La Fausse [false] Prude. This play was offensive to Louis XIV‘s second wife, Madame de Maintenon. However, the Italians were soon recalled (in 1716). The plays of Marivaux (4 February 1688 – 12 February 1763) and Beaumarchais (24 January 1732 – 18 May 1799) are eloquent testimonials concerning the commedia dell’arte‘s influence on the history of French theatre.
Brighella’s Appearance and Gait
Brighella’s “wears a white shirt, black pants with a green tassel hanging from the side, a white cap, a belt with a purse, and a dagger.” His mask “is accented with a hooked nose, fleshy cheeks, and large eyebrows. He conveys a cynical-mawkish appearance.” (See Brighella.) He is a first among zanni and is never outdone. Zanni may originate in the lower classes, but without zanni, there may not be a happy ending to comedy. Brighella is smarter than Arlecchino (see Brighella, Wikipedia).
Distinguishing commedia dell’arte characters from one another includes the manner in which they move, which indicates they were professionals actors.
“Brighella’s weight is placed on a bent leg. The other is extended, lightly touching the ground. His elbows are up with his hands spread out. Whether or not he is moving, his feet are constantly moving, dancing back and forth. Like Arlecchino, his back is curved at the lumbar region. When Brighella walks, his head stays in place, but his legs come up to the side and his torso sways from side to side. It is a very soft walk, similar to tip-toeing, the difference being that his legs are spread.” (See Brighella.)
Wikipedia lists the names of characters modelled on Brighella. It’s impressive. By and large, Brighella’s descendants are gentler than their ancestor. The list includes Scapino, Mezzetino, Mascarille, Sganarelle, Turlupin, Figaro, etc. Brighella-Sganarelle is Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni (K 527).
Molière (1722 – 1673) was both an actor and a dramatist. He therefore played the following Brighella associated roles:
There is conflicting information regarding Brighella. According to some sources, he is a villain who fizzles out. Yet, if Figaro is heir to Brighella, he is clever and swift, but he is not a villain. It could be that Watteau‘s Fêtes galantes depictions of figures from the commedia dell’arte transformed Brighella and that the comédie larmoyante (the tearful comedy) and bourgeois drama reshaped the original Brighella, though not completely. I’ll remember him as an ancestor to Figaro. Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro and Rossini’s Barber of Seville. I suspect figures from the commedia dell’arte will remain a favourite with artists and composers: Debussy, Fauré, Mozart, Rossini…
And we close the commedia dell’arte series.Characters may reappear. They’re everywhere. For quick information, I suggest About.com, listed under sources and resources, below.