Writing for the Elite

Molière, Marivaux, and Beaumarchais

Authored by: Elizabeth C. Goldsmith

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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In the court and capital of France, the world of theatre in the century leading up to the French Revolution was one that catered to the increasing literacy and sophistication of elite audiences. It was also a world that had to contend with a tightening of official mechanisms of censorship. Actors working in the Commedia dell’Arte tradition found themselves regularly targeted, most dramatically in 1697 when the principal troupe of Italian players in Paris were expelled from the city. But the vernacular culture of slapstick, fairground entertainment, and physical comedy retained its popularity with even the most aristocratic of audiences. The high classicism of tragic drama was only part of the picture in the development of French theatre in the age of Louis XIV. Elite audiences remained open to popular culture, and their increasing fascination with the visual theater of everyday life created opportunities for actors and playwrights to give new depth to the familiar masked characters from the Commedia.

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