Sex, lies and….. fairy tales in 16th-century Venice

Many folk themes and some figures later destined to become stock characters of the commedia emerge from the texts of late 15th – Century frottole and villotte. These include Scaramella Scaramouche (a lampoon soldier), the lanzo or captain, the vecchia maladetta e rincagnata (a “wretched, pug-nosed old hag” who acts either as procuress or as an obstacle to love), Giannolo/Zano and Rosina (the lovers), La Ramacina (the unhappy wife), Il vecchio maladeto (the villainous old man: an unnamed forerunner of Pantalone) and Feragu (an unregenerate Don Giovanni).

In many contemporary sources these figures, who appear in the interludes of the comedies and tragedies performed during festive gatherings at the great courts, first tell their stories and then perform dances such as the ballo del mattarel (“rolling pin dance”) or the mazacrocha ( “breadstick dance”) and, above all, moresche (mauresques), performed at all Renaissance banquets and in the interludes of comedies as a pretext for travesty and transformation, giving rise to the symbolic portrayal of an exotic world revolving around play, love, war and the derision of power.

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