Skip to main content
2012-2013 Season

Quick Facts: Servant of Two Masters

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

An illustration from "The Complete Comedies of Carlo Goldoni"

Mistaken identity.

Broken engagements.

Lovers reunited.

Mass chaos.

And in the middle of it all, one very hungry servant.

If you’ve never heard of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (Il servitore di due padroni), then you are in for a treat. So let’s give you a little insider’s scoop.

Servant is written in the style of commedia dell’arte, a hilarious Italian Renaissance theatrical genre.

Commedia is famous for several distinct features:

  • Improvisation: the actors had an outline of the scenes, and the overall story line, but would improvise the lines.
  • Stock Characters: every play used a variation of the same character type – the miserly father, the young lovers, the crazy servants, etc.
  • Masks: each character had a specific mask that made him/her instantaneously recognizable to the audience
  • Physical comedy or lazzi: this is the style of theatre that introduced “zany” and “slapstick comedy” to our vocabulary (the father character would carry around a slapstick – two pieces of wood fashioned together so that it would make a “slapping” sound –  and beat the servant characters)
An image of a slap stick

Since the traditional commedia characters feature so prominently in Servant of Two Masters, I’ll spend my next couple of posts introducing you to them. I think you’ll be surprised at how many of them are familiar to you.

Related Articles

data-content-type="article"

A 1930s Dramaturgy "Soiree"

May 29, 2024 10:15 PM
The world of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a rather far cry from the world that we are familiar with today. As such, a dedicated portion of our dramaturgical work for this production focused on helping the creative team become more comfortable and familiar with this brief look into the 1930s.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

A Swing for the Supernatural

May 28, 2024 09:16 PM
If you will see, or have seen, the BYU Theatre production of Blithe Spirit this June, you may notice that there are two names in the cast list who are not given a character role, but simply the role of “Swing.” Just what is a swing, and why are they important for a production? As dramaturg, I interviewed our two swing actors to get their perspectives - and definitions - of this important role.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

An Easter Egg Hunt through The Tempest

April 03, 2024 03:10 PM
Our production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a new adaptation by director Teresa Love.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=