Carlo Goldoni is remembered only for his contributions to Italian drama. The major source of information about Goldoni and his theater is his autobiography, Mémoires de M. Goldoni pour servir à l’histoire de sa vie, et à celle de son théâtre (1787; Memoirs of Goldoni Written by Himself, Forming a Complete History of His Life and Writing, 1814). Commonly known as his Mémoires, Goldoni’s autobiography was written in Paris, where Goldoni spent the final years of his life.
During a lifetime that spanned the eighteenth century, from 1707 to 1793, Carlo Goldoni wrote prolifically for the Italian stage, producing more than 120 comedies, as well as a number of tragedies and tragicomedies and more than fifty scenarios. Through his comedies, Goldoni was largely responsible for the transformation of Italian drama from the unwritten, improvisational performances that flourished in Italy from approximately 1660 to 1800 under the name commedia dell’arte to the modern, written drama of contemporary European theater.
The commedia dell’arte was characterized by its improvised performances, its lively dialogue and plotting, and its song, dance, and acrobatics. Starting with a scenario, troupes of actors would make generous use of lazzi—routinely improvised stage business expressing an emotion or reaction and often featuring practical jokes, gags, and buffoonery. Each actor in the troupe portrayed a particular stock character that did not vary from one performance to another. The character was identifiable by the mask he wore, by the dialect he spoke, and by his mannerisms. The commedia dell’arte borrowed freely from the plots of Greek and Roman plays, and, in the seventeenth century, from the plots of Spanish dramas. The success of a performance, however, depended less on the original plot than on the ability of the actors to make the drama interesting and alive.
By the late seventeenth...
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Cervigni, Dino S., and Franco Fido. Goldoni 1993. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
Chatfield-Taylor, H. C. Goldoni: A Biography. New York: Duffield, 1913.
Cope, Jackson I. “Goldoni’s England and England’s Goldoni.” Modern Language Notes 110 (January, 1995).
Cope, Jackson I. “Goldoni’s Secrets.” Theatre Survey 5 (November, 1990).
Emery, Ted. Goldoni as Librettist: Theatrical Reform and the Drammi Giocosi per Musica. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. A look at Italian drama and theory as well as Goldoni’s libretti. Bibliography.
Farrell, Joseph, ed. Carlo Goldoni and Eighteenth Century Theatre. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1997. A critical look at Goldoni’s drama and at the theater of his time. Bibliography.
Fido, France, and Dino S. Cervigni, eds. Goldoni 1993. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1993. A collection of essays in English, Italian, and French on Goldoni and his works. Bibliography.
Kennard, J. S. Goldoni and the Venice of His Time. 1920. Reprint. New York: B. Blom, 1967.
Pietropaolo, Domenico, ed. Goldoni and the Musical Theatre. New York: Legas, 1995. An examination of the works of Goldoni, particularly his libretti. Bibliography.
Reidt, Heinz. Carlo Goldoni. Translated by Ursula Molinaro. New York: F. Ungar, 1974.
Steele, Eugene. Carlo Goldoni: Life, Work, and Times. Ravenna, Italy: Longo Editore, 1981. A biography of Goldoni examining his literary output and life. Bibliography and index.