The Archetypes of Commedia (a selection)
The classic commedia characters who appear in The Miracle at Naples are the Innamorata, Capitano, Pulcinella, and Coviello. See if you can spot them when you watch the play!
ARLECCHINO, OR HARLEQUIN
Probably the most famous of the commedia figures, Arlecchino was a zanni, or servant, and his signature costume was a skin-tight body-suit of bright, multi-colored patches. He was physically adroit but mentally inept, embroiling himself in elaborate plots, not from deviousness, but from a charming capacity for distraction and numbskullery.
THE INNAMORATI (THE LOVERS)
The only characters not to wear masks, the innamorati dressed in the latest fashions and wore an exaggerated amount of make-up. Their comedy came from the exuberance of their passions, how in love they were with being in love. As such, they were just as funny as their fellow stock characters, and just as foolish.
The cowardly braggart, with a puffed out chest, a booming voice, and a boundless ego. Long past his prime (if he ever had a prime), he loves to promise great deeds but always finds excuses not to do them. Audiences love to see him cut down to size by the end of a scenario.
Hump-backed, hooked-nosed, and pot-bellied, Pulcinella is the ancestor of Punch of “Punch and Judy.” A parody of the poor, oppressed worker, he is deceitful because he has nothing to lose. He was the most popular commedia character in Naples and has since been associated with the Neapolitan temperament.
Also popular in Naples, Coviello is Pulcinella’s lower-class double. He is grimacing and silly, a servant with red cheeks and a nose the length of his face.
As Pulcinella was purebred Neapolitan, so Pantalone was thoroughly Venetian, the impossibly old former merchant whose addled brain was dominated by lust. He wore a tight red vest beneath a bathrobe-like coat, soft slippers, and a scraggly beard. The superior to everyone in his household, he always wound up everybody’s dupe.
Pantalone’s friend and confidant, the Doctor dresses in an academic’s robe and is as pompous about his learning as Capitano is about his courage — and equally as deficient. He loves to (mis)spout Latin when he’s not beating his servant or chasing an unfortunate young innamorata.
– Jason Fitzgerald