Prof. Kyna Hamill, whose area of scholarly focus is the early Italian commedia dell’arte, has published a paper in a special issue of Theatre Symposium focusing on stage props. In her paper, titled “A Cannonade of Weapons: Signs of Transgression in the Early Commedia dell’arte,” Prof. Hamill explores the dramatic and symbolic role of weapons and their relationship with social status, with reference to Renaissance author Baldassare Castiglione. An excerpt:
I suggest that the convention of overloading weapons for comic effect may have been sourced from Castiglione’s principles of gentlemanly conduct, which were well known by the end of the sixteenth century. That weapons could so strongly signify class and authority in Italian society implies that to use them onstage would be a highly visual code. Furthermore, the weapons used on stage would not be imitated “props” but objects moved from the real world to the stage world, thus carrying all social signification with them. To be burdened by a cannonade of weapons suggests an exaggerated indication of the codes of manly conduct, and a criticism of Castiglione’s ideals by a class of men who could never achieve them.
Students interested in reading more can ask Prof. Hamill to borrow a copy of the journal.