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Conflict and slapstick in Commedia dell’Arte – The double act of Pantalone and Arlecchino

Peacock, Louise


Louise Peacock


This article will explore the centrality of conflict to the slapstick comedy of Commedia dell’Arte. Commedia flourished for over 200 years in Italy and throughout Europe. At its heart was the relationship between Pantalone, the wealthy old man, and Arlecchino, his poor servant. The conflict between the two arises from a series of social, physical and intellectual binary oppositions: wealth versus poverty; high status versus low status; intelligence versus stupidity and age versus youth. Drawing on a number of scenarios, this article will examine the relationship between narrative, status, conflict and comedy. What are the situations that give rise to conflict and to what extent are they resolved through either word play or through comic violence? A consideration of common lazzi centred around violence will also reveal the ways in which comic violence may have been used both to confirm and to subvert the usual status relationship between Pantalone and Arlecchino. In many ways Pantalone and Arlecchino constitute an archetypal slapstick double act with Pantalone as the straight man and Arlecchino as the more obvious stooge with, unlike Pantalone, a direct means of communication with the audience. Therefore the article will also explore the masks, costumes and performance styles of these two characters in relation to the opportunities they provide for comedy and conflict – most important of all, of course, is Arlecchino’s batocchio – his slapstick


Peacock, L. (2013). Conflict and slapstick in Commedia dell’Arte – The double act of Pantalone and Arlecchino. Comedy Studies, 4(1), 59-69.

Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2012
Publication Date Apr 1, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Comedy studies
Print ISSN 2040-610X
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 59-69
Keywords REF 2014 submission
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Comedy studies on 1/4/2013, available online:
Contract Date Nov 13, 2014


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