Taming the Devil

James H. Johnson

in Venice Incognito

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267718
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948624 | DOI:
Taming the Devil

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This chapter discusses the act of unmasking in the theaters and commedia of Venice. It discusses Carlo Goldoni’s act of unmasking his characters and the unmasking of the faces of the city’s servants and workers which paved the way for giving them voice within society. The act of unmasking was meant to empower. Goldoni’s unmasking also opened a line of thinking that questioned and challenged the very foundations of the city’s immutable hierarchy. The chapter also discusses Carlo Gozzi’s opposition to unmasking and anything modern that challenged the traditional and conventional structure of Venice. In the end of their dispute, both Goldoni and Gozzi had corralled the lusty irrelevance of Italian comedy. In his concession to Goldoni’s reforms, Gozzi did not reinstate the broad sexual humor of earlier commedia. Whereas Goldoni had replaced it with realism, Gozzi aimed for magic. In cleaning up the commedia, Goldoni and Gozzi buried the associations of the genre and of the masks to the underworld. By taming the devil in the theater, the playwrights domesticated the other main stage where boisterous Arlecchinos and Pulcinellas regularly performed: the Venetian carnival.

Keywords: unmasking; commedia; Carlo Goldoni; Carlo Gozzi; Italian comedy; Venetian carnival

Chapter.  5683 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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