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Market Farces - a Commedia dell Arte play.

By Devon Williamson.

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Price: $25

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 "A perfect introduction to Commedie dell Arte. Sure makes my teaching easy!"

Length: 30 Minutes
Cast: 7 or 8 actors, male and female mix.
Genre: Comedy / Commedia dell arte
Audience: All ages.

About the Play: This short play is inspired by the characters and scenarios of the Commedia Dell Arte.

The script serves as a useful tool in the introduction and practice of the Commedia style of theatre. The characters should be bold, brash and played with gusto, energy and a good deal of fun. The pace should be fast. It can be played with or without Commedia style masks. There is very little set and props and it can easily and effectively be played on an open stage. Descriptions of characters appear in the text . Most characters can be played as either male or female. Also, there is always a good deal of fun for a female actor to play a male character and vise versa.  It must be noted that the script does not strictly follow all the conventions of Commedia Della Arte. This is intentional and is driven by the desire to create script that is flexible,  suited to the needs of a wide range of ages and performance context.



1.Doctore – An old, plump Doctor who is not as smart as he thinks he is. Male.
2.Arlecchino – Pantalone's lazy and cheeky servant. Male or Female.
3.Pantalone – The Master of the House, consumed by the love of money, easily angered (especially by the cheeky servant “Arlecchino”). Male or female.
4.Tartaglia – Is unable to speak and must communicate as best as he/she can with gestures and “looks”. Male or female. (This is a small role that can be doubled by the actor playing Brighella or Pulchinella)
5.Brighella – A lower class character who has done well for him/herself and runs a small Inn. Male or Female.
6.Il Capitano – A coward who pretends he/she is a brave army captain. Male or female.
7.Columbina – Young “quick witted” woman servant.
8.Pulchinella – A bully, who loves to inflict pain on others. The local auctioneer. Male or female.

Read the play on-line: Click here to read the Entire play on-line.

Preview of the first few scenes of the play...

Scene: Introduction

Pantalone's courtyard. Arlecchino enters stage, he/she is supposed to give the prologue for the play but is too lazy, instead Arlecchino stretches out, yawns, scratches vigorously, farts loudly and  falls asleep.

Columbina pops her head around the curtain to see why it is so quiet on the stage. Seeing Arlecchino fast asleep she enters the stage and talks to the audience...

Columbina: Look at that. Fast asleep! Typical. Arlecchino is supposed to be giving you the Prologue... you know, explaining the play... introducing the performance. Creating anticipation and suspense. So much for that! Look at him/her! Looks like it's up to me... once again. Well here goes (She clears her throat), Welcome to the “Play”, my name is Columbina (she bows grandly) and I am a character from the world of Commedia Dell Arte'. (She pauses) You should be clapping now.

(She waits for the audience to clap, or continues to encourage them to clap until they do so. Perhaps she says “The show won't start until you clap” or “The doors are all locked and we won't let you go until you applaud!”).

Thank you. Too kind. Our play is inspired by the street theatre entertainment of the Commedia Dell Arte, performed in Europe, three to four hundred years ago. (With a cheeky grin) Some of you look like you're old enough to remember them!

In our play you'll meet... (as the characters are introduced the actor for each character runs on stage and takes a bow/curtsy then exits as the next actor enters)...

Il Capitano – the Cowardly Captain,

Il Doctore – the Doctor who is not nearly as smart as he thinks,

Pantalone – the Master miser,

Brighella – the shrewd Innkeeper,

Tartaglia – the dumb Postman,

Pulchinella – the aggressive Auctioneer,

...you've met Arlecchino – over there asleep, and you've met me - Columbina (she takes another bow)... Our play takes place at various locations;  Pantalone's courtyard, at the Inn, in the street and at the market... but it will  all look just like this, (she gestures around at the stage) because we don't really do “set changes” or any of that carry on. I am afraid you'll have to use your imagination! I think that about covers everything (looks towards the wings) and here comes Il Doctore, who thinks he is in love with me, so I'd better get out of here. On with the show!

(She heads towards the wings, stops and looks back and if the audience is clapping gives one more bow/curtsy or if the audience is not clapping says...)

You should be clapping now! (She skips off stage).

Scene: Fallen Over

Doctore enters stage, he is very old and fat, wearing glasses (this is important for later in the play) and is looking for Pantalone, and hoping to bump into Columbina at the same time. Il Capitano rushes frantically onto the stage looking back at the wings and bumps into Doctore, knocking Doctore to the floor. Il Capitano screams like a little child in fright, picks him/herself up and rushes off stage.

Pulchinella: (Running across the stage after Il Capitano, threatening with a baton/club, and yelling angrily) If you bid for something you have to buy it!

Doctore sits up at center stage and begins talking to the audience.

Doctore: As you can see I have fallen over.... or rather I have ceased to be upright. That is to say, I am “ down right” because I am not “up right”... it could also be said I am “up wrong” because I am not “upright”.  Fallen over is indeed the state I  find myself, and, it must be said, the state in which you find me. This is because, and I must make this clear, from the moment you found me I was in this state, and this state is the state that you have found me. Here. You see this is the place in which you found me in the state in which you find me... here “up wrong”, “down right”... not upright. (The Doctor gets up and as he ambles off stage)... where is Pantalone... and that yummy Columbina?

Scene: Not Feeling Myself

Location remains the courtyard in Pantalone's house.

Il Capitano runs across the stage, in a mad panic, with Pulchinella in hot pursuit.

Pulchinella: (Running across the stage after Il Capitano, threatening with a baton/club, and yelling angrily) I said, if you bid for something, you have to buy it!

Arlecchino On stage asleep and snoring.

Pantalone: (From off stage) Arlecchino!  Arlecchino!

Columbina: (Enters stage and checks that Il Doctore is gone, then wakes up Arlecchino with a slap). Wake up! The Master wants you!

Arlecchino awakes with a start.

Arlecchino: What! What?

Columbina hurries off stage.

Pantalone: (From off stage) Arlecchino!  Arlecchino!

Arlecchino: Master Pantalone, I am here.

Pantalone: Where?

Arlecchino: Right here.

Pantalone: Where?

Arlecchino: Right here.  Look around you. Can you see me?

Pantalone: No I can not!

Arlecchino: That is because you are there, and I am here. Just as I said.

Pantalone: (Very angry and yelling now) Stop playing your stupid games! Where are you?

Arlecchino: Here. (Quickly before Pantalone yells at him/her again) In the courtyard, Master Pantalone.

Pantalone: (Entering) Here you are.

Arlecchino: (Bowing low to Pantalone) Just as I said. (Cheekily) Here!

Pantalone: Enough of your fooling about.  Where is the Doctor? He is coming to see me. Get us some wine.

Arlecchino: The Doctor has not arrived. (As he/she is leaving) I shall fetch the good wine.

Pantalone: No! Not the good wine.

Arlecchino: Not the good wine?

Pantalone: No, I am saving that for (pauses)...

Arlecchino: Me?

Pantalone: No!

Arlecchino: For you?

Pantalone: (Not wanting to appear greedy) No, for (he pauses)...

Arlecchino: Later?

Pantalone: Yes! That's it! Later!

Arlecchino: Later it is then. Cheap wine for the Doctor. What will he think?

Pantalone: Yes you are right. Very well then. Put the cheap wine in the expensive wine bottle!

Arlecchino: (Bowing low and then exiting)  My most generous Master.

Pantalone: (Missing the sarcasm and agreeing) My generosity is my curse.

Columbina enters stage (Pantalone does not see her) and is about to say something to Pantalone when...

Arlecchino: (Off stage) The Doctor is here!

Columbina: (To audience) Eeek! Not that creep! I'm off! (She hurries off stage).

Pantalone: Send him in!

Arlecchino: Where?

Pantalone: Here!

Arlecchino: Send him in here? Why he is already in here! (Popping his head around the curtain) Surely you would like the Doctor to come into the courtyard with you.

Pantalone: Stop your ridiculous fooling and send the Doctor in here. (Arlecchino pretends to be confused and Pantalone screams) The courtyard!!!!

Arlecchino: (Bowing low and talking to the Doctor off stage) My Master welcomes you into the courtyard.

Doctore: (Entering slowly, he is old and very fat).  My good Pantalone!

Pantalone: My good Doctor! Arlecchino, wine!

Doctore: How are you Pantalone?

Pantalone: How am I? Terrible! How do I look?

Arlecchino: (Entering) You look terrible! Ugly! Disgusting! I can hardly look at you without vomiting!

Pantalone: What?!

Arlecchino: I agree, you look terrible. (Explaining himself to avoid trouble) Terribly sick. Doesn't he Doctor?

Doctore: (Seeing the expensive wine bottle) The best wine! Pantalone that is not like you! Perhaps you are ill! Let me see. (He walks around Pantalone and slowly makes a diagnosis with careful consideration). Not acting like yourself and serving the good wine. Hmmmm. Not himself. Hmmmm. If he's not himself, then he is not himself. Hmmmm. It follows then that he must be someone else. Hmmmm. But who? Hmmmm. Serving good wine and someone else. Hmmmm. Wine? Wine! Of course! (To Arlecchino) Have you seen Brighella today?

Arlecchino: The Inn Keeper? No.

Doctore:  Ah ha! Then we have a conclusion.

Pantalone and Arlecchino: We do?

Doctore: The absence of Brighella the Inn Keeper... Pantalone not feeling himself – therefore you are not Pantalone.

Pantalone: I'm not?

Arlecchino: He's not?

Doctore: You are Brighella the Inn Keeper. How do you feel now?

Pantalone: How should I feel?

Doctore: A patient cured is a happy patient.

Pantalone: I feel happy?

Doctore: Of course you do.

Pantalone: A glass of wine to celebrate! Arlecchino pour us some wine.

Arlecchino: Me?

Pantalone: Of course you!

Arlecchino: (Scolding Pantalone) I don't work for you! Pantalone, not Brighella, is my master! (Looks at his/her watch) Ah it is later, time for some good wine. (He/she laughs and takes a huge drink of the good wine as he/she exits).

Pantalone: My wine! (Pantalone faints at the shock of seeing the good wine being drunk).

Doctor: (Looking out to audience and pointing to Pantalone) Up wrong. Down right. It must be contagious (Wandering off) Now where's that yummy Columbina?

...the play continues.

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