Celestial Sirens of the Commedia dell’Arte Stage

Authored by: Anne E. MacNeil

The Routledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  November  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415745062
eBook ISBN: 9781315750842
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613374

10.4324/9781315750842.ch26

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Abstract

The first descriptions we have of women performing in the Commedia dell’Arte are from July 1567, in the small town of Mantua, Italy, nestled in the delta of the river Po, along its tributary, the Mincio. The Roman Inquisition was in town, interrogating and torturing her citizens for possible religious heresy, and the Duke of Mantua, Guglielmo Gonzaga, commissioned a canon from the cathedral to report on events taking place around the city. So, Monsignor Antonio Ceruto wrote letters nearly every day to the Duke, describing what was going on around town. Despite his august title, Ceruto was a fun-loving man whose charge often centered on descriptions of musical and theatrical entertainments. He seems to have loved attending comedies and concerts, and his letters describe at length performances of comedies, tragedies, and laments by the first-known companies of professional comedians to feature prima donnas. (MacNeil 2012 and forthcoming)

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