Commedia dell’arte is a 16th Century Italian art form which remained popular until the 18th Century.
Traditionally a troupe of actors would travel from town to town performing popular stories using a variety of stock characters.
The plays would often use nonsensical language and were portrayed in a very stylised way. People were familiar with the different characters which helped to propel the narrative.
The mixture of music, comedy (particularly farce), improvisation, social and cultural references and archetypal characters created a performance style that was accessible by both young and old and from all sections of society. Indeed, the traditional English Pantomime actually uses many of the original commedia dell’arte conventions.