Zanni

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Zanni The Zanni are a character type of Commedia Dell’ Arte best known as tricksters. The Zanni comes from the countryside. The Zanni is known to be a “dispossessed immigrant worker”.[1] Throughout time, the Zanni grew to be a popular figure who were first seen in commedia as early as the fourteenth century.[2]

Contents

The Origin of the Name

The name Zanni can refer to one person or many people. One origin theory is that “The name Zanni was given to the two masks from Bergamo, Harlequin and Brighella, because they were, according to Quadrio, descendants of the snannio of the Atellana".[3] Zanni can be shortened to Zan if used to provide further identification of an individual. For example, Zan Ganasso in Italian Comedy is a name given to any character in commedia who not only does not have a name, but also doesn’t spark an interest in the reader to find out more about him.[4]

Actors

The performance of a commedia actor, relies on the acting itself. A scenario should be able to be done in different ways and come off to the audience as a different play each time they see it. The actors who play Zanni have to be clever and it is predetermined that they are equal in talent. This is said to be because an actor’s success relies primarily on his partner in the dialogue. If an actor has to act with someone who does not reply to him at the right moment or interrupts him in the wrong place, the actor’s “discourse falters and the liveliness of his wit is extinguished”.[5]

Costume and Mask

The Zanni’s costume usually consists of white baggy clothing.[6] The Zanni are also known to sport a peaked hat and a wooden sword.[7] The Zanni at first wore a full faced carnival mask, but because of the need for dialogue between Pantalone and the Zanni, the bottom of the mask was hinged and eventually cut away altogether. The longer the nose of the Zanni, the more stupid he is said to be.[8]

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