Imitation is Flattery: How The Commedia Dell'Arte Influenced the Work of Molière

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Imitation is Flattery : How The Commedia Dell'Arte Influenced the Work of Molière Grace Hutchinson V00803689

The great French playwright Molière wrote many fantastic and original works, but it is undeniable that the Italian Commedia Dell'Arte heavily influenced his writing through the characters, plot devices, and physical comedy. Commedia Dell' Arte, or "Comedy of the Artists", was popular before and during Molière's lifetime, and the characters and devices used would become very noticeable in his work. It is not difficult to see where these prompts came from, as "Molière lived and worked cheek by jowl with Italian actors, had Italian play scripts in his personal library, and was subject therefore to a heavy stream of influence". To examine the connections between Commedia and Molière, one need look no further than to two of his most celebrated works, Tartuffe and Don Juan. The similarities in Tartuffe are most noticeable through the plot, and the obvious connection to the stock characters from Commedia Dell'Arte. Although Don Juan also has some similar characters, the plot is not very similar. The biggest relation from Don Juan to Commedia is through his use of lazzi, a type of physical comedy specific to Commedia. The connection between Molière's beloved comedic plays and the Italian Commedia Dell'Arte makes itself readily apparent, and the influences are noticeably great. [1: Andres 444][2: Andrews 444][3: Gaines 263]

Molière's work being compared to the Italian Commedia has been discussed frequently, with opinions ranging from it being merely influenced to it being downright plagiarism. There are moments in his works that do go beyond light influence, such as in Don Juan. This play has been critiqued many times for borrowing ideas for his plays. "Molière actually used existing scenarios from [commedia] in fashioning his story". When he was writing new...