The characters in The Servant of Two Masters are drawn from the commedia dell’arte, an improvised form of theatre that was popular in Italy during the Renaissance. Commedia performances were highly structured improvisations with stock plot devices and stock characters. Goldoni added dimensions to the characters, but still retained their dominant traits. Clarice and Silvio are based on the innamorati, or lovers, who are defined largely by their romantic desires. The lovers are in love with being in love, yet their passions can turn to anger at the smallest slight. In the play, Silvio goes from loving Clarice to utterly rejecting her. Conversely, once Beatrice reveals her disguise, Clarice goes to great lengths to make Silvio beg for her to return his affections. Both characters are portrayed as innocently petulant; they do not deliberately hurt anyone except each other. Their all-consuming love is reflected in the play’s structure as well. Clarice appears in less than half of the play’s scenes and all of her stage time is devoted to her relationship with Silvio. Though Silvio’s role is marginally larger, his character’s focus is still restricted to his love of Clarice.
Beatrice and Florindo represent an interesting counterpoint to Silvio and Clarice. They are likewise focused on their relationship, yet they display more depth of character. Goldoni gives both characters larger roles as well as numerous monologues. In these scenes and speeches, both are able to express their depth of feeling for each other, which extends far beyond the love-you/hate-you game playing of Silvio and Clarice. As commedia evolved, new characters developed to meet the changing needs of the form. For female actors who achieved a certain level of respect, it was particularly important to develop characters befitting their reputations. Furthermore, the commedia performances heroic lovers to help anchor the insanity. Beatrice and Florindo’s characters represent more...
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