Pantalone, or Pantalone del bisognosi, Italian for 'Pantalone of the needy', is one of the most important principal characters found in commedia del arte. With his exceptional greed and status at the top of the social order, Pantalone is "money" in the commedia world.
Commedia productions date back to Italy around the year 1560, making the origin for Pantalone's character quite difficult to determine. The most common explanation for the name "Pantalone" comes from the Italian phrase pianta leone, translated as "plant the lion." The lion may in fact refer to the crest of Venice, and Venice's conquests around the globe where Venetians have literally "planted the lion" flag. Pantalone's character is always a venetian old man, "a rich and almost miserly old merchant, always decrepit and stumbling". Pantalone is thought to be greatly based on the old, Venetian merchants of the time, known for their stingy and less than pleasant personalities.
The character of Pantalone is entirely based on money and ego, for he has the highest regards for his intelligence, "but at every step he becomes the butt for every conceivable kind of trick". With little else to occupy his thoughts after a life as a tradesman or merchant, Pantalone is the metaphoric representation of money in the commedia world. Pantalone is usually the father to one of the lovers, another stock character found in commedia comedies. He is driven to keep his child and their respective lover apart. Pantalone is presented either as a widower or bachelor, and despite his age, makes numerous passes at the women within the commedia world, "though he is always rejected". Pantalone never forgets a deal and his merit is based on actions, not words.
Despite his sinister and often inhumane treatment towards his fellows, Pantalone is perceived to be a pivotal part of commedia. His importance is represented in almost every commedia production; often placing him at the beginning of the comedy. In a commedia comedy, many zanni or lazzi routines will begin by an action delivered by Pantalone himself.
The costume of Pantalone brings his most ominous features to life. Pantalone is the most constant character within the commedia world, which is presumably why his costume has not been dramatically altered. He traditionally wears red tights and a red jacket, and at his belt, a dagger or sword. He wears a black hat and a black cloak with black slippers or shoes. A brown, muddy colored mask, complete with a hooked nose and beard or mustache completes Pantalone's traditional look. Some variations have been recorded, including "additions of spectacles and a [money] pouch".
Full article ▸