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Character, as Cicero * describes it, is exactly the modern Harlequin. The Sieur Riccoboni bestows a great deal of Criticism and Erudition to confute Monsieur Carlodati and Monsieur Menage, who are of opinion that Zanni is not derived from the Latin Sannio,. but is a Lombard Cor. ruption of the Word Gioanni or Gianni, which Name they observe (to support theirConjecture) is applied ftill to express Ridicule and Contempt. But however that be, it is of no great importance to our Author's main Design in this place, viz. to prove the Similitude of Harlequin's Character to that of the ancient Sannio, nor can it in the least hinder him to conclude as he does.
“ It therefore plainly appears, by what we “ have said in this and the preceding Chapter, s that one Species of the Latin Comedy has
been continued, and still subsists in Italy, un*“ der the Name of the Italian Comedy; whereas “ other Nations have been a long time without
any kind of Comedy at all, and those which “ they act at present, are but Imitations of the “ regular Comedy of the Latins, which we have “ mentioned before: but these Comedies cannot $5 pretend, like the Italian Comedy, to be im6 mediately deriv'd from the Latin Comedy:" . • Our Author observed before, that two Causes concurr'd to destroy the ancient Stage : The Preaching of the Chriltians, and the Decay of Literature, by the Invasion of the Barbarians. But as the last of these Causes could only affect Tuch Entertainments of the Stage, as stood in need of police Literature to support them ; so the Mimicks, Sanniones or Planipedes might, and
probably * Quid enim potest tam ridiculum quam Sannio effe ? qui ore, vultu, imitandis motibus, voce, corporę denique ridc tur tota.
probably did continue to amuse, and divert the People with their ridiculous Grimaces and coarse Ribaldry, in the times of the greatest Barbarism. We know from Casiodorus *, that they were in being at least about the middle of the sixth Century; and St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the beginning of the thirteenth Century, speaks of an Histrionatus Ars exercised: in his Time, and for many Ages before, which he to and after him St. Antonin #allow, under proper Regulations, to be both lawful and necessary. And therefore since the Opinion of chele Divines concerning the Histriones, was so different from chat of || St. Augustin and § Lactantius, it is to be imagined, that by that time the Ars Hitrionatus had been in some measure accommodated to the Rules of Christianity, and practised to as not to be offensive to Religion: and, in short, that the fame Farces which the Pagan Hiftriones acted agreeably to their Religion and Curtoms, were now exhibited by Christians cong fiftently wich theirs. Our Author remarks; .....! Ff 3
* Conftituatur à vobis pralini Pantomimus ; quatenus fumptum quem pro Spectaculo Civitatis impendimus, electis contulisse videamur. Caffiod. L. I. Epift. 20,
+ Ludus eft neceffarius ad conservationem vitæ humanæ ;& ideo etiam officium Histrionum quod ordinatur ad folarium hominibus exhibendum,non eft fecundum fe illicitum. Dummodo moderate ludo utantur, 'illi qui eis moderate subveni. unt, non peccant, fed juste faciunr mercedem minifterii eis tribuendo. S. Thom. 2. 2. quæft. 168. Art. 3. .
# Histrionatus Ars, quia defervit humanæ recreationi, de se non eft illicita, unde & de illa arte vivere non eft prohibitum. S. Anton. part. 3. cit. 8, cap. 4. .. .
Donare res fuas Histrionibus Vitium eft immane. St, August. fup. Joan. : $ Hiftrionum impudicisfimi motus quid aliud nisi libidines docent & instigant, Histrionum impudicissimi geftus in quibus infames feminas imitantur, libidinefque quas faltando exponunt, docent. Lactan. L. 6. Div. Instir. Cap.20.
that the Profeffion of the Stage being call'd Hiftrionatus Ars, and the Actors Histrionés, in the time of Aquinas, is a strong Confirmation of his Opinion, that they were the Descendants of the ancient Mimi, who were call’d Histriones ; because, together with their ridiculous Gestures, - they acted the Ludi Attellani, which the Roo' mans borrow'd from the People of Attella, who called their Actors Histriones, .......
"Till the fifteenth Century there were no other Stage-Entertainments in Italy but these extempore Farces; and then (our Author thinks) they begun to write regular Comedies, after the manner of Plautus and Terence, because the Language began in that Age to be polish'd and refined by Dante, Petrarch, Boccace and others; and that fome of the printed Plays, supposed to be com: posed about the Beginning of the sixteenth Century, were taken from Manuscripts compoled long before. However, about the Year 1500, a great number of excellent Tragedies were composed both in Prose and Verse by the Wits that adorn'd that Age, as the Cardinal Bibiena, Ariosto, Trillino, Rucellai, D'Ambra, and many others. :
About this time the Arts and Sciences being reviv'd in Italy, and the Goût for them cantinually prevailing, many Societies and Acade, mies of learned Men were instituted. In these Academies they acted the regular Pieces that were composed for the Theatre, for their own Amusement, and to try to reform the Taste of the Age. But those that made the Stage their Profeffion, continued in their old way, knowing it would turn to better account for gain, Flaminio Scala, a famous Comedian, and Head ofa Company, still contined to act the common
: .. .. Harlequin
Harlequin Farces, which he indeed put into a. better shape, and gave printed Sketches or Plans of them, which were nothing else but a sort of larger Bills, giving a simple account of what was to be represented on the Srage:which was a thing entirely new, and which none of the profeffed Players, before himself, had ever done. By this means he acquir'd the Reputation of the best : Comedian of the. Age, which we are to under: stand only of professed Players ; for none could imagine, that his extempore incoherent Farces were comparable to the regular and beautiful Pieces that were composed by Lasība, Secchi, and other excellent Writers in his time: tho', com pard with the Harlequin Farces of former Playt ers, they mighi, be esteem'd a confiderable ime: provement of the Scage. It is worth remarking, that in his time Women were : first introduced upon the Stages before; (as Cechini informs usy Boys acted in Women's Clothes;"
Thus we fee: it was long before the Staged players would hazard the acting a regular. Piece, knowing the Taste of the Publick to run most upon that low Humour and Bufsoonery, which good Comedies don't admit of: however, we find, that afterwards the Tragedies and Comes dies which had been acted formerly in the Aca4 demies, were acted over again by the publick Players, besides many new ones that were com posed on purpose for them ; tho' no doubt, at the same time chey frequently exhibited their Harlequin Shows. This was the State of the Stage till the Beginning of the feventeenth Cen. tury, when the Belles Lettres and the Stage fell. considerably into decay in Italy; which our Aus. thor attributes to the Spaniards who were left by the Emperor Charles V. in Sicily, Naples and
Ff 4 - Milan ;
Soon that loe Taste
Milan; from thence came those monstrous Productions of Tragick Opera's, Tragi-comical Opera's, &c. Which, together with the Translations of the Spanish Tragi-comedies, entirely corrupted, and defaced the Beauty of the Italiane Stage.
The speaking different Dialects on the Stage, was first introduced (our Author thinks) by Ruzante, who died in the Year 1542 ; there being no account of it before, and its being in use so much soon after; as appears by The Theatre of Flaminio Scala, which he published in the Year 1611. It was, no doubt, well imagin'd to catch the Populace, who applauded with a fort of Emulation, whatever was spoke on the Stage, in the Dialect of the Country they belong'd to, insomuch, that there was hardly a Province of Italy but furnished its respective Masque or Character for the Stage. Hence the Pantaloon of Venice, the Beltrame of Milan, the Do&tor of Boulogne,' the Scaramoucb and Pollichinello of Naples, the Giangurgolo of Calabria, the Harlequin and Scapin of Bergama, &c. besides others introduc'd by, the Spaniards, who also spoke their Language on the Stage. Our Author at the End of his Book has given Copper-plates representing the Dress of these several Masques together with Explications of their several Characters and the Parts they acted. It is remark.. ablę,that during most of the seventeenth Century, when the Theatrical Pieces were so miserably bad, there were hardly ever better Actors on the Italian Stage ; infomuch, that they made themselves be taken notice of, and encouraged by the greatest Men of the Age, as Lewis XIII. of France, and others.