Masks and their application
“ The use of masks will be discovered eventually to be the freest solution of the modern
dramatists problem as to how-with the greatest possible dramatic clarity and economy of
means-he can express those profound hidden conflicts of the mind which the probing of
psychology continue to disclose to us “.
Eugene O‟Neill in Harris Smith (1984)
What we are primarily concerned with in this study is to further the idea of the relevance of masks, as
a tool for the elucidation and transformation of aspects of the human condition. By pushing and
expanding the boundaries of our experience and a priori knowledge, we can begin to develop our
understanding, not only of our own existence but the importance and relevance of our social
interaction and integration.
The analysis of what a mask can represent helps us to explore several effects:
1. As protective persona, a tough shield protecting a susceptible and sensitive personality.
2. A mask maybe fixed on another by a group, in order to influence the individual into a socially
3. The personality is defined wholly by externals, the only meaning is in the character or in the mask.
4. The mask could be an illustration of a healthier identity, an ideal toward which the deficient identity
strives for. A subtle bringing together can become conscious in the contrast between mask and face.
5. Group masking in which groups mask as a conscious collective.
“They provide a medium for exploring formal boundaries and a means of investigating the
problems that appearances pose in the experience of change”
Archetypes and the Masks of the Commedia del Arte
1.Introduction to Commedia del Arte
"This brings us to comedy, which is inherently subversive and visionary, always has a
moral, and has always been popular. The traditional class connections of the dramatic
genres are Conventionally explained in terms of relative sophistication: only the
aristocracy has leisure and refinement to consider the great Issues propounded by
tragedy; realism appeals to the no-nonsense outlook of the bustling middle-class; comedy
delights the childlike hedonism of the masses."
Joan Holden the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
The "Commedia del Arte" originated around the 1550‟s. Literally translated as, "Comedy of Skills".
(Abbr. CdA) Family tradition enabled its style to survive. There were no scripted dialogues as such,
except in the form of "business" and "directions" for the actors/characters to freely improvise. The
expression through body language and movement as well as sound and spoken language meant that
the form was accessible to a great many people as well as being cross-cultural. The performers were
often well educated and were able to create great subtleties within the characters.
The Commedia del Arte is set very much by the character "types" these are known within the form as
"masks", (although some of the characters are maskless). They are also identifiable by the postures
and actions of the characters as well as the way they sound. These became the main features of
Commedia del Arte, differentiating it from other theatre forms, although it does have similarities with
the melodrama of the Victorian stage. However, within melodrama, the character types are
maintained within a scripted piece and the character portraits may vary.
CdA on the other hand, maintains the set form each character has, within mainly improvised
scenarios called "Lazzi's"; as Rudlin (1994) suggests:
"Rather than the form being the container for the characters. The characters become the container
for the form"(34).
It has connected cultures and artists over a great period of time; through it's purity and rational
flexibility and use of ubiquitous human symbols. Some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century
have used characters from the Commedia del Arte to influence their work; Fisher (1992) proposes
"Many of them were drawn toward a kind of archetypal Jungian
Vision which reduced and also transformed life into a handful
Of simple plots and stereotypical figures that confront us with
Spiritual and intellectual glimpses of our deepest beings". (p.11)
Beckett, Brecht, and Ionesco based their existential clowns on Arlecchino; the most famous known to
us must be Charlie Chaplin‟s', "Tramp". Craig, Meyerhold, and Blok, as twentieth century dramatists,
were also influenced by these ancient archetypal figures.
In a quote taken from „The Triumph of Pierrot‟ Green et al; Fisher (1992:12), has pointed out that:
"Commedia del Arte is not an idea or a meaning, but a collection of images with many meanings".
Shakespearean drama is a prime example of this statement. Strehler in his adaptation of The
Tempest depicted Ariel as (Pierrot), Stephano (Capitano), Trinculo (Pulcinella).
"A very different picture emerges from painters and writers like
Picasso, Dali and Garcia Lorca (the first of whom was painting Cubist Harlequins before
some of the press reviews which have been studied), who explore the ludic traditions of
David John George (1992:35)
Appendix 1 and 2
The masks of the Commedia del Arte allow us to identify specific roles and
attitudes, extending the dramatic metaphor, into what I have called "parallel
identification". By looking at this style as an example for extension, we will
see that it incorporates the work of Dr. Sue Jennings and Dr. Robert Landy,
that of „Embodiment‟ of archetypes, „Projection‟ through mask and process
through „Role Types‟.
We may transform it from agit prop street theatre into agit prop psychology.
The discipline is in the art form. It has a fixed prearranged structure, without
any other overt imagery attached to it.
Really this is looking at certain aspects of role through the use of
Commedia for simple example what would the Capitano aspect of a
homeless person look like and if we were to take it into metaphor. What would the Capitano aspect of
a giant be like, and if we took it further we might look at what is the Pantaloni aspect of the Capitano
aspect of giant is therefore we are paralleling one aspect with another to see there what their
differences might be we are effectively making some assessment of complexes.
2.Introduction to Dramatherapy
Dramatherapy is an eclectic practice combining, Psychotherapeutic practice, and Creative Arts,
giving emphasis to drama. A typical definition might be: The intentional use of theatrical events to
bring about change during the therapeutic process. We are in essence talking about internal and
external socialisation through direct theatrical events, which help to create the therapeutic journey.
Dramatherapy can be used in many different ways with many different client groups from elderly
people with moderate to severe dementia, people in prison to give some example. It is also used with
individual clients. Its adaptation and flexibility allow dramatherapy as an art form to be infinite in
possibility and influence. With the strong structure of drama, the client can find stability in time, space,
The words "Drama" and "therapy" were first put together and used by Peter Slade in 1954. Through
Slades work with adolescents, he discovered that by using drama as a container for experience, the
children were able to create boundaries for themselves. This paved the way for an opinion and
research that would create the art form of Dramatherapy as we know it today. It was formulated in a
paper called "Dramatherapy as an Aid to Becoming a Person", which was published after Slade gave
a lecture in 1958 at the Guild of Pastoral Psychology.
He indicates in the paper, a process of productive discipline which incorporates the use of drama, to
equip a person with the skills necessary to evoke; "confidence, hope, feeling of security, discovery of
sympathy, and to concentration"(5) He goes on to make valid observations about symbols, related to
the dreamlike interpretations of imaginative fantasy, which are apparent within "projected play" as in
objects external to the person and "personal play" as in roles within a person:
"Symbols are thrown up, but there are many parallels which may be, as it were, symbols
of these symbols, and through which the truth behind the original symbols is equally
stumbled upon. The apparently haphazard or casually related train of events may
represent a stark reality, so it is not generally necessary to be overcareful to include
symbols in suggested scenes. (8)
He goes on to say:
There are two main qualities in the drama that I am trying to describe, and these are
Absorption and Sincerity. There can be tremendous absorption in the task done and a
tremendous sincerity about the way of doing it. Both these, in time, can become habits of
the personality, affecting such things as ability to concentrate, remember and learn, and
the sincerity brings out the fundamental things like truthfulness and honest behaviour. (10)
In the appreciation of drama as therapy "dramatherapy" we can express our realities within a form
that is infinite. In Peter Slades own words:
"In general realms, one might say that drama offers imaginary opportunity, as life does not
always provide it. (20)
Since 1958 practitioners of Drama, Psychology, and Psychiatry have expanded and formulated
different systems that have become specifically equated to drama therapeutic work.
Within the work developed by these practitioners, we can explore ourselves using imaginative
processes. We can create places that allow us the freedom of expression so valuable to us. We can
observe the exploration of others, which is so often a reflection of our own.
These events can take place within a group situation or can be experienced individually, one to one.
Because of the nature of the socialisation process it is best used with groups to greater advantage.
Although, a client who has symptoms of "frustrated archetypal intent" (Stevens 1984) as
unaccomplished role-relations within him or herself, may need individual consideration, to facilitate
the initial stages of social structure and development.
Its usage varies to a very great degree depending on the background of the practitioner. Some
dramatherapists are psychoanalytic based. Some are approaching dramatherapy from a Jungian
perspective. Usually there is some kind of an event attached in all methods. It is essential for a
dramatherapist to have some basic understanding of dramatic techniques these may include: Games
- Role play - Character work - Play reading and/or writing - Movement - Improvisation and Maskwork.
Not all dramatherapists use solely drama techniques.
I am proposing that "Commedia del Arte"(Abbrev.CdA) can be used as further exploration into
dramatherapeutic work. The most relevant factor in CdA that link it so well with dramatherapy is the
integral "archetypes" of the characters. As well as the archetypal principality, the use of body and
imagination, so important for embodiment and projective purposes within therapeutic exploration,
allow us to extend the form into an impressive source of inspiration.
If we could pinpoint an illustration to parallel the nature of the character "types" of the Commedia del
Arte, we might utilise for example; Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and Colombo. These are all basic
archetypal characters (they are driven by a particular energy).
They all became recognised for certain qualities, costumes, and stature, making them into three-
dimensional characters built up over time to represent a "type".
Because the "archetypes" of the (masks or maskless) are pre-determined in the CdA, and are quite
precise in each character type, there is automatically more manageability. (We are stealing from
Peter Slades idea of using a form for expression, in this instance it is the CdA). By determining the
qualities being evoked the interventions can be predicted with more precision. Hence, the intervention
can be monitored. As Nicoll (1963) says of one of the characters:
"Pantaloni, let us say, retains his name costume and essential basic characteristics in
successive plays, but he is made to appear in diverse circumstances and in diverse
relationships with his companions." (p.21)
His companions being that of other character "types" or "parts", Nicoll goes on to say that
"Whatever his particular circumstances, his essential personality remains the same. The
impression we get is of an individual revealed in different ways through the varying
connections he has with his fellows and through the particular positions in life which have
been accorded to him". (p.22
As Mead in Landy (1993) is clear to point out as a social scientist:
"It is generally recognised that the specifically social expressions of intelligence, or the
exercise of what is often called "social intelligence" depend upon the given individual's
ability to take the roles of, or "put himself in the place of", the other individuals implicated
with him in given social situations; and upon his consequent sensitivity to their attitudes
toward himself and toward one another."(141)
In terms of therapeutic involvement we could look at precisely what is stated in the above quotes ie.
What kind of thought processes the different characters have in relation to each other and to
themselves, and if we are presuming that all of the character "types" are in actual fact all present
within one psyche, we can endeavour examine that psyche in an effective realistic way.
By introducing the different character "types" or "parts", which may vary in accordance with
therapeutic goals, certain avenues of thought process could be adjusted and enhanced through
arbitration between these characters. Through the actualisation and investigation of them.
All the characters have a comic edge to them. If we can use the comedy to look at important issues,
those issues will then lose some weight and/or heaviness and become less threatening to the client
and to the therapist. This does not mean that the therapy is belittled in terms of value; in fact the
value increases because the comedy is more often or not the polar opposite of tragedy, which
creates a deep catharsis and integration. In Jungian terms this would clarify the term “The union of
opposites" as pointed out by Jacobi (1959):
"For in transcending the opposites by uniting them in itself (only to let them separate again
afterwards, so that no rigidity, no standstill may ensue,) the symbol maintains psychic life in a
constant flux and carries it onward toward its destined goal". (98)
She also indicates that:
"Only when the archetypes come into contact with the conscious mind, that is when the
light of consciousness falls on them and their contours begin to emerge from the darkness
and to fill with individual content, can the conscious mind differentiate them.” (66)
And Jung (1996) 2nd Ed., states quite clearly that: "The archetype let us never forget this-is a psychic
organ present in all of us.” (160)
By using Commedia del Arte as a structure and container to work in, we can begin to recognise a
potential for archetypal release and journey towards individuation.
"When consciously observed and guided, the individuation represents a dialectical
interaction between the contents of the unconscious and of the consciousness; symbols
provide the necessary bridges, linking and reconciling the often seemingly irreconcilable
contradictions between the two sides". (115) Jolande Jacobi (1959)
4.Character Analysis of the Commedia del Arte.
"And indeed the old man has a wicked aspect too, just as the primitive medicine- man is a
healer and helper and also the dreaded concocter of poisons. (227)
Jung (1996) 2nd.Ed.
A closer look at CdA by an analysis of the characters from a Jungian perspective, we are looking at
what Jung refers to as "motifs" these are dominating themes.
Within this structure there are indications of the qualities and symbols that are commonly found in a
diverse range of stories, dreams and fairytales. We must also remember that animals and inanimate
objects may also hold the qualities of these figures, including geometrical and abstract forms.
Cunning, Venal. Corrupt. Conniving. Leads by fear/manipulation. Knows weak points of another, uses
it against them for own benefit. Good at extracting mainly with deceit. The boss of the zanni. Never a
victim. Exploits. A criminal, pitiless, lies constantly and disguises himself.
Absurd egotist/self-admirer. Brags about powers as a military man and as a lover. Depicted as
Spanish. Boaster. Coward and a Rogue. Mischief-loving person, often childlike. Wild beast of savage
temper living apart from herd. A loner. Rascal. Knave. Scoundrel. Self-appointed name (never really
held rank) scared of women, thief, vain, stupid, sneering, he is in fact a glorified zanni. His first duty is
to himself. Boasts of false lineage (preferably a very long one). A "Don Juan" complex. He pretends
from pride to humility. Loud.
Father of one of the lovers. Pantaloni's friend or rival. Doctor of medicine or law. Insufferable pedant
with petty details of book learning, grammatical rules. Conceited ignoramus. Muddled
pronouncements and absurd opinions. Studied everything understood nothing. Philosopher. Highly
creative scientific mind but unable to communicate logically. He is a separate higher mind.
Pretentious scholar, can be a bachelor, big, drinks, thinks out loud, envies true creativity and natural
understanding. Inability to make a proposition without also giving voice to its antithesis.
Harlequin/Arlecchino (zanni) (possibly taking the "child motif")
Like an agile cat. Ignorance. Naivete. Anarchic Wit. Persecuted Lover. Stupidity with grace.
Overgrown Boy. Eternally amorous. He represents the needs of the common people. Roguishness,
amorality and emotional detachment. Innocent dolt but also a shrewd manipulator, without the sinister
connotations of his counterpart. Humour. Mischievous child. Plays on people‟s vanity. A sceptic.
Links with the devil well known. Easily lead by his counter-part BRIGHELLA. Servant to
Pantaloni/Capitano/Dottore. Little Devil. A shape shifter adopting disguises/cross dressing. Describes
precisely through words and gesture. Hoarse voice. Never contemplates the consequence of action.
He is reactive rather than pro-active.
Masters/Mistresses. Lovers. Speeches in poetic form. Always in love. Always happy, floating on a
cloud. They want others to share in this love. Lyrical poetry. Elegance. They lack firm contact with the
ground. Unfortunately things that resulted from the heat of passion get them into trouble. High status
brought lower by the hopelessness of their infatuation. Little or no physical contact. Vanity, mirrors.
Upset by their imperfections. Well read knowing large extracts of poems by heart. They are in love
with themselves being in love. When they do meet they have great difficulty communicating with each
other (nervous). Petulant and spoilt. No patience. Masochistic tendencies. Drama queens. Full of
doubt and low self-esteem. Selfish.
Prima donna daughter of Pantaloni, less dilettante, more perspicacious, flirty, provocative stubborn,
Real Soldier. After revenge. Laughs and sneers and is above everyone. Unfaithful and flatters any
woman who is present. Hubristic self-esteem
Often the father of one of the lovers. Comic contradictions of old age.
Stingy. Extremely mercenary. Paranoia around losing anything i.e. Money, possessions, servants, his
daughter. Vane. Lechery. Gullibility. Leads to exposure and defeat. Old man attempting to hide old
age. He is money. Protecting purse and bullying, aggressive, mean. Leers at women. Everything can
be bought or sold as far as he is concerned. Loves money for its own sake. Emotionally extreme.
Never forgets. Narrow minded.
Victim of cuckolding (husband whose wife is unfaithful)
Central Character è£ frustrated elegant. Dandy (man excessively concerned with smartness of
dress). Melancholy dreamer. Tragic rather than comic. Simple-minded awkward servant. Distaste for
vulgarity. Lonely figure. Butt of jokes. Survives oppression by seeming to be simple. Seems to have
no feelings. Gives vent to feelings when alone. Totally honest. Conscientious. A loner faithful to his
master. Abused half-starved life. Great endurance without complaint. Anaesthetised his sensitivity by
pretending to have no feelings. Always tired. A loner that loves COLUMBINA.
Blustering sometimes violent. Characteristic hump. A powerful figure in society who is not averse to
using violence to achieve his goals.
Deformed. Pot bellied. Misshapen. Cruelty. No respect for others. Sometimes has two humps
indicating his split personality. Quick thought and speech. Impersonates animals and birds and
inanimate objects, such as tree's and houses. He is either clever pretending to stupid or stupid
pretending to be clever. Egotist. Ferocious. Interior. Quarrels. Bloodshed.
fatalistic. His philosophy - nothing gets to him. He sees everything in his own image: Brutal, Ugly, and
destructive. Has no capacity to take kindness therefore can't give it. He is domesticated and is
capable of impersonating wife/mother if there is not one available. No respect. His good humour
conceals a ferocious interior. Quarrels and seeks them out. He cannot help telling everybody
Scheming exploitation of peoples weaknesses to reach a desired end.
Rascally. Speciality is running away. Coward. Makes confusion out of everything. A Liar. Flippant in
love. He falls in love for the sheer joy of it and like a bird flits from one love to another, never
becoming deeply involved and always obeying every impulse that enters his flighty head. Schemes
against old men for revenge. No logic. Forgets everything.
Musician. Little fighter. Go between. A derivative of CAPITANO. Cowardly/boasting. Short-sighted
and deaf in one ear. Rarely speaks has great difficulty expressing himself in words that which he
wishes to say. Expresses facially and through gesticulation of the body. A stirrer.
The "Zanni"(Zany ones) - servants.
Servants. (Soul energy) Food, sleep, sex. Animal nature. Grounded on the Earth. Basic needs level,
no intellect. Workers. Survival through "natural selection". Assist and scheme on behalf of the
masters to get rewards. Ignorant and loutish. No self-awareness. Intolerant of discipline and authority
but very faithful. All their reactions are emotional and they live totally in the present. (Sleep just
happens to them where they stand). They have to work hard for little reward. Emotionally driven.
(Male energy). Constantly in difficult
(All of the female characters of the CdA can be related to aspects or "motifs" of the feminine
unconscious. There are many different levels of these: Older, stronger, younger, weaker, resourceful.
Earthy compatriot. Sometimes lover of Harlequin. Innocent. Helper. Helps the downtrodden.
Spokesman for others. Mediator. Uses her position to help others. Rescuer. Justice higher level
servant. Freshness. Personal maid to the Prima Donna. Female zanni. Gossipy. Takes to punishing
Arlecchino. Lucid. Self-sufficient. Autonomous. No negative attributes. Thinks before she acts.
To stammer, a utility figure (useful). Frequently a Lawyer or minor official. Bald. Pot-bellied. Flies into
rages with himself and others when failing to communicate. Mixes his words up (Coriolanus 'Cor e
laid into us).
Female lover. A pastoral figure. Lonely wife of a shepherd.
Old man more level headed than PANTILONI.
Zanni or old man. A friend of PANTILONI. Ridiculous.
Jumped up Zanni or low-life CAPITANO. He favours everything mischievous, grotesque, and
Lover son of TARTAGLIA.
A pedantic. One who overvalues, or insists on petty details of book learning.
Great courtesan, over-dressed, wore too many jewels. Elaborate.
Servant to ROBERTO
Loads of children. Peasant. Huge shoes.
Old woman. Peasant. Obstinate. Limited. Narrow and primitive in her reactions. Generous in spirit.
Friend of COVIELLO
(we might say that this character closely resembles that of "the wise old man" being one of many
"motifs" within the unconscious).
An honest man. Prudent. Careful, discreet and sensible, with balanced judgements.
Schemer who has a long nose.
A miserly old man.
PANTILONI'S wife, an older COLUMBINA. A man-eater she takes lovers, particularly CAPITANO.
Admires ARLECCHINO and stenterello's defects are shadows of arlecchino's.
Lazy, fidgety, greedy and a rascal. Misuses words and enjoys new-coined words or phrases
The Captains valet.
Assistant to ROBERTO
Rival or companion to ARLECCHINO.
An old man.
Similar to CASSANDRO
Arlequino Different levels of servants with varying character
The levels of each character …………….
5.Role-types as Symbols, Archetypes, and Complexes.
Within the "role-types" of the CdA there are a number of established "parts" these parts could be
construed to be parts of a whole personality or "self". These "role-types" or "parts" can be
representational of our inter-personal "role-system" or relationships. Not only with people, but also in
our relationship to the environment and how these "roles" interact with the "roles" that are formed by
and for society. Our external relation to objects, images, signs our overall semiological awareness.
(See character profile of PULCINELLA).
These "role-types" or "parts" can also be assigned to the representation of
"intra-psychic-role-relations" leading into "sub-role/relations" and various degrees of "sub-
roling/division", Creating Avenues for specific exploration.
In order to establish a concrete base to work from we must look at the "masks" or "Role-types" from a
fundamental viewpoint; as symbols or a collection of symbols, that being, each "mask" and the
components that make up the "mask" as a whole.
If we are to consider that these "types" are intra-psychic as well as interpersonal symbols, how does
the relationship between these two polarities change? (The movement, or shift of the experience of
the archetypes from inner to outer).
Here we are encouraged by Jung (1996) 2nd.Ed, as he states:
"The archetype-let us never forget this-is a psychic organ present in all of us. A bad
explanation means a correspondingly bad attitude to this organ, which may thus be
injured. But the ultimate sufferer is the bad interpreter himself. Hence the "explanation"
should always be such that the functional significance of the archetype remains un-
impaired, so that an adequate and meaningful connection between the conscious mind
and the archetypes is assured. For the archetype is an element of our psychic structure
and thus a vital component in our psychic economy."(160)
So we will propose a model for explanation of this interchange, between archetype as potential, and
symbol as point of growth.
The German for symbol is - Sinnbild, and as such can be defined further by de-construction. "Sinn" is
defined as the meaning and is the masculine or yang element of a symbol. "Bild" is defined as the
image or the raw material of a symbol and is the feminine or yin element. The symbol is the
"transcendent function" and as Jacobi (1959) states:
"The content, the raw material of the creative, primordial womb of the collective unconscious,
which takes on meaning and shape through its union with the first component". (95)
The Union of Opposites
The Symbol as = Transcendent Function
This function creates a transition from one attitude to another
"It is a synthesis of conscious and unconscious material". (100)
The "self" is another way of referring to the unconscious and the conscious combined processes.
Making way for potential wholeness and individuation.
Again we can take Jung (1996) 2nd. Ed. as an example:
"Moreover, the self is felt empirically not as subject but as object, and this by reason of its
unconscious component, which can only come to consciousness indirectly, by way of
projection. Because of its unconscious component the self is so far removed from the
conscious mind that it can only be partially expressed by human figures; the other part of it
has to be expressed by objective, abstract symbols"(187)
This will become clearer in the chapter concerning dreams and Commedia, where abstract symbols
become channels for the illumination of the character and roles. Jung goes on to say that:
"The indefinite extent of the unconscious component makes a comprehensive description
of the human personality impossible."(187)
If we take it that the archetype has a epicentre a place of origin and that an "archetype" or "nodal
point" carries mythological or universal human material and originating "complexes" with it from the
collective unconscious, into the unconscious, and therefore moving into the conscious we can draw a
model connecting diagram.
THE FOUR NODAL POINTS
1 top ….Positive, favourable, and bright.
3…Right…..That which is yet to come ►
4…left ....◄ that which has been.
2… bottom …..Negative, unfavourable, partly chthonic.
Individually acquired material from conception through the birth process along the continuum of life
will carry "complexes" and continue gathering these until the cessation of physical life, as Jacobi
"Only an interpretation on the symbolic level can strip the nucleus of the complex from its
pathological covering and free it from the impediment of its personalistic garb". (26)
Each client‟s experience is unique, life experience and accumulation of complexes is different and
therefore requires careful negotiation, and not all complexes are pathological. Some complexes are
indeed necessary to sustain a balanced life.
Each client will have different levels of engagement with each character "type" or "part", which may
be determined by gender, age, pathological state, and race.
"The mask" or essential "role type of the CdA" would be classified as the distancing within this new
formula, externalising or projecting the process of thought into an object, the "object of reference",
before re-integrating with it as subject to object and object to subject.
"Where there is no consciousness of the difference between subject and object an
unconscious identity prevails. The unconscious is then projected into the object, and the
object is introjected into the subject, becoming part of his psychology".
If we take a character from a fairy tale say "The Little Match Girl"; she has a basic "archetypal form"
that of the Pauper. That structure or form maybe lifted into consciousness. Surrounding that form is a
complex which is based on an individual‟s perception of what that "little Match Girl" is. There is also a
complex that the individual has of the experience of that character within his or her own life story.
"From the functional point of view we may say that the resolution of a complex and its
emotional assimilation, i.e. the process of raising it to consciousness, always result in a
new distribution of psychic energy".
If we then add to this character another archetypal form, that of a CdA “type”, we can begin to identify
specific attributes, different levels of functioning within the archetype of the pauper. It is my
speculation, that there are as many archetypes within one archetype as there are archetypes of
which there are an infinite number. This leads us to explore another level of thought process on a
deeper more profound level, creating an even greater distance from the clients own experience, at
the same time decreasing the distance, creating another polar opposite. Increasing the union of
opposites. We are in effect working with "dual potential within parallel identification" that of the
archetypal energy of the character and that of the archetype of the CdA “type”, increasing the
likelihood of "archetypal release", or energy illumination. We can look to Jacobi (1959) for some
"To define it from a functional point of view we might say that the archetype as such is
concentrated psychic energy, but that the symbol provides the mode of manifestation by
which the archetype becomes discernible". (74)
Anima, Animus Projection and injection
"Since we can no longer or only partially express the archetypes of the unconscious by
means of figures in which we religiously believe, they lapse into unconsciousness again
and hence are unconsciously projected upon more or less suitable human personalities."
6.The Trickster Archetype
The archetype that we are particularly interested in is the trickster archetype. Early depictions of the
CdA characters lead us to believe that they were seen as devils, who are equated with the dichotomy
between god and the devil and of good and evil, light and dark a very universally diverse aspects of
How they might be used within a Dramatherapy session or a
group of sessions.
What we are ultimately aiming at, is to support people on a journey of self-discovery and illumination,
which enables them to re-create their natural ability to negotiate freely, internally on a psychic level
and externally on a social level, so structuring the capacity of balance.
We will assume for the moment that we are not working with pathological states, but with people who
have decided to look at a particular area of their lives, that they feel maybe causing them some
difficulty. Let us take for example the problems of self-confidence or lack of it, which is a fairly
universal problem. By making this our point of initiation into dramatherapy we may, after an initial
exploration, find that another channel of expression is opened.
We may choose to call our exploration "In search of Capitano" and we offer this as our aim within a
set of dramatherapy sessions as a short input strategy.
The idea is to offer the clients the opportunity to find and develop their own individual Capitano. We
have several degrees of this character and may choose to work with all of them to get the variations
At the assessment stage the clients would be told about Commedia del Arte (CdA) briefly, and that
the work would focus using this method.
The work would begin through movement using the stances and postures of the Capitano character
as a warm-up and introduction to the group.
We would then begin to construct our own individual Capitano's as the exploration of a "type", by
using the four nodal points as a starting point to build the character. The qualities at the four points
are: 1. Positive, favourable and bright. 2. Negative, unfavourable, partly chthonic (of, relating to, or
inhabiting the underworld.[Greek “‟khthä¤n “‟'earth'] and 3. That which has been. 4. And that which is
yet to come.
We could also inquire into the; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual nature. The possibility of
many variations within one archetype must be taken into consideration.
We will assume that the point at which the triangles meet in the middle, (diagram 1) is the point of the
characters conception, within the actor/client. Coming from the left is the actors/clients own individual
perceptions of his/her life experience. Moving to the right is the story or journey of the character, that
will be created by the actor/client from his inner “‟a priori “‟knowledge and his imagination.
We will assume that the midway point in (diagram 2) represents
The "archetype" or "point of energy" at conception or connection with a given character or/and
emotional state. Time immemorial, coming in from the left, is a pre-supposed collection of material
that is unconscious to the actor/client. These two diagrams juxtapose each other creating the model
The right-hand triangle represents the path followed by an "archetype", through the different levels of
the unconscious, moving through different layers of "complexes" until it reaches consciousness at
which point the "archetype" can become realised "complexes" are at their most difficult, but can be
worked and contained.
It is at this point that the story created by the actor needs to be structurally solid and engaged in order
for the "complexes" to be worked safely.
After the cultivation of the character has taken place, we would use a constructed mask for our own
Capitano type these would vary according to the individuals interpretation, the only rule is that the
mask has to have a long nose which is integral to the Capitano. By keeping the nose he retains his
comic edge and holds the archetypal energy of the type, even if the interpretation varies slightly.
Once we have the character profile and the mask we may begin to develop scenarios or Lazzi's for
the Capitano to work in. These can be formulated and performed using other masks alongside as
sidekicks, whether they be worn by other members of the group or laid out on the floor as a map, or
worn by the therapist. Some of the other characters don't wear masks but depict a "type".
This method can be used with any of the other character types.
We may like to work with a ready formulated character, creating more distance between the client
and his own personal experience, by introducing different character types to him/her.
What type of Commedia character is "Del-boy" from the TV programme "Only Fools and Horses"?
If we develop another character trait for him, how would this change his outlook?
If we gave Del-boy a different quality? How would he relate to his family? What are their qualities?
How might different character types change her overall perception and journey through the story?
How could we set up these changes as three-dimensional pictures?
How can these different aspects of personality, help to instigate and bring about change within her
What roles do the other people play in this scene; it may be different from the actual story?
What are the initial character "types" of Cinderella‟s' ugly Sisters?
How does the behaviour of the ugly Sisters change when we give them a mask of a different "role-
type"? The mask of Pantaloni perhaps? How does this affect how they relate to other members of the
How does this change how people see them? How does this change the way in which they see
themselves? How does this affect their status?
The clients may have at their disposal a full set of masks, to identify particular aspects of the "types”,”
parts" of a character. In this way, they might analyse the different "roles" and "sub-roles" that draw
some ideas and perceptions about character choices.
We could move onto create improvisations, incorporating different character types that we might meet
in our everyday lives. This would bring the work into reality. Working more on a psychodramatic level.
As long as we observe the rule that the character types have a comic edge and the structure is kept
solid. An example here might be; A biker with a harlequin aspect. A shop assistant with a Capitano
We can look at; action and reaction, abstract and concrete, real and ideal, male and female or any
combination of opposites can be explored in a safe distanced way. By giving the characters within the
drama the different "archetypes" of the (CdA) to explore. The clients can explain the archetypes even
without actualising the characters and work through discussion in a more psychotherapeutic way.
1.Character 5. Role (within
2.Main role type 6.Sub-roles (within
3.Commedia main role type 7.Dimensions of
4. (Commedia) sub-roles
What we are dealing with is a "potential". There are no absolutes and this has to be stated quite
The danger in mask work is they can evoke the full powerful potential of archetypes. As archetypes
become exposed, the conscious persona/ego state determined by ones perception of the world could
become unbalanced. Energy becomes magnified and enhanced, increasing the "potential" effect of
the mask. Not only will archetypes or energy from the mask be released, but also the "contra-mask"
may also be exposed. In psychological terms we might call this the "shadow persona” unconscious
energy that is collected by our object of reference; the mask.
A mask is a tangible object.
It is a presence, and has a presence of its own, which encounters one‟s own presence - face to face.
You can feel possessed.
Masks create strong impulses.
Masks dislike agitation.
They can be animated by strong and utterly simple action.
If you look in the mirror (You may play what you see and not what you feel).
Masks have their own rhythm.
The sound of breathing is greatly amplified (and can be frightening).
When you put a mask on you may experience an injection of emotion which comes over you, this can
be frightening because it heightens the awareness of your own state.
Don't try and impose your own rhythm or will onto the mask.
Giorgio Strehler gives his impression:
"The mask is a terrible, mysterious instrument; it has always given me and continues to
give me a feeling of fear. With the mask we are on the threshold of a theatrical mystery
whose demons reappear with static, immutable faces, which are at the very roots of
Within our innate role system that is influenced by environment and social conditioning, we encounter
many different situations that we have to evaluate and improvise. We may get locked into certain role
"types", which may hinder our normal functioning.
By exploring our own roles that are inextricably linked with other peoples, we begin to develop the
capacity for interpersonal relationships. The capacity for intra-psychic development is increased,
helping us to understand the different roles we have in life.“
Dreams and CdA
Once upon a time there were two bits of energy that lived in a cave. After some time, the two bits of
energy managed to separate. One bit stayed in the cave and became the big Ogre, and the other bit
of energy became a family. There was a girl, a boy, and a mum. Don't know if there was a Dad.
Anyway, the family went off into the world, and then the image that separated from the energy in the
cave, which was a girl, (the energy in the cave was a man) decided to investigate. So she went back
into the cave and saw that the other bit of energy was turned into the big Ogre, who was very angry,
indeed. She was frightened, she didn't know how to approach him, and she felt this divine magic
coming from him. She went back out into the world and got on with her life. But somehow she knew
that the energy was trying to come out of the cave and get her Mother. She had to find her Mother in
the world and tell her that she must be careful. The Mother wouldn't understand. The energy from the
cave came after her, the Mother knew about the cave, and she decided to go and take a look for
herself. So she went into the cave and she wasn't clever enough, and the Ogre killed her. And the girl
in the world was very sad that the Mother was killed. Also; now the other energy had got her Mother,
it was going to try and get her Brother as well. So she tried to find her Brother. She couldn't find him.
She couldn't find him. She said to him, you must beware. The Ogre in the cave is going to come and
"Our dreams are continually saying things beyond our conscious
Comprehension (which is why they are so useful in the therapy of neuroses). (178)
Jung (1996) 2nd.Ed.
I have been toying for ages of how to get the Commedia characters to match up to the action within
the dream. All of the Commedia characters are driven by emotion, and each represents a certain
role-type. The eye in the first part of the dream and the cave, the first eye, where all the stuff came up
about school and bullying, this generally might be classified as a kind of a very sad place. Now, one
of the characters that this place might suit quite well is
Pierrot/Pedrolino (zanni - bottom)
Victim of cuckolding (husband whose wife is unfaithful)
Central Character frustrated elegant. Dandy (man excessively concerned with smartness of dress).
Melancholy dreamer. Tragic rather than comic. Simple-minded awkward servant. Distaste for
vulgarity. Lonely figure. Butt of jokes. A scapegoat. Survives oppression by seeming to be simple.
Seems to have no feelings. Gives vent to feelings when alone. Totally honest. Conscientious. A loner
faithful to his master. Abused half-starved life. Great endurance without complaint. Anaesthetised his
sensitivity by pretending to have no feelings. Always tired. A loner that loves COLUMBINA.
What we could say from the emotion experienced at this particular part of the dream, is that we take
the emotion and energy of the dream and pass it through role, transcending into Pierrot we could
really allow ourselves to experience it fully by making a mask of this character. This would be the
mask that was individually accessed; maybe each mask would be different, on different days.
The archetypes are the everlasting elements of the unconscious, but they change their shape
My mask would have big droopy cheeks and funny slanting eyes, a funny upturned mouth.
When we have developed this character, then we can make a list of his qualities, positive and
negative. We could list the negative qualities with the mask on in first person i.e. I feel... what I am...
during this state of being. And then we remove the mask and we find an opposite for each of the
negative qualities that will represent a positive quality. We might re-iterate these in third person.
Now the opposite of me might be different to the opposite for someone else, so this representation
will be different in each case. So once we've listed qualities: positive and negative.
Its time to put them together, to appreciate them as a one.
Then we would put the mask back on and try to feel those two things at the same time negative and
positive we would move to allow what has been and what is to come.
This would create a true rounded person in our character.
And this could happen for each symbol that a mask was made for.
This would constitute turning symbol into role turning Commedia del arte into a healing tool.
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