UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Early russian theatre and commedia dell'arte Yawney, Marshall James


Italian commedia dell'arte in 18th century Russia is a phenomenon which demands careful attention from students of the Russian theatre, particularly since comedy was the most important dramatic development of this century. It is significant that Russian dramaturgy vaulted from infancy to maturity in the short space of a century. This remarkable literary feat was contingent upon the influence of commedia dell'arte on Russian comedy. One hundred years, before the Italian Comics first graced the Russian stage, commedia dell'arte-inspired interludes which came from Poland with the Church School Theatre entertained the Slavic indigenes. Later, German players offered the Russian public their adaptations of Italian improvised comedy, and finally, the Comic Masks accepted an invitation to animate the court. The Masks quickly won a large appreciative, audience and, as a result, distinguished Italian comic artists were attracted to Russia. In their wake followed a host of minor comic performers who flooded the country with productions of commedia dell'arte, opera buffa and intermezzi. This cultural 'invasion' which lasted well into the next century, left a permanent impression on the Russian comic repertory. Works of 18th century Russia's most typical comic dramatists, Ya. B. Knyazhnin and I. A. Krylov, have been selected for analysis since they harbour the key principles of Italian commedia dell'arte and therefore facilitate a fruitful comparison. The inclusion of a short section dealing specifically with commedia dell'arte is intended to outline briefly its artistry in order to make more evident the relationship between the Russian comedy and the Italian Comedy of Masks. The comprehensive bibliography presents a spectrum of works concerning this topic but not necessarily referred to in the thesis.

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