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Commedia Dell’ Arte in Modern Culture, Essay Example

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The characters and stage setting of Commedia Dell’ Arte is age-old–it is one of the first and earliest examples of improvisation in comedy, and has been time-tested through modern live improvisational comedy, both on stage and on the television, as well as through traditional type casted characters on scripted modern media.

Commedia Dell’ Arte, in a traditional sense, was very concerned with using characters that fit into traditional roles. Shakespearean dramas in particular, as well as the characters in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, are both excellent examples of this–specifically to give it an application outside of the Italian theatre it is based on.

Perhaps the best contemporary and dead on to the point of purposely being satirical is the recently ended show 30 Rock. Written by Tina Fey, as well as playing the main character, the entire plot revolves around the politics, fairness, and money that go along with producing TGS, a fictitious show staged in a similar way as Saturday Night Live.

The shows connection to Commedia Dell’ Arte is actually the show itself. Tina Fey, as the writer, created characters that embody the American system, though obviously satirically exaggerated. This is illustrated best in the characters of Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, and Kenneth the Page.

Alec Baldwin plays the corporate end of General Electric and NBC, eventually becoming the President. Obsessed with making investments, controlling his employees, and manipulating for profit, his character is the embodiment of a modern day satirical Gatsby. His character illustrates greed, as well as the idea of power through wealth.

Kenneth the Page is a menial worker, meant to serve the actors, as well as everyone else. Though he always says something overt and ridiculous, it is often his logic that solves the problems, He directly parallels the character of Feste the Clown from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

These two characters, as well as 30 Rock itself, embodies the idea of a modern Commedia Dell’ Arte piece.

 

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