Utah Shakespeare Festival

Theatre Studies 114 AssignmentDanelle VoslooStudent no: 21792054

The Commedia dell’Arte movement was characterized as highly improvisational and made use of stock characters in order to effectively portray the story being told. Stock characters were fictional people who were amusing, predictable and two-dimensional. (Theater.yoexpert.com, 2018) They were often seen as are exaggerated ‘real characters’. (Erin Dyson, 2018) There are a wide variety of different types of stock characters that are portrayed specifically in Moliere’s Tartuffe such as Pantalone, Scaramouche, Dottere, Columbia, Birghella, Innamorti and Harelquin that I will be discussing in more detail. Tartuffe is a comedy meaning it had aspects that drew towards the Commedia dell’Arte as the movement often performed comedies. Here is where the stock characters of the Commedia dell’Arte meet the characters of Tartuffe.

The first stock character I will be looking at is the Pantalone which is evident in the character of Orgon and Madame Pernelle. Although Orgon does not necessarily possess all the characteristics of a Pantalone character some of them are still eveident,such as the fact that a Pantolone character is always being cuckholded. (Theater.yoexpert.com, 2018) This means that another man is having sexual relations with his wife which is exactly what happens to Orgon when Tartuffetries to have a sexual relationship with Elmire, Orgon’s wife.Orgon also tries to control his daughter Mariane by forcing her to marry Tartuffe and this is another charactertistics of a Patalone stock character. As well as the fact that Orgon tries to protect his money from thieves but fails to do so as Tartuffe manipulates him and a Patalone character always tries to protect his money but fails. (Theater.yoexpert.com, 2018) Orgon is also seen to fall into the category of Dottere because this character is alwaysthe head of the household which is what Orgon was. (Ginny Lowe, 2018) Madame Pernelle falls into the Pantalone character because although she is a women her wealth comes from being Orgon’s mother and she is also very dim witted as she believes Tartuffe till the very end. (Ginny Lowe, 2018) Both Orgon and Madame Pernelle possess the Pantalone stock character’s characteristics because they were both naïve towadrs Tartuffe’s true intentions and were fooled by his wits and manipulation skills.

Elmire is also a character which can be discusses in the context of stock characters. She is a very sophisticated lady and represents the opposite of her husband throughout the play. (Utah Shakespeare Festival, 2018) She is also very rational and this is especially evident in the way she handles Tartuffe as she knows her family is more important and keeps their interests at heart. (Shmoop.com, 2018) This contrast of character in comparison to characters like Orgon and e put an emphasis on the stock character which Orgon represents. Elmire is sensible whereas Orgon is dim-witted and Elmire was not manipulated by Tartuffe she stayed rational and put her family’s best interest first which contrasts greatly to what Orgon did. Orgon fell for the religious appearance of Tartuffe and was so easily persuaded into believing everything Tartuffe said that he forgot about his family and was even going to use his daughter as a way to get Tartuffe to be a part of their family. This shows Orgon as being centred around money and lacking the rational and sensible mind needed to avoid having someone like Tartuffe in his life.

Another character to discuss is Dorine, the servant who plays a character like the stock character Columbina. Columbina is the only female servant and is genuinely intelligent and cunning just like Dorine is wise and knows more than she lets on. (Theater.yoexpert.com, 2018) Dorine can also be seen as the Zannie stock character as Zannie was the servent characters and similarly Fliptote alos falls into that category because she is Elmire’s maid. Dorine is a stock character that is found in many of Molière's comedies and has actually become a type found in comedies of all periods. She plays the role of the wise servant who sees through all the pretence, and although she is servant she is the superior in any contest of wits. (Cliffsnotes.com, 2018) Dorine also falls under the category of Comico meaning she lives in the world of the Commedia dell’Arte and the audience. (Erin Dyson, 2018)

Tartuffe the character can identify with the stock character of Brighella who is a crafty and quick and thrives on double dealings and foul play. Cleante also falls under a Brighella character as he is always nervous and urgent which is a different characteristic of Brighella characters. (Ginny Lowe, 2018) The character is also described as cunning, a good liar, seductive and sleazy. (Commedia-dell-arte.com, 2018) This ties in with the characteristics of Tartuffe because he is a manipulative character who uses his skills in order to take advantage of a wealthy man for his own benefit. Tartuffe is known as a scoundrel who can master any imitation of a person he is not so that he can persuade people to give him what he wants. The reason he is a very good manipulator is because he has the ability to analyse his victim’s flaws and weaknesses and use them for his own advantage. (Cliffsnotes.com, 2018) He is seen as the villain and uses his fake religious appearance to harm others. (prezi.com, 2018) The characteristics of Tartuffe are in close comparison of that of Brighella making Tartuffe an example of a stock character. Tartuffe also falls under the Scaramouche category as this character is very mischievous as is Tartuffe. (Ginny Lowe, 2018) Also the fact that the main characters are oblivious to his evil makes him a Scaramouche character. (Erin Dyson, 2018)

Mariane and Valere would relate mostly to the stock character Innamorati because both of them form part of the lovers class and wish to marry one day. Mariane desperately wishes to marry Valere but he father insists that Tartuffe is a better suitor for her. Elmire also falls under a lover’s category as she is seen as a Lelio because her body language and words are all that show her interest in another lover. (Ginny Lowe, 2018)

Damis is another character in Tartuffe that resembles a stock character as he possesses traits relating to the Harlequin stock character which is a character who thinks very little of consequences of their actions. This is evident in Damis when he tries to tell his father the truth about Tartuffe he does not think of what will happen after the truth is told. (Ginny Lowe, 2018) Harlequin is also seen as simple minded and dim witted. Although Harlequin is usually a servant role (Italymask.co.nz, 2018), Damis does in some way serve his family but this characteristic of him being unable to see the repercussions of his actions is more evident as well as him being a dim witted character which is typical of Harelquin.

The stock characters of the Commedia dell’Arte have many different character traits which can be seen in most of the characters of Tartuffe. Although some of the characters such as Orgon and Tartuffe as well as Mariane and Valere contain characteristics of more than one stock character. Since Tartuffe was written after the introduction of stock characters form the Commedia dell’Arte in the 16th century Moliere was able to explore more than one typical stock character within a single character. This worked in various ways as some stock characters shared a few characteristics. The fact that typical stock characters are found within the characters of Tartuffe shows the evolution of the stock characters because they were usually improvised in the Commedia dell’Arte and were now being portrayed as set characters with lines within a play.

In conclusion, stock characters are evident throughout Tartuffe and they were used to make the characters relatable and to make it easier for an audience to understand the character as stock characters were already known by most people. The stock characters have an impact on the play itself as they add to the characters in such a way that the actions of the characters are not surprising because they are expected to be a certain way. Almost every character in Tartuffe is portrayed as one or more stock character and one can easily identify this through their various characteristics.


Reference list:

Commedia-dell-arte.com. (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.commedia-dell-arte.com/brighellamask.htm [Accessed 5 Apr. 2018].

Cliffsnotes.com. (2018). Tartuffe: Character Analysis Dorine | Tartuffe Play Summary & Study Guide | CliffsNotes. [online] Available at: https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/t/tartuffe/character-analysis/dorine [Accessed 3 Apr. 2018].

Erin Dyson. (2018). Commedia dell’arte- Stock Character. [online] Available at: https://erindysonperformingarts.wordpress.com/2017/05/23/stock-character/ [Accessed 8 Apr. 2018].

Ginny Lowe. (2018). RESEARCH: Commedia dell’Arte Stock Characters in Tartuffe. [online] Available at: https://loweg16.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/commedia-dellarte-stock-character/ [Accessed 5 Apr. 2018].

Italymask.co.nz. (2018). Description of Commedia dell'Arte characters. [online] Available at: https://www.italymask.co.nz/About+Masks/Commedia+dellArte+Characters.html [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

prezi.com. (2018). Tartuffe and sterotypical characters. [online] Available at: https://prezi.com/12h2tzncugxb/tartuffe-and-sterotypical-characters/ [Accessed 8 Apr. 2018].

Shmoop.com. (2018). Elmire in Tartuffe. [online] Available at: https://www.shmoop.com/tartuffe/elmire.html [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

Theater.yoexpert.com. (2018). Who are the stock characters in Commedia dell' Arte? | YoExpert Q&A. [online] Available at: http://theater.yoexpert.com/theater-general/who-are-the-stock-characters-in-commedia-dell-arte-1245.html [Accessed 3 Apr. 2018].

Utah Shakespeare Festival. (2018). Characters: Tartuffe. [online] Available at: https://www.bard.org/study-guides/characters-tartuffe [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].