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The World of Harlequin : A Critical Study of the Commedia dell' Arte - Allardyce Nicoll

The World of Harlequin

A Critical Study of the Commedia dell' Arte

Paperback

Published: 4th May 1987
RRP $58.95
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The commedia dell'arte was an improvised drama performed by masked players. How did the actors react to these demands and limitations? What force kept this form of theatre alive for more than two centuries and made Harlequin such a potent image? In this study of the commedia dell'arte, originally published in 1987, Professor Nicoll's concern is not to provide an historical survey of its origins or to trace the ascent and descent of Harlequin or any or any other character or 'mask', but rather to explore critically the answers to these and related questions. His arguments are based on the evidence of the play scenarios and contemporary documents as far as possible, and are illuminated by many illustrations that are either little-known or had not previously been reproduced.

Playwrights and theater-mined readers no longer need shift their ground nor fear their partial ignorance when the long-vanished Commedia dell'Arte is up for cafe espresso discussion. Professor Allardyce Nicoll has definitively spiked that butterfly against the bookcase for all time. The exact nature of the original form and all its permutations during two hundred years of life throughout Europe are displayed and examined down to the last Italian thumbprint on these splendid wings. Professor Nicoll hangs the story of the art form upon the character Harlequin and his inner indestructibility despite costume fashions and change of theatrical methods. Harlequin is a servant with the mind of a fly, who can never think more than one, very simple thought at a time, and can't retain even that longer than a few seconds, so that his stage activity constantly shifts and develops in an absurdity which becomes its own logic. He gets things done by not getting them done. The triumphant satisfaction he derives from this often enough becomes reversed to utter despair when his master discovers his servant's error. The enormous detail Professor Nicoll invests his work with often enough reverses his triumph also. The reader suspects, as windblown and pedantic comparisons between Harlequin and Hamlet are made, that the author's "ho-ho!" could barely make it from the front bench to the stage. (Kirkus Reviews)

List of illustrations
Prologue - Hamlet and Harlequin
The comedy of skill
The four masks
The rest of the cast
The comic scene
Triumph and decline
Epilogue
Bibliography
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780521291323
ISBN-10: 0521291321
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 260
Published: 4th May 1987
Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIV PR
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 25.4 x 20.32  x 1.4
Weight (kg): 0.52