Eduardo De Filippo was born in Naples in 1900, the illegitimate son of Eduardo Scarpetta and Luisa De Filippo, the niece of his legitimate wife. It can be said that De Filippo was born into the theater, since his father was an actor and playwright who also owned a theatrical company.
De Filippo made his acting debut at the age of four, performing the part of a small Japanese child in his father’s play, The Geisha, and then played minor roles for the next five years. His father taught him assiduously the art of acting, especially the techniques of working within the framework of the improvised script and the understanding and projection of the characters of the commedia dell’arte, particularly that of Pulcinella.
De Filippo did go to school, but he found school to be boring and stultifying. He looked forward to the summers, when he would work and perform in the theater. When he was fourteen, he joined the acting troupe of Enrico Altieri, a popular comic actor in Neapolitan plays. It was from Altieri that De Filippo learned to portray the character Pulcinella and to capture the spirit of the Neapolitan theater, which was to be the cornerstone of his own plays—that is, the sadness of the people and the bitter reality of life in Naples. In 1911, De Filippo joined the Vincenzo Scarpetta troupe, staying with that group until called for military service in 1920. After his military service, he joined the Francesco Corbinci...
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