Tra(ns)vesting Gender and Genre in Flaminio Scala’s Il (finto) marito

  • Rosalind Kerr
Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)


The commedia dell’arte occupies a central if underestimated place in early modern Italian culture, spanning almost two hundred years from its emergence in the 1540s until its transformations into the fantastic folktale operas of Gozzi and the early bourgeois realist drama of Goldoni in the 1700s. The name commedia dell’arte referred to both the professional status and the improvised performance style of the first commercial theater companies that appeared in all the major centers in the north of Italy in the mid-sixteenth century. It also institutionalized the presence of the actress on the Western stage, a phenomenal change for early modern theater, especially since these performers not only became outstanding members of the companies but also introduced female transvestite roles to the public stage.1


English Translation Graphic Detail Public Stage Female Performer Latin Teacher 
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  1. 1.
    Ferdinando Taviani and Mirella Schino, Il segreto della commedia dell’arte (Florence: La Casa Usher, 1969), pp. 331–44, discusses how the arrival of the actresses revolutionized the stage.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Scala may have been promoting the argument that acting was a theatrical extension of the art of rhetoric and that action and gesture therefore precede the spoken text. His defense of everyday speech and the use of dialects as more natural also suggest that literariness is not the prime concern. Angelo Ingegneri’s La rappresentazione delle favole sceniche (1598) stresses the equal importance of gesture and voice; see Marotti, Lo spettacolo dall’umanesimo al manierismo: teoria e tecnica (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1974), p. 305. I am indebted to Paul C. Castagno, The Early Commedia dell’Arte: The Mannerist Context (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), pp. 111–19, for outlining aspects of the connections between acting and rhetorical practice.Google Scholar
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    Il finto marito, p. 234. Falavolti’s note 18 explains that “dal dech al fach gh’è un gran trach” (from word to deed there’s a big gap) is a Bergamask variation on “dal dire al fare c’è di mezzo il mare” (saying it and doing it are oceans apart). English translation is from Kenneth Richards and Laura Richards, The Commedia dell’Arte: A Documentary History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), p. 200.Google Scholar
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© Gary P. Cestaro 2004

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  • Rosalind Kerr

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