Commedia dell’ Arte Characters – the Zanni


 Generic name applied to all foolish types. Bottom of the pecking order. The eternal unfortunate, the dispossessed immigrant   worker, or peasant up from the country, seeking to earn a living odd jobbing.  Coarse, simple, but good natured enough. Speech.- grotesque, loud, opened mouth.

   Low centre of gravity, stands with arched back, knees bent and apart and feet   splayed. Vertical sleeping is done standing on one bent leg with the other crossed  over the knee. The support side arm crosses the waist to support the other elbow,   the arm of which goes vertically up so the palm can provide a prop for the nodding   head

 Walks- small steps, feet pointed, knees high off the ground and to side. Head  pecking but not bobbing up and down. Elbows forward  -big steps, curved lumbar, feet  in fourth, toes pointed. Curved arms make a scything motion. Used when not wanting to  be noticed. 
 -running, legs kicking alternately to the front, pointed toes. 
-jubilant, skipping, centre of gravity shifting from side to side. Hands in  belt at hip level. Head able to move independently.  
 -Vain, smaller version of big step walk. Chest forward, hands in belt.

  Dynamic, exaggerated movement. Head constantly moves independently of the body.  Urgent actions. Expressive hands.  Insatiable, everything could be eaten. Strains to give birth to ideas. Intolerant  of discipline and authority, but faithful. All reactions are emotional. Lives totally in the present. Sleep happens to him, wherever he is. Principal contributor  to any confusion.

 [Notes from ‘Commedia dell’Arte, An Actors Handbook’ by John Rudlin]

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