The Servant of Two Masters Themes


One of the most important themes in the play is the disparity between what the characters say and how they really feel. Throughout the play, the characters speak to the audience in asides. Often, the asides are in direct contradiction to the dialogue with the other characters. These asides also reveal much of the characters’ inner feelings and motives. Whenever Truffaldino lies to cover up his ruse, he tells the audience of his anxieties and inability to cover his tracks. Similarly, in the first scene, Smeraldina informs the audience of her attraction to Truffaldino before the two formally declare their love later in the play. Goldoni also uses these asides to help convey expository information to the audience. In the first scene of the play, Brighella lets the audience know the he recognizes Beatrice is not really Federigo. In addition to establishing the plot, this aside also helps reinforce the convention that everyone else in the play is fooled by her disguise.

Another important theme in the play is status. Although he makes the comic situations in the play wholly ridiculous, Goldoni uses them to make pointed social commentary about the class structure. At different points, all of the servants complain about their lowly station and many defy their masters either directly or indirectly. The central comic conceit of the play is Truffaldino’s lack of fidelity as a servant. In addition, he is repeatedly disrespectful toward Pantalone, despite the elder man’s rank. Smeraldina is similarly defiant in her interactions with higher-class characters. She openly complains about what she perceives as Clarice’s lack of morality in having more than one suitor. Furthermore, she insults both Silvio and Pantalone by pointing out their shortcomings. The significance of this defiance is underscored in Truffaldino’s beating at the hands of both Beatrice and Florindo. Beatrice beats Truffaldino for repeatedly opening her mail to teach him a lesson. Florindo sees the beating but does not recognize Beatrice,...

(The entire section is 823 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear