Il Capitano and Pantalone masks in Commedia dell' Arte

Essay by jarrahJunior High, 9th grade May 2007

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Il Capitano (The Captain):Il Capitano is a caricature of a professional soldier – bold, swaggering and cowardly. He is usually portrayed as a Spanish man who makes up a long, important-sounding name. He rags about his victories (all made up), but at the first sign of danger, Il Capitano will throw his head back and scream or run away. Il Capitano is also a womaniser, although his fear of commitment prevents him from getting “hooked up”. He usually wears an ornate military uniform, a wide plumed hat, large boots, 17th-century tight-fitting clothes and a long sword by his belt. Il Capitano is always a foreigner – giving him the opportunity to pretend he has much higher status than he really does. His mask is flesh-coloured, has a large nose and a big moustache.

One modern example of Il Capitano is Puss In Boots from the movie “Shrek 2”. This small cat has a large reputation as an ogre-slayer, one who “does not like to be disturbed”, and certainly enjoys the company of ladies.

“Fear me… if you dare.” When Puss threatens Shrek, he puts on his most fearless voice and challenges him to a battle. Once he realises Shrek is not about to run away in terror, Puss turns into a coward and pleads for mercy. Puss is similar to Il Capitano in that he brags about past slays and threatens death, but when confronted with a fight, all courage and bravery is lost. Puss has a heavy Spanish accent, wears Il Capitano’s wide plumed hat and of course, has large boots, also worn by the Captain.

Pantalone:Pantalone has the highest status. He is an extremely wealthy Venetian merchant – an old, miserly man. He is a master or a father and is the one who controls the financial side of the plot. Pantalone wears dark clothes, to show his dark nature. He is completely self-obsessed, cares only for his money and will fall on the floor if there is bad financial news. He wears traditional Venetian garments – usually a tight-fitting jacket, tights and a long black cloak. He has the bent back of an old man, and the voice of a chicken’s squawk. The mask is usually brown and consists of a prominent, long hooked nose, a pointed beard and sometimes glasses or a moustache. He carries with him a gold medallion on a chain, a large purse and expensive jewellery.

A well-known manifestation of Pantalone is the character “Mr. Burns” from the classic TV comedy, “The Simpsons”. Mr. Burns is the wealthiest and oldest man in town – he is the boss and owner of a nuclear power plant, a massive mansion and refuses to give anyone any of his money. “Eternal happiness for a dollar? I’d be happier with the dollar.” He is an extremely weak old man and walks with a hunch in the same way Pantalone does. His body is old and feeble – he has next to zero strength and a barely-functioning heart. Even his face is a copy of Pantalone’s – a long, hooked nose and a sinister facial expression. The differences between the original Pantalone and Mr. Burns are that Mr. Burns does not carry expensive jewellery or accessories, he does not wear traditional Venetian garments and he does not have a beard, glasses or moustache. Mr. Burns also has a sinister voice, not Pantalone’s squawk.