As seen in True Colors, the Elder Races have their own winter holiday celebration called the Masque of the Gods, which culminates in the Festival of the Masque on the winter solstice. For the next week, join us in celebrating the Masque with seven days of winter solstice giveaways. Every day you’ll have a chance to enter to win a gift pack that includes one copy of Lord’s Fall, a bookmark, dragon soap made by Thea Harrison, a coupon for 30% off the Elder Race novellas (including True Colors), and a holiday card from Thea. To enter, just comment on the daily posts and then enter your information via the Rafflecopter form (embedded in the post or click on the link). You can get extra entries by signing up for Thea’s newsletter and tweeting about the giveaway.
Once again, thank you all for your interest in Thea’s novels and happy holidays!
The Commedia dell’Arte
The commedia dell’arte flourished in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy and France. While the bauta and moretta were Venice’s most common masks, many masks for the Venetian Carnevale were taken from commedia characters. Basically the commedia was a mixture of what we would today call vaudeville and improvisational comedy. The players in a commedia would use stock characters and situations to comment on contemporary events and politics.
There were tons of characters in the commedia, each with their own personality and costume that usually mocked real-life “types”: aristocrats, doctors, immigrants, merchants, and so forth. Some of the more famous characters you’ve probably heard of were Scaramouche, Pierrot, Pulcinella, Innamorati, and Harlequin.
Some characters “belonged” to certain cities and became the symbol for its citizens. Harlequin spoke the dialect of Bergamo, a town in Lombardy. Venice’s stock character, meanwhile, was Pantalone or Pantaloon. Pantaloon dressed like a foolish old merchant in a red costume, black cape, and red Turkish-style slippers. The Pantalone mask had a hooked nose, and the actor playing him usually hunched his shoulders and always spoke in a Venetian dialect. The word Pantaloon is said to be a combination of pianta lione, “to plant the lion,” referencing the symbol of Venice’s patron saint (of course, no one REALLY knows where the name came from). Pantalone is known for being avaricious, paranoid, patriotic, and obsessed with conquering the world through trade. As Peter Ackroyd writes in Venice: Pure City, “He represents Venice’s uneasy conscience.”
If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because the commedia may have passed in popularity, but its characters did not! Mr. Burns on the Simpsons, for example, is a perfect example of Pantalone carrying on in a modern setting, right down to the hunched shoulders.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the beginnings of opera and the music of Venice. Today let us know what stock character you’d invent for the commedia to represent your own city in the comments!
Remember, you must enter using the Rafflecopter form. Winners will be randomly selected and notified by December 23rd. All contest entries close December 22nd at 11:59 MST. This contest is open internationally.