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The Application of the Acting Vocal Code-System of the Drammatica in the Eighteenth-Century Commedia dell'Arte


Since the early nineteenth century some treatises by actors and teachers of declamation have included tables of the symbols and the applications of each declamation symbol. We individualise overlying and underlying symbols, compound and chained symbols. Nevertheless, historiographers and scholars have never compared the tables of the symbols with the markings still readable in actors’ prompt-books. They have been mainly preoccupied with textual history and stage history, neglecting any relevant investigation on the declamatory tradition in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century acting. In Italy the declamation method was completely deconstructed by the Italian academies of theatrical arts in the early decades of the twentieth century. Since that time no one has explored its rules and principles which had been established in Luigi Riccoboni’s Dell’arte rappresentativa in 1728. I explain how and why the Italian leading actors marked their own play-scripts and the prompt-books for the actors of their repertory company: examining the application of the symbols, we may affirm now that the vocal code-system served the art of the major Italian actors and actresses. Those ones, like Ristori, Duse, Salvini, Grasso, who much inspired the development of a new process of preparing roles, and profoundly influenced the early twentiethcentury acting on Russian as well as on North-American stages. In particular, two facts are outlined: firstly, it is how the nineteenth-century Italian acting vocal code-system was used to direct actors. Secondly, how I have individualised traces of the direction of the actors in the late eighteenth-century Italian Comedians’ plays.