Commedia dell’Arte in Historical Perspective


A timeline adapted from The Commedia dell'Arte: A Documentary History by Kenneth Richards and Laura Richards and the website of I Commedianti Giorgiani.

  • 1182 A.D.

    St. Francis of Assisi born.

  • 1192 A.D.

    Saladin and Richard the Lion-Hearted sign a cease-fire, ending the Crusades.

  • 1247 A.D.

    Robin Hood - according to legend - dies.

  • 1266 A.D.

    Marco Polo arrives (?) in Beijing.

  • 1321 A.D.

    The Divine Comedy.

  • 1403 A.D.

    Chinese Encylcopedia - 223,000 volumes - compiled.

  • 1412 A.D.

    The Battle of Agincourt.

  • 1450 A.D.

    Gutenberg Bible printed.

  • 1480 A.D.

    Botticelli: 'The Birth of Venus'.

  • 1500 A.D.

    Benvenuto Cellini born.

  • 1502 A.D.

    Beginning of the Slave trade to the Americas.

  • 1518 A.D.

    *Machiavelli publishes ' La Mandragola', one of the earliest plays with commedia-like characters and plot.

  • 1520 A.D.

    Smallpox decimates the Aztecs. Chocolate first brought to Spain from Mexico (depending on who you read...).

  • 1532 A.D.

    Machiavelli's 'The Prince' is published (posthumously).

  • 1545 A.D.

    *Angelo Beolco, "Il Ruzzante,” created a character similar to il Capitano, the First record of the formation of an Italian professional acting troupe, at Padua.

  • 1548 A.D.

    *Francesco Andreini born.

  • 1552 A.D.

    *A.F. Grazzini refers to improvised playing at Florence.

  • 1558 A.D.

    Queen Elizabeth ascends to the throne.

  • 1562 A.D.

    *Isabella Andreini born.

  • 1564 A.D.

    Shakespeare, Marlowe born.

  • 1565-6A.D.

    *First references to commedia characters - e.g., Zanni and Pantalone - in connection with acting companies.

  • 1568 A.D.

    *First mention of the Gelosi Company in Milan.

  • c1570 A.D.

    *paintings depicting commedia dell'arte; coffee comes to Italy.

  • 1571 A.D.

    *Gelosi Company makes its first visit to Paris, where it acts at the house of the Duke of Nevers before Charles IV. Company of Zan Ganassa (Alberto Naseli) also in Paris this year. This marks the beginning of foreign touring by commedia troupes. First illustration of Arlecchino.

  • 1572 A.D.

    Ben Jonson born.

    *Frescoes begun of actual Commedia performances at Castle Trausnitz in Bavaria.

  • 1573 A.D.

    *Gelosi perform in first production of Tasso's Aminta at Isle Belvedere del Po.

  • 1574 A.D.

    *Zan Ganassa Company is in Madrid. Gelosi Company invited to Venice to play for French King Henry III (the third son of Catherine de Medici) at his request. First record of Confidenti Company.

    *Record of Italian performers in England at Windsor and Reading (did Shakespeare see these?)

  • 1576 A.D.

    *First mention of Pedrolino Company. James Burbage opens The Theatre in London.

    *Henry III of France requests the Italian company he had seen in Venice to perform in Paris.

  • 1577 A.D.

    *Gelosi Company is again in France, protected from French Parliament by the King.

    *The company of Drusiano Martinelli performs in London. There is indication that Italian comedians accompanied Queen Elizabeth on her summer travels.

  • 1578 A.D.

    *Gelosi Company returns to Florence, under the direction of Flaminio Scala.

    *Francesco Andreini marries Isabella (then 16 years old) and succeeds Scala as director of Gelosi.

    *First mention of Uniti Company in Ferrara.

  • 1584 A.D.

    Edward Alleyn begins acting career.

    *Last mention of Zan Ganassa troupe in Spain

  • 1585 A.D.

    Palladio's Teatro Olimpico completed.

  • 1587 A.D.

    *Confidenti Company is in Spain.

  • 1588 A.D.

    *Gelosi Company returns to Paris, briefly.

  • 1589 A.D.

    *A great theatrical spectacle mounted in Florence to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinand I and Christine of Lorraine, included a Commedia performance starring Isabella Andreini.

  • 1590 A.D.

    *First mention of the Accesi Company. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet opens.

  • 1599 A.D.

    The Globe opens.

  • 1600 A.D.

    *Accessi Company peforms for the marriage of Henry IV and Maria de'Medici.

  • 1601 A.D.

    *Tristano Martinelli, celebrated Arlecchino performer, publishes Compositions de rhetorique. Fedeli Company formed by G.B. Andreini (son of Francesco and Isabella). Shakespeare's Hamlet performed.

  • 1604 A.D.

    *Isabella Andreini dies at Lyons. Francesco Andreini gives up the commedia and disbands Gelosi Company. Inigo Jones brings Italian stage scenes to England.

  • 1605 A.D.

    *Comici Fedeli formed, acquiring several actors from the Gelosi Company.

  • 1611 A.D.

    *Flamino Scala publishes Il teatro delle Favole rappresentative. Shakespeare's Tempest performed.

  • 1613 A.D.

    *Maria de'Medici invites Comici Fedeli to Paris, where they played off and on until 1623.

  • 1616 A.D.

    Death of Shakespeare.

  • 1619 A.D.

    *Flamino Scala's Il finito marito published. Death of Richard Burbage.

  • 1624 A.D.

    *Death of Francesco Andreini.

  • 1630 A.D.

    *Death of Tristano Martinelli.

  • 1634 A.D.

    *Italian players perform in Warsaw.

  • 1637 A.D.

    *Domenico Biancolelli born.

  • 1639 A.D.

    Racine born.

  • 1640 A.D.

    *Last mention of Confidenti troupe.

  • 1642 A.D.

    English Parliament, influenced by the Puritans, closes theatres.

  • 1649 A.D.

    Charles I executed.

  • 1652 A.D.

    *Last mention of the Accessi troupe.

  • 1653 A.D.

    Oliver Cromwell proclaims himself "Lord High Protector" of England.

  • 1658 A.D.

    *Fiorelli-Locatelli Troupe shares the Petit Bourbon with Moliere's company, the Compagnie de Monsieur.

    Cromwell dies in England.

  • 1660 A.D.

    Restoration of Charles II. Davenant's and Killigrew's companies granted patents (women included).

  • 1661 A.D.

    *Arlecchino, Domenico Biancolelli, called to Paris.

  • 1664 A.D.

    *Scaramouche, the most popular Italian character, receives a pension of 15,000 livres.

  • 1666 A.D.

    The great fire of London.

  • 1670 A.D.

    Treaty of Dover between Charles II and Louis XIV.

  • 1673 A.D.

    Moliere dies. His company and the Fiorelli-Locatelli troupe move to the Guenegaud Theatre, where they play until 1680.

  • 1675 A.D.

    William Wycherley's "The Country Wife" opens in London at the new Drury Lane Theatre, designed by Christopher Wren, on the site of the old Drury Lane which burned in 1672.

  • 1676 A.D.

    George Etherage's "Man of Mode" performed to great success.

  • 1680 A.D.

    *The Hotel de Bourgogne given to the Theatre Italien.

  • 1682 A.D.

    *From now until 1697, the repertory of Italian comedy falls into two categories: comedies of buffoonery, parades, parodies and satires, and nuanced character comedies similar to Moliere and Marivaux.

  • 1684 A.D.

    *Italians begin making changes with their dialogue, interjecting French phrases, and interpolating entire scenes into French.

  • 1685 A.D.

    Charles II dies. He is succeeded by his brother, James II.

  • 1688 A.D.

    *Death of Biancolelli.

    William and Mary depose James II in the bloodless Glorious Revolution, considered the end of the Restoration period.

  • 1689 A.D.

    John Locke, called the Philosopher of Freedom, publishes his essay, "A Letter considering Toleration"

  • 1697 A.D.

    *Italian players expelled from Paris because their scenario "La Finta Matrigna" pokes fun at Mme de Maintenon, the mistress of the King.

    *The King authorizes Tortoriti (Pascariel) to form a troupe of his own, using some of the same actors, but they cannot come within 30 leagues of Paris.

  • 1698 A.D.

    Jeremy Collier publishes "Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage.”

  • 1700 A.D.

    Congreve's "the Way of the World" performed in London.

  • 1706 A.D.

    Benjamin Franklin born.

  • 1715 A.D.

    *Death of Louis XIV. Duke of Orleans calls Italian players back to Paris, led by the distinguished Luigi Riccoboni.

  • 1716 A.D.

    *Louis XV re-establishes Riccoboni's Troupe in the old Hotel de Bourgogne Theatre, where they keep the spirit of the characters, but perform in French.

  • 1723 A.D.

    *Louis XV grants a subsidy of 15,000 livres to Riccoboni and his colleagues.

  • 1737 A.D.

    the Stage Licensing Act, opening an era of censorship, was passed in England.

  • 1739 A.D.

    *Carlo Goldoni becomes dramatist for Medebach's company.

  • 1742 A.D.

    *Antonio Sacchi, the great Arlecchino, forms his own company.

  • 1745 A.D.

    *Goldoni writes Servant of Two Masters for Sacchi.

  • 1756 A.D.

    Mozart born.

  • 1760 A.D.

    *Carlo Gozzi attempts to revive improvised playing.

  • 1762 A.D.

    *Goldoni leaves Venice to work with the Comedie Italienne in Paris, where he lived until his death in 1792.

    *The Opera-Comique is amalgamated with the Italian comedy.

  • 1780 A.D.

    *The theatre of the Italian comedy assumes the name "Theatre des Italiens,” although there was not a single Italian actor left in the cast.