Guests arriving to embark of Seabourn Odyssey’s
maiden voyage are likely to be met in the terminal by colorfully costumed characters from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte
, an improvisational performance style of indeterminate age that was formalized in the 16th century. Troupes of about ten characters created improvised performances around loosely sketched plots involving love (requited and unrequited), infidelity, greed, gluttony and other excesses, and often lampooning current scandals or political squabbles familiar to the audience. A set of archetypal characters emerged that included some that morphed into figures we still recognize today. Arlecchino
, the harlequin, is probably the most recognized, with his diamond-patterned clothing and his mischievous, acrobatic antics. Pedrolino
, or Pierrot, is the clown with the ruffled collar, so prevalent in modern circus clowns. The misshapen Pulcinello
evolved into the English Punch of Punch and Judy shows. Other parts of the Commedia dell’Arte also survive in various parts of our theatrical vocabulary. The term slapstick originally referred to a stick that was liberally applied to hapless fools, much to the delight of the audience. Even the Italian word for jokes, burle, became the term for broadly acted, low-comedic performances: burlesque.