Content guidance

Physical activity required.

Adult supervision recommended.


Lesson video

In progress...


Hello, and welcome to "Drama." This is lesson five out of six in the topic "Commedia dell'Arte: An introduction." Today's lesson is called "Stock characters and masks - Part 2." My name is Mr. Wood.

Let's get started.

It's really important that this lesson takes place indoors.

Make sure that you have plenty of space to move around freely, that your shoes and socks are off, the floor isn't slippery, and you're wearing comfy clothing ready to work.

If you need to make any of those things happen, please pause the video and click resume when you're ready to move on.

Just like every lesson, we're going to need plenty of space to move about safely.

So, you've completed your introductory quiz, well done.

If you haven't had a chance, please go back to that now.

Before we move on with the recap of last lesson, we'll then continue with exploring more of the stock characters that we explored last lesson.

And then we'll continue with understanding one of those key players before we finish the lesson with our exit quiz.

Last lesson we met the master stock characters, and there were three key master characters.

Can you remember who they were? There's a clue on the screen, it's M P D.

They're the first letters of their names.

M was? Magnifico, well done if you've got that correct.

P would have been? Pantelone or Panteloon, again, well done if you got that correct.

And D, what was the name for the man who started with D? The Doctor, well done or El Doctor.

And then the last character or characters that we explored didn't really fit the master and servant structure, but they were equally as important.

And they were called? The Lovers.

Well done if you've got those correct.

And we explored one particular key player which was Pantelone building on all of our prior knowledge with him in a scenario and we started to analyse his mask and how that makes his character.

So, your key words for the day's lesson.

The first one, traits.

They are distinguishing qualities or characteristics.

Energy, again, we're going to need a lot of that today.

And this is the strength required for physical activity.

And servant.

A servant is a person who performs duties for others.

Exploring more stock characters.

We're going to need to warm up.

So, gather the space that we've looked for previously and we will begin.

We'll start today's warmup with a little bit of jogging on the spot.

So, if you've got your space and you're ready, let's get going.

We're going to turn this into the quickest sprint we can manage for the next five seconds.

Three, two, one, go! Three, two, one, stop.

Okay, back to a light jog.

Get your heart rate going.

And this time, what we're going to do is we're going to go into a couple of squats.

However, these squats are going to be a little bit different.

Arms going to be out.

Widen your legs and we are going to squat down, just like this, and each time that we go down, I want you to drop your hand as well.

Okay? Try and keep your back flat.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

This time we're going to twist a little bit.

So, we're going to go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Lovely, okay, now we're going to start mixing this up a bit.

We're going to roll our arms back in little circles, but we're only going to do it when we go down.

So, if we can go down.

One, two.

Then we're going to jump up, one, two, one, two.

So, all together it should look one, two, one, two.

One, two, one, two.

Okay? So, we do that all together.

We'll start standing, arms out.

Three, two, one.

Roll them back, jump down.

Roll them back, jump down.

Roll them back, jump down.

Roll them back, jump down.

We're going to bring our knees in, just to benefit our hips.

And the other side.

Aim is to bring them in, but not to force them up as high as you possibly can.

You should just be able to feel it in your hips.

Okay lovely.

Now, shoulders we're going to concentrate on those little bit more 'cause they're quite important for what we've got to do today.

Shoulders going to be rolled forwards and we'll do that for eight.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, take them back.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Hands on your shoulders.

And back, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, going forwards.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.



This time, arm over to the other side of the body as we did before.

It's a line down here that we're trying to stretch.

You'll find that the longer you're in it, the more it goes down, lovely.

On the other side, just down that line.



Start with a head roll.

Just over to our left.

I'm sure it looks right on you screen.

And the other side.

Back again.

And to the other side.

Going to bow the head.

So, we're going down, to the left.

Down, to the right.

Don't move your head too quickly here.

You don't want to hurt yourself.


Okay, over to the voice.

Report after me.

Me, me, me, me, me, me, me.

We, we, we, we, we, we, we.

She, she, she, she, she, she, she.

He, he, he, he, he, he, he.

Kuh, kuh, kuh, kuh.

Vuh, vuh, vuh, vuh.



Hm? Hm? Sally sold seashells by the seashore.

Sally sold seashells by the seashore.

Sally sold seashells by the seashore.

Sally sold seashells by the seashore.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? How much wood could woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Betty Botter bought some butter, but, she said, "The butter's bitter." Betty Botter bought some butter, but, she said, "The butter's bitter." See how quick you can go.

Betty Botter bought some butter, but, she said, "The butter's bitter." Lovely, and finish off with a few of these.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Ah, ee, oo.

Ah, ee, oo.

Ah, ee, oo.

Ah, ee, oo.

Ah, ee, oo.

Ah, ee, oo.

Ah, ee, oo.



If you are not warm, if you feel like your voice could do with a little more warming up, then go over each of those stages as and when you need to.

If not, let's get ready with the lesson.

So, the first of our stock characters today is the Captain, also known as Il Capitano.

And he always played a stranger.

He played someone who was a bit of a tourist, generally of Spanish descent in these scenes.

And he would often walk through and attract the attention of the players.

He would often lie about being heroic and there would be this sense of bravado.

This big character and this front that he was brave and strong, but deep down he was the biggest coward going.

And with that, he hated confrontation.

So, this character will walk through a street.

He will pretend to be this strong man.

And when it comes down to it, he's a little kitten.

He's a little puppy.

He shies away from it.

He completely has to bow down and cry his way out of it.

He generally wears his hat and his sword.

Almost like a floppy, almost like a deflated balloon on his head.

A very long, curly moustache and a sword.

He tries to convince people that he's worthy of the young lover's love.

And he will do everything to try and impress her, yet she won't be falling for it.

Everyone learns to see through his facade and then we find out generally at the end of each story that he is penniless and a bit of a fool.

And we can liken him to a character like Professor Lockhart in Harry Potter, someone who pretends to have all this reputation and they're deep down pathetic.

And if we look at the image of his mask, it depicts quite a lot of these features.

I think the wrinkles on his forehead are the bravado, it's the sense of look at me, I'm so powerful, I'm not talking to you, you're beneath me.

Whereas actually those wrinkles are hiding his cowardice.

The pointed eyebrows help with that as well actually.

This a long moustache that's curly is almost more of a statement than anything else.

He's grown that and it's something for people to look at before they look too closely at him as a person.

And then his nose.

That kind of length of his nose is a statement as well, kind of similar to his sword and it's one way of kind of fighting people off.

Look at my long moustache, look at my long nose, look at my sword, but don't ask too many questions about me because you'll find out I'm a penniless coward.

Fwah! The captain walks confidently.

He is a character, as I've said, that is a coward, but he hides it behind this facade.

So, we need to think about how our body language communicates this facade straight away.

So, think about how we walk comfortably, like Magnifico, like one of the lovers, one of the inamorato or inamorata, but it's dialled down just a little bit.

So, the way in which he moves has to be confident.

The captain is always loud and commanding.

He walks into a space to get attention.

And as he's always new, or always a bit of a tourist, we need to think about how he commands the space.

He wants to be seen and he wants to command authority, but it's almost as if he's trying too hard.

So, he'll sometimes be leaning forwards or be leaning back.

There might be an odd way of standing, a way in which he's trying to show dominance.

So he could be attempting this pose, but he might be leaning forwards, or he might be on a bit of an angle like this.

For example, if he's trying to introduce himself to a group of people in the markets where you might come up to them.

You might draw the sword and you might be like all the way back like this.

That's not going to help you in terms of your posture as you stand, but it does help to communicate this specific stock character.

These moves have to be exaggerated to show he is trying to hide his cowardice.

So, really do exaggerate the extension of his moves.

So, at the end of the act, he is generally found out by a lesser character called Zanni who we'll come to in a little while.

And it's generally quite comic that he's found out to be a bit of a pathetic loser, for lack of a better phrase, by Zanni.

It will all make sense later.

Columbina is a very nice stock character.

She is generally the maid to the inamorata.

She is bright, she is cheerful and she behaves rationally where most characters do not because they are so expanded and so elaborate with how they would normally move if they were a general person in society.

Sometimes she finds herself in a relationship with Arlecchino, who is another character who we'll come to in a moment's time.

Often she can be found being chased or pursued by Pantelone or The Doctor.

She is not permitting of a relationship.

She often doesn't like the attention or she finds it awkward, but because they are of higher status than herself, she has to kind of go along with it and kind of let it be and run away.

As we look at her mask, you can see from the image that there are many dainty features, a lot of curvy lines, a lot of patterns, the swells, and the point on the nose, it's quite a light mask and quite a soft mask.

It doesn't breach across the face.

It's not drooping down.

It's not pointed all the way out.

It's got a very soft approach and that we can see through Columbina's physicality as well.

Columbina has very slow and controlled movements.

She's a character who can be dainty and pretty, very light and fluffy, just like her mask.

And some of her moves often are similar to that of Arle.

That said, she can be a very cunning character.

She can be playful.

She can be naughty when she wants to.

And she can be very, very clever when it comes to getting around the love pursuits of Pantelone.

She can stop.

She could think.

Hatch her idear and share it with the audience before she goes off in her very playful and very animated way.

The first thing about Columbina is the way in which she stands.

So, her feet need to be brought in together.

And then her gait as she moves will be quite small.

As she walks, it's kind of like teetering over.

You're thinking about how her weight distribution is quite even between both feet as well.

So, it's almost like a little shuffle going forwards.

Consider how a character that's a servant, that serves a lady, will move.

How does she interact with that character? Think about your posture for this character as well.

She is upheld.

She has very good posture for a servant and she's always presentable to her lady.

Think about how Columbina interacts with other characters like Pantelone, someone that she doesn't want to spend a great deal of time with.

She is not interested in the slightest about being in his company.

So, how does she get around his character and his pursuits? Don't forget that Columbina interacts rationally.

And although she can be clever, she does it in a very calm way.

A very rational and level-headed way.

Brighella is a crafty servant.

They are a character which has high status as a servant, but it goes no further.

They generally work as a pair, as half of the team, which is Arlecchino and Brighella, we'll come to Arlecchino next.

Brighella is more of the brains.

Instead of being a body character, it is a thinking character.

It is one that often serves Pantelone.

They try to better themselves and that could be through honest means or it can be through ways of deceiving people.

They can be quite seductive, quite macho, strong.

They can be lazy because you'll often find them leaning up against something.

They might let Arlecchino do all of the heavy lifting, but they can move and they can be very direct when they need to.

In some ways we can see the relationship between Brighella and Arlecchino as a mini Magnifico and Zanni.

And obviously Zanni, you will understand in a moment.

We generally anticipate the behaviour of Brighella to be that of a spy, standing around watching from a distance, stood at a corner waiting for a scenario to unfold.

Brighella, Arlecchino! Brighella.

Arlecchino? Arlecchino? Brighella will be sly.

They will be thinking ahead.

He generally tries to assume that people will understand him.

People will warm to him.

Ah! Ah.

Oh, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Mm, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho.

Hee, hee, hee, heh.

Oh ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.

Ah! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

He can be agile.

He can be quick.

He has this kind of low gruff to his voice, this kind of earth which is almost commanding.

He's the nearest to an Italian accent that we can find in all of the characters.

Although, there are some adaptations and some interpretations and work quite well with an Essex accents as well.

He tries to conserve his energy until he really needs to jump on something.

When he considers a moment to be acted upon, if he needs to step in to stop Arlecchino from ruining something for him and that's when he goes.

He can be found leaning in doorways, standing back and watching the mayhem unravel in front of him.

He can be quite smooth.

There's almost like frothy milk.

He's just letting things happen, bubbling away, letting things simmer.

And he can be connected to that of a pub landlord, someone who has a position of power, but chooses to only act when necessary.

He'll let his minions, his other servants, do the work for him.

And he thinks of certain things as a way of benefiting himself.

So for example, Arlecchino, he is lesser, well he's on the same level, but in his eyes he is lesser than himself 'cause he's not as smart and he's not as cunning.

So, he needs to think about how he can utilise Arlecchino for his own gain.

Arlecchino! Brighella can find ways of manipulating Arlecchino to do whatever he chooses.

He can stand back and watch from the sidelines whilst Arlecchino goes and does all the heavy lifting.

Arlecchino, or Harlequin, is one of the two servant characters that works alongside Brighella and he is considered to be the more foolish version.

The silly version, the one that's a little bit more gullible and very happy-go-lucky.

There are two main areas as to where people say Harlequin comes from and that is from an African descent.

The other side of that conversation is a French descent.

And regardless, we can say that he is a dimwitted character.

He is a little bit lazy, but he's up for some fun.

He's happy-go-lucky as I said before and he can occasionally be quite greedy.

He's got a bit of a high-pitched voice, when he gets carried away, especially.

And like I say, he's fun and cheeky.

He is up for a laugh and he is willing to move about the space and just see where the world takes him.

Think of Arlecchino as having many different animalistic qualities.

There are connotations of him being a bit like a goat in some ways that he just, stops and stares.

There are other moments of him being a bit like a faithful dog, a bit like a spaniel.

So, eager to please and so happy, flappy.

Think about starting with the hips, the hips being quite wide.

We're not narrow, but we're we're wide.

So, we're free to move about.

And this needs to be free to support his footing and his posture in the space as well.

And then there's also elements of him being a bit of a monkey, a little bit naughty, a little bit mischievous, but also very playful and fun.

Ooh! Wow, ooh! How do you think Arlecchino would react in the same company as Brighella? What sorts of scenarios would take shape? Have a little go at experimenting with how they merge.

Hey Brighella.

Ah! Brighella? Huh? Now, we wonder what difference would be if he was, for example, in the company of The Captain, what might he know of The Captain firstly, and then how might he engage with him on that level? What emotional intelligence, or in general intelligence, does he have when he's up against someone like The Captain? The key part of Arlecchino is his fun, playful nature.

So, experiment with the fun in whatever way you can.

Lastly, we come to Zanni and Zanni is the lowest status character.

He's the bottom of the hierarchy.

He's a complete and utter fool and he's never been academic.

He never will be.

He can't progress through the hierarchy.

And he generally thinks in illogical terms. He doesn't think about what's smart or what's sensible, it's oh, look at that.

Oh, oh, look at that.

It's never onto the next thing.

It's very sporadic.

And his name stems from the word zany which in Italian is associated with crazily idiotic.

He's often the bearer of other people's frustrations as well.

So, if Pantalone's having a bit of a bad day, if Brighella has been the brute of let's say The Doctor's frustrations, or Magnifico's force, then that will often get taken out down the line towards Zanni.

And generally speaking in his mask, as we can see there, the bigger the nose, the more stupid the fellow.

His nose is typically very long and we can link that with The Captain as well because his nose is quite long.

And we know that he's quite a stupid character as well.

So, we can really start to depict what this mask shows of the character.

His eyes are wide.

And it's almost as if there's a light on, but no one's home.

And there probably never will be either.

In some variations of his mask, you can also find wrinkles on his forehead and that's connected to the burden and the weight of the size in which he lives in.

The people in the town and the problems they have, give them to him.

Ah? Zanni has to work from the ground up because of his position in the hierarchy, everything is low.

So, he's arched forwards.

His knees are bringing his feet up slightly higher.

His hands work in conjunction with that and he leads from his long nose.

If you imagine his nose is out to here, he's sweeping around on every opportunity and that nose brings him forwards.

The feet try and stay on a parallel with that as he's going, okay? Zanni lives his life in complete fear, everything petrifies him.

He is trying to be positive.

He's trying to do a good job and he's eager to please.

Nothing helps him because he's always at mercy of other people and this terrifies him.

Make sure your knees are bent for when you're walking through.

You need to make sure that you are low enough to bring those feet up and the knees are going to allow you to do that.

If you stood up from here, it just looks not as effective.

You're not considering the use of levels for your status.

Oh! His feet are also really important.

They help him become this springy character, alongside the knees.

It creates this illusion that Zanni is this lower being.

Considers Zanni in this space with someone like Magnifico.

How is he going to treat him? Is he going to just stand there and let him walk past? Is he going to move back and let him have all the space in the world? Is he going to protect himself as much as possible because he knows he's at risk of getting beaten? Ooh! Well done, superb effort.

I'm starting to wonder, do you have a favourite stock character? If so, which one is it? I've got a statement for you next.

Masks in Commedia dell'Arte serve no purpose.

Do you think that's true or false? Three seconds.



Of course the answer is? False.

Masks help to show a caricature which makes it easier for the audience to see character.

It's as simple as that.

So, who do you think this is? From the ones we have talked about so far, if we begin to analyse the image here, we've got wrinkles at the top of the head which might communicate stress or burden.

We've got big frames of eyes, even though the eye holes are small.

That line around communicates quite a wide eye.

And then we've also got this long nose.

Do you remember what we said about the longer the nose, the more of a? Fool.

Yeah, so therefore this character is, Zanni.

Well done.




Okay, now it's your turn to have a go at interpreting Zanni.

So, using your prior knowledge of exaggeration, mime, and Grummelot, alongside today's knowledge of Zanni's character, I would like you to improvise him walking into Pantelone.

He's gonnaa instantly regret it and start begging.

Posture and gesture are equally as important.

To do this you need to pause the video and I think you're probably going to need three or four goes to rehearse this and then get it to an acceptable standard.

Click resume once you're ready to move on and we'll wrap up the end of this lesson.

There has been so much content thrown at you today.

A lot of new concepts centred around the same ideas, but different to each character that we've explored.

So, well done.

Today we focused on the servants more so than the masters and how they interact with those people.

So, massive well done.

In our next lesson, we're going to start exploring how these characters merge and we'll start combining all of these skills that we've worked so hard on over these last five lessons.

If you would like to, you can share your work with Oak.

Just make sure that you ask your parent or carer for permission first and they can share it on Twitter, tagging @OakNational and #LearnWithOak.

Until next lesson, take care.

And thank you very much.

As ever, it's been a pleasure.