The Old Man’s Spectacles

Commedia and Shakespeare

Authored by: Andrew Grewar

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


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Shakespeare’s direct references to the characters and methods of the early Italian Commedia dell’Arte, together with the many distinctly Italianate elements of his early comedies, lead one to speculate about the nature of his acquaintance with the Italian popular comedy. Although it is widely acknowledged that he drew on contemporary Italian plays as a source for incident and plot, a purely literary analysis of the debt does not adequately explain his access to this source material. Although his ultimate sources may have been ancient Roman drama or the recent Italian Commedia Erudita, Shakespeare’s immediate dramatic model appears to have been the Commedia dell’Arte, with its reworking of both classical and neo-classical materials.

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