Romantic Ladies

These female characters are in the traditional cast of the commedia dell’arte. How could there be drama without the intrigues of romance? The romantic roles of women were defined by how willing the lady was.

The Inamorata is the female romantic interest. In the commedia, like all good drama since, one major plot line is who will get the girl? She is always reasonably chaste in her relationships before commitment. The Inamorata can go by many names, Isabella being one of the most common, from Isabel Andreini of the famous (in early 17th century) Andreini commedia family. [ note: the prohibition on women performers continued in England for 100 years longer than in Italy ]

The Courtesan, Fiorinetta, was a woman of the upper classes who was very generous with her favors. She was not necessarily a “professional� in the sense that we today interpret the word courtesan.

In the ranks of the servetti (female servant), two characters played romantic roles:

Franceschina, is the sadder-but-wiser girl in the tales of romance. Despite her travails in love and life, usually by the end of the story she is lucky enough to marry.

Then there was the ubiquitous Columbine. She was so versatile that she evolved into one of the most complex characters of the commedia dell’arte. John Rudlin has one of the best descriptions of her: “She is only lucid, rational person in commedia dell’arte, analogous to Maria in Twelfth Night. Autonomous and self-sufficient, she has no negative attributes; … She sings, dances captivates, but has gone beyond her entremetteuse origins to become a self-educated woman. … Although capricious and coquettish she is good at her job, careful with money, and will, with great reluctance, make an excellent housekeeper one day. Although she is very sexually knowing she is sometimes a virgin, when it suits her.� Where her favorite Arlecchino, is described as the everyman of the commedia, she is his counterpart, however much wiser.

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