Follow TV Tropes


Commedia dell'Arte

Go To

A form of theatre developed in late-Renaissance Italy, Commedia dell'Arte ("artists' comedy") relied on a Universal-Adaptor Cast of stock characters, whose roles, characteristics, and costumes were well-defined and widely known. The troupe would take a scenario, which would outline the plot, and create their own dialogue and actions to tell the story. Contrary to popular belief, Commedia actors did not improvise their dialogue on the spot. Rather, they created the dialogue before performing the scenario.

The Commedia dell'Arte is an ancestor of the British tradition of Pantomime, which also relies on stock characters and audience interaction. It also set the stage (no pun intended) for the Romantic Comedy genre, and has been emulated by the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, William Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew is a particularly good example), Molière, P. G. Wodehouse, Bertolt Brecht (expertly retooled the stock characters in Mr Puntila and His Man Matti), A. A. Milne (albeit without the romance) and the writers of Black Adder and Fawlty Towers. It is entirely possible for a modern-day work to channel these archetypes unintentionally; they're just that ingrained into culture, and they work.

See Villainous Harlequin for a more contemporary depiction of this genre's most famous character.

    Commedia dell'Arte stock characters usually included: 
  • The Lovers (innamorati) Their romance tends to drive the plot whether or not they're the main characters. Frequently rather airheaded and reliant on their much smarter servants. Neither innamorati is masked; nor are they especially well-developed as characters, since their only functions are to be in love.
  • The Old People (vecchi) get in the way of the lovers' happiness; often, two of them (usually the Doctor and Pantalone) are the lovers' respective fathers. The innamorato's father may want to marry the innamorata himself.
    • The Captain (il Capitano): Blowhard, thinks he's God's gift to women, will turn out to have Feet of Clay. Often serves as the Romantic False Lead. If the innamorato's biggest rival for the innamorata's hand isn't his own father, it's this guy. Typically a disliked foreigner, often from Spain (as Spain, the superpower of the time, held political sway over Italy). Usually has an Overly Long Name (very common in Spanish nobility). A variant is Scaramuccia.
    • The Doctor (il Dottore, Graziano): No, (probably) not that Doctor. Often an Absent-Minded Professor type; often the father of one of the innamorati. If he's the father of the innamorata, then he will rarely have much plot relevance, and will just sort of hang around and be funny. A parody of the Bolognese laureate intellectual (Bologna has one of the world's oldest universities). Mostly portrayed as a doctor in law, usually intersperses his lines with dog Latin and mangled renditions of commonplace Latin sayings for comical effect. Sometimes a Know-Nothing Know-It-All. May go off on long free-associating tangents in an attempt to sound intellectual.
    • Pantalone: Often the father of the other innamorato/a. Rich and miserly. Keeps propositioning Colombina, the Dirty Old Man. Is also a Bad Boss to Arlecchino. Sometimes an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Based primarily on the stereotype of the rich Venetian merchant. Has a peculiar, shuffling walk, because he's always wearing Turkish sandals (Venice had a strong trade relationship with the Ottoman Empire). Note that unfortunately, this one is often an antisemitic caricture in old works both because of the All Jews Are Cheapskates stereotype and because Venice was known for having a large Jewish population (see The Merchant of Venice).
    • Tartaglia: Defined by his terrible stutter; is often blind as a bat as well. Often a priest, whose main role is to conduct whatever marriages happen at the end.
  • The Servants/Commoners (zanni, from whom we get the word "zany") Frequently the ones to ensure the marriages, as you can't count on the lovers being able to pull it off, and sometimes such a Spotlight-Stealing Squad that some versions, most notably the British "Harlequinade" that laid the foundations for pantomime, just plug Arlecchino and Colombina into the Innamorati's roles (which is admittedly not much of a stretch given Pantalone had the hots for Colombina even in the original commedia plays).
    • Arlecchino (Harlequin): Cheeky but loyal servant to Pantalone or the Doctor; audience favorite; usually drives the action. Can interact with the audience. Forms a Beta Couple with Colombina. Often a Big Eater or Lovable Coward, and tends to suffer Amusing Injuries. Although can also appear as an intelligent and/or amoral trickster. May also be a Bumbling Sidekick. Wears bells on his hat, and an outfit covered in red and black diamonds, and carries the original slap-stick. Known for acrobatic movements on stage. Varients include: Trivelino/Trivelin, Truffa/Truffaldin/Truffaldino, Guazetto, Zaccagnino, and Bagatino.
    • Colombina (Colombine, Columbine, Pierrette): Distaff Counterpart of Arlecchino; servant of the innamorata. Forms a Beta Couple with Arlecchino. Often the smartest/sanest person in the play. (What, you thought Women Are Wiser was a recent invention?) Usually plays a musical instrument, sings, dances, or does all three. Wears lots of bright colours. Also can be known as Arlecchina.
    • Pierrot (Pedrolino, Pedro): Loyal, hardworking, dependable servant; the story's Chew Toy. In love with someone, usually Colombina, who doesn't love him back. May be the Sad Clown. Usually dressed almost entirely in white, with a little bit of black. Variants include: Pedrolino, Burrattino, Bertoldo, Pagliaccio, Peppe Nappa, and Gian-Farina.
    • Brighella: Another greedy character, but much less rich than Pantalone. Sometimes a middle class shopkeeper or tavern owner instead of a servant. Has no problem lying through his teeth. Tends to be a Manipulative Bastard and a Lovable Rogue, perhaps even a Magnificent Bastard. Dresses in white with a bit of green, and probably plays the lute. Typically has a small, pointy beard. Variants include: Fenocchio, Flautino, Sbrigani, Franca Trippa/Francatrippa/Francatrippe, Turlupin/Tirelupin, Sgnarelle, and Gandolin.
    • Pulcinella (Polichinelo, Polichinelle, Punch): A hunchback or otherwise disabled/disfigured character, based on the stooping walk of Renaissance Italian coal carriers. Can be an idiot, can be a Genius Cripple. Very violent, especially towards Arlecchino and Pierrot, and speaks in an unusually squeaky voice. His name means "little chicken". The character is culturally attached to the city of Naples, where he originated and became a stock character in puppetry.
  • Other characters
    • La Signora: Often the wife of Pantalone and/or the mistress of Pedrolino, she is tough, beautiful and calculating but narcissistic. Sometimes a courtesan and often called Rosaura.
    • Beltrame: similar to Brighella, was either or both a shrewd villager and a blunderer who was always trying to appear of a higher rank than he really is.
    • Scapin/Scapino: similar to Brighella, and often seen as his brother or son, he was the more toned-down version. He's usually more interested in charming a servant girl or eating than carrying out Brighella's villainy.
    • Mezzetino: Often seen as the brother of Brighella, he is fond of the ladies even if they weren't fond of him. His character has many variations: a loyal or scheming servant or a deceitful or cuckolded husband.
    • La Ruffiana: An "old windbag" type; like the rest of the old people, she's out to thwart the innamorati.
    • La Strega: The witch. A relatively new character, La Strega is either portrayed as an intelligent manipulator who enjoys watching the chaos she creates, or a raving mad woman who frightens the other characters. She often provides love potions and other various items to the other characters.
    • The Pavironica family:
      • Sandrone: a crude, clever, and cunning peasant.
      • Pulonia: the wife of Sandrone.
      • Sgorghiguelo: the son of Sandrone.

Examples and references in modern media:

    open/close all folders 
    Anime and Manga 
  • A lot of the characters in Ranma ½ line up with Commedia archetypes.
    • Innamorato/Arlecchino: Ranma
    • Innamorata/Colombina: Akane
    • Il Capitano: Kuno, with some aspects of Pulcinella.
    • Pierrot: Ryoga, whose sad-sackery is an actual superpower.
    • Brighella: Nabiki, albeit a female example.
    • Pantalone: Happosai is the Dirty Old Man aspect of Pantalone taken to horrible extremes even for anime.
    • La Strega: Cologne
    Comic Books 
  • In one of the volumes of De Cape et de Crocs, a group of protagonists who get captured, are forced to perform one of these for their captors.
  • Batman: The name of Harley Quinn is a pun on Harlequin. Ironically, her character is more of a Composite Character of both the Harlequin and the Pierrot character due to her abusive and onesided relationship with the Joker.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Gunslinger Girl fanfic "Infidelity", Henrietta is taunted by a hallucination of a drunken man wearing a Brighella carnival costume.

  • Le Capitaine Fracasse (1961) and Captain Fracassa's Journey (1990), both based off the 1863 novel by Théophile Gautier, tell the story of an early 17th century French impoverished nobleman, the Baron de Sigognac, who joins a travelling Commedia dell'Arte' theatre troupe and comes to replace the actor who played the Capitano after his death, nicknaming himself "Capitaine Fracasse". Sigognac usually falls in love with the young actress playing The Ingenue, and goes through swashbuckler perils to save her from another nobleman who desires her for himself (though not quite the case in the 1990 film).
  • In On Guard, after escaping the killers of the Duke of Nevers with the Duke's baby daughter Aurore, Lagardère meets a traveling Italian Commedia dell'Arte troupe, and he and Aurore (as she grows up) hide among the troupe for sixteen years, even becoming stage actors themselves. This an Adaptation Deviation from the original novel, Le Bossu, where Lagardère and Aurore hide in Spain instead, and it was likely inspired by Le Capitain Fracasse, its adaptations mentioned above and a general trend of historical film coproductions between France and Italy in The '90s.
  • The cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fit this pretty well, for the most part:
    • Brad and Janet are the Lovers.
    • Eddie makes a passing Arlecchino.
    • Columbia, fittingly, is a Colombina.
    • Frank-N-Furter has elements of both The Captain (obviously "not from around here," Really Gets Around) and Pantalone (abusive of Eddie, his Arlecchino, hints of a relationship with Columbia.)
    • Riff Raff is a dead giveaway as the Pulcinella, hunchback and all.
    • The Criminologist is perfect as the Doctor.
    • The others are a bit of a stretch - presumably Rocky as the Pierrot, Magenta as the Brighella, and Dr. Scott as the Tartaglia.
  • The Marx Brothers fit the archetypes quite nicely.
    • Groucho: Arlecchino, though with aspects of Brighella, given his costant schemes.
    • Chico: Brighella
    • Harpo: Pierrot. A Night at the Opera even has a scene of him dressing up in the costume that he stole from a production of Pagliacci.
    • Zeppo: In early productions, the Innamorato. Later on, he becomes a more toned-down Arlecchino for Groucho to boss around, before leaving the pictures altogether, in favour of...
    • Alan Jones: Innamorato all the time.
    • Margaret Dumont: Columbina, or a Gender Flip of Il Dottore.
  • Andre Moreau of Scaramouche is a heroic fugitive who goes undercover in the commedia dell arte troupe his beloved Lenore acts in, discovering an unexpected talent for slapstick.
  • The cast of Beauty and the Beast fits nicely:
    • Belle and the Beast: Innamorati (main romantic leads of the movie, although much more fleshed out than the usual innamorati)
    • Gaston: Il Capitano (vain, boasting antagonist who lusts for Belle)
    • Maurice: Il Dottore (Absent-Minded Professor, father of the innamorata)
    • LeFou: Pulcinella (ugly and stupid servant of the main antagonist)
    • Lumiere: Arlecchino (smart, confident and flirty leader of the Beast's servants)
    • Cogsworth: Pierrot (Butt-Monkey, although lacks the "hopeless lover" trait of the usual Pierrot)
    • Mrs. Potts and Fifi the Feather Duster have the traits of Colombina divided between them: Mrs. Potts embodies Women Are Wiser, while Fifi is Lumiere's love interest
    • Monsieur D'Arque: Brighella (cunning and greedy minor villain)
  • Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach is a 1952 film Homage to Commedia dell'Arte, bringing the style to cinema with legendary actress Anna Magnani playing Colombina.
  • Charlie Chaplin's Limelight features a ballet - "Harlequinade" with the Commedia dell'Arte characters.
  • Moulin Rouge! is an example with Christian and Satine as the innamorati, The Duke and, to a lesser extent, Zidler, as the Old People trying to keep them apart, and Toulouse and the Bohemians as the Servants trying to keep them together. The difference is that The Lovers are the ones clearly driving the plot while the Servants are more sidelined. It also does not have a happy ending.
  • The Comedy of Terrors, not dissimilar to the Fawlty Towers example below, is a version without the innamorati (or perhaps with them becoming Composite Character versions with the servants—the only romance in the film is between two lower-to-middle-class characters).
    • Waldo Trumbull, the scheming and greedy undertaker, is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist Brighella, though with elements of Pantalone in his mistreatment of Gillie and tendency to get Distracted by the Sexy.
    • Gillie, his long-suffering mistreated employee and general Butt-Monkey, is for most of the film a pretty clear Pierrot with a typically gloomy attitude. He is in love with his employer's wife Amaryllis, in a way that initially seems pretty hopeless. Though unlike most versions he gets a happy ending with Amaryllis.
    • Amaryllis is then Columbina, though not as intelligent as some versions. She still tends to come across as somewhat more reasonable than the other characters in scenes with Trumbull and Hinchley. And she sings...horribly.
    • Mr Black is Pantalone, a pompous old rich man and an antagonistic figure despite not being particularly evil in comparison to Trumbull.
    • Hinchley, Amaryllis's father, is a version of Dottore who's straight-up senile instead of simply absent-minded, though it doesn't prevent him from a few scenes of overusing long words and reciting dubious "facts".
    • Mrs Phipps is La Signora: the young and beautiful wife (and soon widow) of a rich old man, who plays the Brainless Beauty but turns out to be calculating and greedy, cheating Trumbull out of his fee.
    • The Groundskeeper is a very minor character but could be a form of Harlequin, as a comedic, slapstick, working-class character with a more cheerful attitude than Gillie's Pierrot.

  • It is less evident from the book's final edition, but in The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov two of the devil's servants bear some resemblance to the most popular zanni characters. Koroviev, the talkative trickster dressed in checked clothes brings to mind Arlecchino, and in certain early version of the novel there's a character called "Fiello", a hunchbacked brute with mouth full of fangs, dressed in white, grotesque clothes with bells attached, who seems to have some of Pulcinella's characteristics. The latter was subsequently modified by the writer to become Azazello, another servant of the devil. Azazello lacks any significant resemblance to Commedia dell'Arte characters.
  • The Ciaphas Cain series mentions liturgical plays about the Emperor of Mankind done in this style. The only reason they aren't condemned as blasphemy and heresy by the Ecclesiarchy is because it actually has their believers pay attention.
  • Commedia dell'Arte motifs figure in the later Jerry Cornelius stories by Michael Moorcock, particularly The Condition of Muzak and The Entropy Tango.
  • The characters do not fit the archetypes, but in The Vampire Lestat, the title character joins a Commedia dell'Arte troupe in his pre-vampire days. He plays Lelio, and counts his time as an actor among the best experiences in his human life.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Phaethon donns a Harlequin outfit for the Masquerade. The Earthmind salutes his fidelity when he greets her. Possibly inspired by this, his foes don the forms of Scaramouche and Columbine to pursue him.
  • Agatha Christie wrote a series of stories featuring a Mr. Harley Quin, who had a knack for turning up where there were two lovers in trouble and, seemingly by chance, saying or doing just the right thing to influence events in their favour. (Being Agatha Christie stories, this often involved inspiring a "Eureka!" Moment in somebody trying to solve a murder, but it didn't always — and there's at least one Harley Quin story in which nobody dies at all.)
  • The story "Puss-in-Boots" in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber is essentially a commedia dell'arte play in prose form, with the titular cat helping his owner get in bed with Pantalone's young beautiful wife. Several stock characters of the genre are referred to by name.
  • Winnie the Pooh, albeit without the romance or the social class:
    • Pooh himself, with his clumsy nature, very little brain, and great appetite, is Arlecchino, of course.
    • The self-important Rabbit has aspects of both Pantalone and Brighella.
    • Owl, a rambling fool who thinks himself a wise and learned fellow, is pure Il Dottore.
    • The rambunctious, unintentionally-violent Tigger is primarily a Pulcinella figure.
    • Both Eeyore and Piglet have aspects of Pierrot - Eeyore the perpetual gloominess, and Piglet the defeatist, timid attitude.
    • Kanga is a sort of a Columbina figure, albeit a fairly bland one, while her son Roo is a Pulcinella-in-training, but with some of the wide-eyed innocence of the innamoratti.
  • Partly-inverted in the Jeeves and Wooster series of P. G. Wodehouse. On the one hand, the manservant Jeeves is always ready with a Zany Scheme to help his social betters work their way around a Parental Marriage Veto or some other such problem. But on the other hand, he - and most other servants - are portrayed as highly dignified characters, with all of the real clowning done by the upper classes, with his master, Bertie Wooster, as a rare aristocratic Arlecchino. That said, many of the upper class characters fit these archetypes pretty well, despite not being servants, with Bertie's aunts Dahlia and Agatha representing different takes on the Signora (as Bertie puts it in a moment of hyperbole, Agatha eats broken bottles and turns into a werewolf by the full moon, while Dahlia is the sort of werewolf whom it is a pleasure to know), the constantly-infatuated Bingo Little is an innamorato (with the tendency to fall in love with barmaids; rather appropriate, given the class inversion at play here), the drippy newt-enthusiast Gussy Fink-Nottle is a Pierrot, Madeleine Basset (who believes every time a fairy blows its nose, a baby is born) is a comedic take on the innamorata, the unscrupulous bookmaker Rupert Steggles is Brighella, and the paranoiac nerve-specialist Sir Roderick Glossop is Il Dottore. Likewise, there's always a violent Pulcinella figure on hand to threaten Bertie with bodily harm, most notably the hot-tempered Tuppy Glossop and the would-be fascist dictator Roderick Spode.
  • Wodehouse's Blandings Castle series apply zanni tropes to the aristocracy, with the doddering Clarence Threepwood, Earl of Emsworth, as a kindly Dottore figure, his domineering sister Lady Constance Keeble as a Signora, their disreputable brother Galahad as an elderly Arlecchino, and Clarence's nemesis and neighbour Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe as a sort of Brighella figure, and there are always a pair of innamorati on hand, one of whom will generally be a grandchild or distant in-law of Clarence. This time, however, the servants are a bit more in on the act, with the eternally put-upon butler Beach as a toned-down, non-romantic Pierrot, and the truculent gardener Angus MacAllister as Pulcinella (without the violence or threats thereof), and the opportunistic pig-keeper George Cyril Wellbeloved as a more conventional Brighella.
  • The theatre troupe in Players of Gor is this with the serial numbers very half-heartedly filed off — with justification, since all human Gorean cultures originated on Earth and have adapted to the local customs as necessary. Characters include Bina (a truncation of "Columbina", but also previously established as Gorean for "Slave Beads" and a common slave name) Brigella (note spelling) who is a female character, Chino and Lecchio who are an Arlecchino double-act, and Petrucchio who is often a Miles Gloriosus. As this is low art, female players are always slaves and have an alternative means of earning coins if the plays are doing poorly. (On the other hand, men do the heavy lifting and are more likely to be flat-out killed if they fall into bandit hands.)
  • The villain in Medusa's Web has a secret cache of papers relating to a series of events in 1920s Hollywood, in which the key players are referred to by names from the commedia dell'arte. For instance, "Scaramuccia" is the villain's mother's first husband, and the Innamorato is Rudolph Valentino.
  • In Scaramouche, the protagonist Andre-Louis Moreau spends several chapters hiding out in a traveling commedia dell'arte troupe, first as a roadie and later taking the role of Scaramouche on stage after the troupe's original Scaramouche absconds with the box-office takings. Several times later in the novel, he remarks that he seems to be playing the role in his real life as well.
  • Harlequin Valentine, by Neil Gaiman, is explicitly based on commedia dell'arte tropes, with Harlequin as a trickster spirit romancing a mortal woman (who is, in the Columbine spirit, the sanest and most sensible character, and things don't go quite as expected). Along the way, Harlequin nominates the other characters as filling various stock roles, although it's ambiguous whether this is genuine insight or just a case of labelling people according to his preconceptions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The characters of Arrested Development can do this frequently, although the main character, Michael Bluth, can shift between an Innamarata and a Pantalone multiple times in any given episode, most of the time, however, he is Pierrot.
    • The Lovers: George Michael and Maebe, although Maebe tends to also often be the rare female version of Arlecchino.
    • Il Dottore: Dr. Tobias Funke, of course.
    • Pulcinella: Buster Bluth.
    • Il Capitano: GOB and his illegitimate son, Steve Holt.
    • Brighella: George Sr.
    • Pantalone: Lucille usually plays this part, considering her greed and generally bitter nature.
    • Pierrot: Poor, poor Michael Bluth.
  • Rarely actually seen, but apparently a regular sketch on Show Within the Show of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Nobody gets the joke, of course.
  • Blackadder is basically an extended series of mutations of this central trope, particularly emphasizing the social classes and power dynamics of the stock characters.
    • Edmund Blackadder himself is always some variant on the Brighella figure, defined by his greed, cowardice (particularly in the first series), and the fact that he is never the highest-status person around - even when he's the son of the king, he's only the second son, and as the series progresses, his rank in the world gradually drops.
    • Baldrick, whether the Hypercompetent Sidekick of the first series or the cheerful dimwit he is the rest of the time, is always some kind of Arlecchino, consistently the lowest-status character present, and always with some kind of 'cunning plan' on hand.
    • The gloomy, supercilious Percy is pure Pierrot, especially in the second series, where he's constantly hopelessly in love with some offscreen woman.
      • His fourth-series incarnation, Captain Darling, is more of a particularly British take on Il Capitano, however - Edmund's rival and nemesis, but more out of priggish professionalism than hammy bravado. He also occasionally borders on the Pierrot, devotedly following General Melchett's orders, often the butt of Blackadder's jokes and awaiting in vain to marry Doris...
      • The first series' Prince Harry is an Il Capitano, though an oddly benign and well-meaning one.
      • Whenever Flashheart shows up, he's a more straightforward Capitano, with all the bravado that implies. Unlike most versions of Il Capitano though, he's The Ace, especially in the second series.
    • Either incarnation of Melchett - and, indeed, any character played by Stephen Fry, such as the third series' Duke of Wellington - is generally a Dottore figure.
    • George is an odd case. Appearing in series three as a kind of dimwitted Innamorato figure (with aspects of Pantalone, given his lechery and high-ranking position as Prince Regent), but when he returns in Blackadder Goes Forth as Lt. George - this time, subservient to Cpt. Blackadder - he's more of an assistant Arlecchino to Pvt. Baldrick.
    • King Richard IV of the first series is a cross between Il Capitano, given his military background and hearty, exuberant manner, and Pantalone, given his position of power, unrestrained greed, and often-unreasonable nature. The second series replaces him with a much more straightforward Signora in Queen Elizabeth I.
    • The third series' Mrs. Miggins is a pretty straightforward Columbina, given her quasi-romantic relationship to Blackadder, middle-class social status (she owns and operates an inn/pie shop), and her collaborative role in many of Blackadder's plots. This also applies to Kate/Bob of the second and fourth series.
  • On The Amazing Race, a Fast-Forward task involved a routine with such a troupe. The green pass would appear during the performance, upon which it could be claimed.
  • Fawlty Towers is a stripped-down version of this - notably, without any innamorati.
    • Greedy, bad-tempered, class-conscious manager Basil Fawlty is a rare protagonist version of Pantalone (albeit an unsympathetic one) with elements of Brighella that come out around high-status guests.
    • Sybil Fawlty blends the traits of Signora and Ruffiana: she is vain, gossipy, and at time very cruel, but not stupid, and far better than her husband at handling guests.
    • Underpaid, out-of-his-depth Manuel is clearly a nonromantic version of Pierrot, right down to the black-and-white waiter's uniform he typically wears, though his cheerful attitude gives him elements of Harlequin as well.
    • Polly, the most reasonable staff member, is a classic Colombina.
    • Terry, the resourceful, level-headed, but self-interested cook, is a minor Brighella.
    • The Major, a long-term guest at the hotel, is a Dottore figure: a somewhat-senile, rather racist old man with a pompous attitude and an inflated view of himself.
    • One-off hotel guest characters often fit these archetypes, too. The domineering and unreasonable Mrs. Richards is a Strega figure (with elements of Ruffiana), for example, while the pompous, annoying American guest Mr. Hamilton was a Capitano - though a rather blameless one, since everything that went wrong in his episode was Basil's own fault. Lord Melbury was a Brighella, since he was actually a con man trying to steal Basil's antique coin collection and not really Lord Melbury at all.
    • One episode, before Terry was introduced, has the role of cook filled by Kurt, a more classic Pierrot, given his unrequited crush on Manuel.
  • "Wuthering Heist" episode of Inside No. 9 places many of the classic Commedia dell'Arte characters in a Reservoir Dogs-style heist story. Pantalone is a gangster organising a diamond heist, with other characters as his henchmen. The "Columbina" who is an undercover cop explains various tropes to the audience as they're happening. In the tradition of both Tarantino and Inside No. 9, most of the characters get killed off at the end.
    • Inside No.9 writers Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (who played The Doctor and The Capitano characters respectively) discussed the Commedia dell'Arte genre in more detail in their podcast "Inside Inside No.9", explaining how it inspired comedies such as Fawlty Towers.
  • The Big Bang Theory hews fairly close to Commedia's archetypes:
    • Leonard and Penny are the innamorati, given that their fluctuating relationship remains a big focus of the series. Leonard's name is even close to one of the stock names for the innamorato: Leandro (both names are partly derived from words meaning "lion").
    • Sheldon is il Dottore, being by far the most accomplished and intelligent of the main cast, but completely lacking in social skills and street smarts.
    • Howard is il Capitano, fancying himself as a major ladies' man and early on trying to make a move on Penny.
    • Raj is Pierrot, being loyal to his friends (especially Howard), but remains the unluckiest in love.
    • Amy and Bernadette are alternate takes on Colombina, being accomplished scientists themselves but largely career-focused unlike the men.

  • "The Carnival Is Over" by Tom Springfield, a signature song of The Seekers:
    Like a drum my heart was beating
    And your kiss was sweet as wine
    But the joys of love are fleeting
    For Pierrot and Columbine.
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen:
    I see a little silhouette of a man
    Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?

  • Characters from Molière's plays tend to fit in those roles.
  • Carlo Goldoni's early plays are classic Commedia dell'Arte. From Momolo Cortesan onwards, though, his works take a completely new style, often violently clashing with the classic Commedia dell'Arte popular in Italy and France at the time.
  • In the plays of William Shakespeare:
    • Playfully mocked in Much Ado About Nothing. The aptly-named Hero and Claudio are the innamorati, Antonio is the tartaglia, Margaret is the colombina, etc. It's mockery because Beatrice and Benedick are the real main characters, and they are probably the only ones who don't fit any stock models. Also, the Zany Scheme is cooked up by Don Pedro, probably the highest-ranking person in the play, and his chief compatriot, Hero's father Leonato, really should be a Pantalone figure.
    • Romeo and Juliet is a Genre Deconstruction. Many of the stock characters are clearly there. However, the play is a tragedy rather than a comedy. So the Zany Scheme doesn't work out, and several of the characters end up dying.
      • Romeo and Juliet themselves are the Innamorati, who fall in love with each other at first sight.
      • Friar Lawrence is the Tartaglia, who performs a secret wedding ceremony for Romeo and Juliet.
      • Lord Capulet is the Pantalone, who wants Juliet to marry Paris to further his own ambitions.
      • Lady Capulet is the Signora, who wants her daughter to be a proper upper class woman just like her.
      • Tybalt is the Capitano, who seems to always want to start a fight.
      • The Nurse is the Columbina, who does her best to help Juliet.
      • Mercutio is the wise-cracking Arlecchino (but he's a cousin of the local prince, so unlike most other classical Arlecchinos, he's not a servant, but a fellow aristocrat and a friend of Romeo's).
      • Benvolio is the more sombre Pedrolino (but he's a cousin of Romeo's, so unlike most of the other classical Pedrolinos, he's a not a servant, but a fellow aristocrat and a friend of Romeo's).
    • The Merchant of Venice has Portia and Bassanio the innamorati, as well as Shylock as the Pantalone (although Pantalone is typically a merchant of Venice, this play's title character, Antonio, does not actually qualify as a Pantalone) and Gratiano as the Arlecchino.
    • The Merry Wives of Windsor has Fenton and Anne as the innamorati, the foolish doctor Caius, Evans as the priest with a "speech impediment" (actually an outrageous Welsh accent), and Falstaff of all people as a sleazy Pantalone-type.
    • Twelfth Night has Andrew Aguecheek as a Miles Gloriosus Scaramouche, Malvolio the Pierrot, Feste the Arlecchino, Maria is the Colombina to Sir Toby Belch's Capitano, with Duke Orsino as the hopeful Innamorato to Olivia, ending up with Viola after she reveals her disguise as Cesario, and Olivia falls for Sebastian, mistaking him for Cesario, who is really Viola, his fraternal twin sister.
    • At least one version of The Taming of the Shrew, produced for television in the '70s by WNET New York, is explicitly Commedia, down to the costumes and presentation style.
    • Bottom of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Touchstone of As You Like It are patterned after Arlecchino.
  • Pagliacci is a classic opera, by Ruggero Leoncavello, about a Commedia troupe. The title literally means 'clowns'. The Show Within a Show is that Colombina is cheating on Pierrot with Il Capitano, and it's played for laughs, but backstage, Canio (the actor playing Pierrot) finds out that his wife Nedda (Colombina) is actually cheating on him with Silvio, a young man from the village where they are performing. He sings the classic aria "Vestia la giubba" ('put on the costume') and then goes mad with grief when the comedy they are playing starts hitting too close to home, with Colombina even seeing off Il Capitano with the same line with which Nedda saw off Silvio.
  • The Pantomime Theatre in the Copenhagen amusement park Tivoli frequently features new and old plays with this. Here the loving couple however usually is the trickster Harlequin and the beautiful Colombina. The latter is the daughter of the old rich man Kassander, who won't accept their love, but of course they always get each other in the end. The favourite of the audience is however Kassander's always unlucky and not too bright servant Pierrot. In fact Pierrot has become quite a symbol in Tivoli - and in three other Danish amusement parks which also have a Pierrot each entertaining the children.
  • Servant of Two Masters:
    • Pantalone
    • The Lovers: Silvio and Clarice.
    • The Doctor: Lombardi, Silvio's father.
    • The Captain: Florindo. Beatrice is his love interest and has some captain-like qualities when posing as Federigo.
    • Arlecchino: Truffaldino.
    • Colombina: Smeraldina.
    • Brighella
  • Based directly on Servant of Two Masters, Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors updates the plot to 1963 Brighton:
    • Pantalone: Charlie Clench.
    • The Lovers: Alan Dangle and Pauline Clench.
    • The Doctor: Harry Dangle, Alan's father.
    • The Captain: Stanley Stubbers. Rachel is his love interest has some captain-like qualities when posing as Roscoe
    • Arlecchino: Francis Henshall.
    • Colombina: Dolly.
    • Brighella: Lloyd Boateng.
  • Sweeney Todd might be seen as a very twisted version:
    • Anthony and Johanna, of course, are the innamorati.
    • Judge Turpin is Pantalone, Pirelli is il Capitano. Depending on the portrayal, Beadle Bamford is either a particularly malicious Brighella, or an evil Dottore, with his dandy mannerisms and eloquent speech patterns. It also helps that the Beadle is usually played by a heavyset actor.
    • Todd himself and Mrs. Lovett are rather more murderous incarnations of Arlecchino and Columbina, making Toby Pierrot.
    • The Beggar Woman is the only character who doesn't neatly fit into a traditional mold. However, she does show several qualities of the modern La Strega character, with her mad ramblings and repulsive appearance.
  • Aspects of this structure are present in all of Gilbert and Sullivan's works, but The Yeomen of the Guard is probably the most pronounced form it takes, albeit with a few unexpected twists.
    • Jack Point is introduced as an Arlecchino figure, but by the end, he's become a tragic Pierrot.
    • Wilfred Shadbolt is set up as the Pierrot, given his unrequited love for Phoebe, but in the end, he wins her hand (though not her love) and becomes more of an Arlecchino.
    • Col. Fairfax is set up as Innamorato to Phoebe's Innamorata, but we gradually learn Fairfax to be more of a Capitano.
    • Elsie Maynard is pure Colombina.
    • Lieutenant Sir Richard Cholmondeleigh probably should be Il Capitano, but he and Sgt. Meryll are both more Dottore figures in their ineffectualness and lack of insight.
    • Dame Carruthers is a Signora figure.
  • In the Giacomo Puccini opera Gianni Schicchi, much of the characterization is in the commedia dell'arte tradition. Rinucchio and Lauretta are obviously the innamorati, with nothing much to do while most of the vecchi are trying to keep them apart. Maestro Spinelloccio is il Dottore, complete with Bolognese accent. The title character combines the mercuriality of Arlecchino with the greed and magnificent duplicity of Brighella, and is the father of the innamorata.
  • In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, many of the characters from the Plautus play "Pseudolus" upon which this is based are probably the Ur-examples of several Commedia dell' Arte types, so it's not surprising that they show up here in spades:
    • Pseudolus is the arlecchino
    • Gymnasia (despite being The Speechless) is the colombina
      • (Speechless in the movie. Has one line in the play.)
    • Hysterium is the pedro
    • Hero is the innamorato
    • Philia is the innamorata
    • Senex is the pantalone
    • Lycus is the brighella
    • Miles Gloriosus is the capitano
  • Zemsta has:
    • Wacław - inamorato, the Hot-Blooded young man head over heels with...
    • Klara - inamorata/colombina, a witty, slightly snarky young woman in love with Wacław, who nevertheless refuses to elope with him
    • Papkin - il capitano, Miles Gloriosus extraordinaire who honestly thinks he's got a chance with Klara
    • Rejent - il dottore/pantalone, Wacław's father and a miserly, cunning lawyer (he does most of the plotting)
    • Cześnik - pantalone/il dottore, Klara's guardian who wants to marry either her or Podstolina for money (he mostly cares about the money), a choleric Bad Boss for Papkin
    • Podstolina - la signora, beautiful, calculating, somewhat narcisstic, wants to get married (for money)
  • Many of the stock characters appear in the Swedish play Söderkåkar.
    • Johan (being a crude but witty and good-hearted bricklayer) is a good example of a Sandrone.
    • Hanna (Johan's wife) is likewise a good example of a Pulonia.
    • Albin (their son) is both an Innamorato (he's in love with Majbritt, the Innamorata) and a Sgorghiguelo (he's also the son of the Sandrone and the Pulonia).
    • Erik (Johan's brother) is a more sympathetic version of the Pantalone. He used to be a rich business man, but his money is now mostly gone. And he's actually a kind-hearted man, but he's often pushed into bad situations by his haughty wife.
    • Aurore (Erik's wife) is a selfish and calculating Signora.
    • Majbritt (their niece) is a sweet and innocent Innamorata (she's in love with Albin, the Innamorato).
    • Malin (their maid) is a spunky and vivacious Colombina.
    • Officer Karlsson (one of Malin's suitors) is a bumbling but likable Arlecchino.
    • Mailman Olsson (Karlsson's rival for Malin's affections) is a more sombre but dependable Pedrolino.
    • Josefsson (the rich man whom Aurore wants Majbritt to marry) is a conceited Capitano.
  • The ballet Les millions d'Arlequin (Harlequin's Millions, today often called 'Harlequinade') is themed around Commedia dell'Arte

    Video Games 
  • In Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice, a crime ring uses characters from the Commedia dell'Arte as code names for the various members:
    • Il Capitano: Communications, Antonio Fango
    • Scaramuccia: Security Systems Expert, Gina
    • Brighella: Thief, Nico Petit
    • Il Dottore: Boss, Helena Berg
    • Arlecchino: Smuggler, Enrico Tazza
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Anju and Kafei's subplot fits this; they are the Innamorati, Mayor Dotour is il Dottore, and Link seems to be a male version of Columbina. Among others, the Curiosity Shop owner is Brighella, and Tingle is a loose version of Pulcinella.
  • In Genshin Impact, the most powerful members of the Fatui, known as the Fatui Harbingers, are named after character archetypes from the Commedia dell'Arte. The extent to which they represent their Commedia dell'Arte counterparts vary, however; some make sense (La Signora is a beautiful but calculating Baroness; Pantalone is a filthy rich businessman; Dottore is a Mad Scientist), while others are loose references (Sandrone is a well-dressed girl rather than a crude peasant, but she controls a mechanical golem and is known as "The Puppet" due to the Commedia dell'Arte Sandrone and his family being represented by puppets), and still others don't match at all (Tartaglia is a competent, well-spoken Blood Knight). And in any case, none of them share the interpersonal relationships of their dell'Arte counterparts. The only ones that don't use the Italian versions of the character names are Pierro and Scaramouche who both use the French names for Pedrolino and Scaramuccia.
  • Punchinello from Super Mario RPG is named after Pulcinella and he's a stocky, odd bomb-like creature with a short fuse and a tendency to lob explosives at anyone annoying him. He's fought as the boss of an abandoned coal mine.

    Web Comics 
  • The now-defunct Commedia 2X00 used the Commedia dell'Arte characters and plot as a vehicle, except in the skewed sci-fi/video-game setting of the Twenty-Xth Century; Dottore is a deranged cyberneticist who loses his funding for crimes against nature and arranges for his daughter Isa to marry billionaire Mr. Pants in exchange for a massive dowry, despite the fact that Isa is in love with Mr. Pants' son Flave. Dottore's project is the creation of Super Fighting Cyborgs. So far the only one we've seen is Arlecchino, who in a shout-out to Mega Man, "having a strong sense of loyalty, volunteered to be converted to a Super Fighting Cyborg."
  • Tales of Phantom Cay has characters loosely based on Commedia dell'Arte. Quinn is Harlequin, Pierre is Pierrot, Mr. Trousers is Pantalone, etc.

    Western Animation 
  • The characters of Futurama are strikingly like Commedia characters:
    • Arlecchino: Fry
    • Colombina: Leela
    • Brighella: Bender
    • Pantalone: Professor Farnsworth
    • Il Dottore: Dr. Zoidberg
    • Il Capitano: Zap Branigan
    • Innamorati: Amy and Kif
  • As can The Simpsons:
    • Innamorati: Homer and Marge, whenever they're not being co-Zanni along with their kids.
    • Arlecchino: Homer/Bart
    • Colombina: Marge/Lisa
    • Pantalone: Mr. Burns
    • Pierrot: Smithers
    • Brighella: Moe
  • Classic Looney Tunes cartoon characters also show their Commedia roots:
    • Bugs Bunny: Scapino
    • Daffy Duck: Arlecchino - due to his tendency to receive slapstick as often as he doles it out.
    • Porky Pig: Tartaglia
    • Yosemite Sam: Il Capitano
    • Wile E. Coyote: Il Dottore - his "education" brings out his foolishness.
  • In a similar manner to Winnie-the-Pooh, Ruby Gloom is like a Goth version of the commedia, minus the romance:
    • Ruby herself seems a benign Arlecchino, being the one administering conflict rather than being involved.
    • Iris is Columbina, in the hard-working, go-getter, rational voice of reason sense, sort of combining traits with Pulchinella. Doom Kitty is a more traditional Columbina.
    • There are two Pierrots - Scaredy Bat with his defeatist, afraid of everything attitude, and Misery with her constant depression and well...misery.
    • Poe the Crow is both Pantalone in the sense of puffing himself up and Il Dottore in the sense of his claimed profession and actual class amongst the cast.
    • Skull Boy is both a more benign Pantalone in the sense of his versatility and trying many jobs, and also a Scapino in his general attitude.
    • Frank and Len are both Pulchinella, being oafish and dimwitted, as well as often initiating slapstick.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Mr. Krabs is the cartoon embodiment of Pantalone (and the episode where he falls into a coma after his money-stuffed mattress is thrown out could be a realistic commedia dell'arte story plot).
    • Patrick is Brighella.
    • Squidward is Il Capitane.
    • Pearl would be Columbina.
    • Plankton would most likely be Beltrame.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Clown", Bobby goes to a Clown School taught by a professor who specializes on commedia dell'arte and takes it very seriously. When Bobby wants to take his new act to the school talent show, Hank has to save him because he knows the kids won't find "jester crap" to be funny at all.

  • The Onion had a poll about who was the best Commedia dell'Arte character. The highest answer at one-hundred percent was "I don't know."