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Character Analysis

Character Name:

Pulcinella Cetrulo

His name means little chicken (Pulcino = day-old chick in Italian) His full name is Pulcinella Cetrulo (citrulo = stupid). He became Polichinelle in France, Hanswurst (Germany), Toneelgek (Holland), Kasperle (Austria), Petrushka (Russia), Karagoz (Turkey) and Mr. Punch in England. (Rudlin)

...It is this very 'hen step', in fact, which gave rise to Pulcinella's name. Pulcino, and finally Pulcinella. (Duchartre)

Status:

Sometimes master and sometimes servant. (Fletcher)

Can either be employer or employee: no respecter of persons either way. e.g. magistrate, baker, schoolmaster, spy even poet. (Rudlin)

Costume:

Long baggy white blouse, tied around the waist with a leather belt...baggy white trousers and white sugar-loaf hat. Stick and purse. (Rudlin)

Oversized, off-white clothes with a large hump on the back. (Shane)

Origin (History):

The most ancient of the characters, a direct descendant of the Atellenae.  He is the burlesque representative of the working class of Naples.(Rudlin)

A child of two fathers, Maccus and Bucco. Maccus was quicky, witty, impertinent, ironical and a bit cruel; Bucco was self sufficient, fawning, silly, timid, boastful, and, in short, a theif.

By the same token the doom of duality worked its effect upon Pulcinella's personal appearance. Originally he was only slightly humpbacked; then, as a counterbalance, his pot-belly began to swell. The hump, in turn grew larger and the belly again followed suit. (Duchartre)

Pulcinella represents the poor worker, the man ho has very little to lose and therefore sheds the politeness borne of fear common to the higher classes. (Fletcher)

Physical Appearance:

At first he was hump-backed, but thus disappeared by the 1700’s. (Rudlin)

Pulcinella is bent over from the continual beatings laid on him by everyone of higher social standing, which is pretty much everybody. (Fletcher)

Mask:

Brown or black with long, beaked nose. Furrowed with wrinkles and a large wart on the forehead. (Rudlin)

Signature Props:

A cudgel, which he calls his ‘staff of credit’, because it is the money with which he pays off his debts. (Rudlin)

His stick fills the gaps in his communication skills, it is his punctuation, either beginning or finishing his sentences. (Danny)

Stance:

Weight is basically on one leg...center of gravity high.(Rudlin)

Pulcinella, in an effort to avoid the blows of an uncaring world, stays crouched and curled up like a frog. (Fletcher)

Walk:

Small jerky steps. (Rudlin)

Poses:

Crouching, with one hand on the ground for support.

Crouching, with both hands on the ground.

Crouching, with both hands on crotch.

Crouching, with hands on head.

Crouching, with hands on face.

Crouching, with hands out, fingers pointed at focal point.

Movements:

Slow and top-heavy, contrasting with the speed of his thought and speech.  But can also be acrobatic... (Rudlin)

Pulcinella moves in a low position until he is ready to strike, then he bounces up to full height. (Fletcher)

Gestures:

Broad and sparing, an excellent mimic...(Rudlin)

Speech:

A chicken squawk, very like the result of the 'swazzle' used by PUnch and Judy Professors. A chatterbox who never knows when to shut up. He speaks Roman, Neapolitan or Calabrese or the dialect of his adopted region. (Rudlin)

A high-pitched peep like a frightened chick. (Duchartre)

A coarse French accent, offensive in its tone. (Fletcher)

Animal:

A Cockerel (Rudlin)

A baby chick or chicken (Duchartre)

A Toad (Fletcher)

Relationships:

He is often married but rarely in love. (Rudlin)

He has no more repect for love or sex than he does for fine lace or champagne. (Fletcher)

Relationship to Audience:

Direct, quarrelsome. (Rudlin)

A French jerk, suspicious and disrespectful of anyone who is not French, poor and ugly. (Fletcher)

Frequent Plot Function:

A loner, he often has nothing to do with plot but provides an external source of comedy to the story. (Rudlin)

Characteristics:

He is either stupid pretending to be clever, or clever pretending to be stupid, either way, he is always pretending and self-centered. He has no more care for human life than that of a flea.  He loves to pick a fight and then to shed blood. He loves food and drink and sex, but will not work for it. He talks about himself in the third person and absolutely cannot keep a secret.(Rudlin)

Homey don’t play that. (D. Wayans)

Lazzi:

Picks a fight then refuses to fight, repeats.

Sells himself as a doctor and then injures the patient further.

Tries to hire a prostitute and then tries to bicker her down to a penny.

Tries to beg money as a mute, deaf, blind and crippled man.

Hops around peeping like a frightened chicken until he exahusts everyone but himself. (Duchartre)


A Bibliography

Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook by John Rudlin.  Routledge 1994

Commedia dell'arte: A Scene-Study Book by Bari Rolfe.  Personabooks 1977

The Commedia dell'Arte by Winifred Smith, New York, 1912

The Italian Comedy by Pierre Louis Ducharte.  Dover Publications, inc.  1966

Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte by Mel Gordon.  Performing Arts Journal Publications  1983

Scenarios of the Commedia dell'Arte:  Flaminio Scala's Il Teatro Delle Favole Rappresentative translated by Henry F. Salerno Limelight Editions  1996

All other comments have come from growth and experience of the performers of Commedia dell'Carte