The Italian flavour of Shakespeare plays is strong and consistent and is hardly accounted for by standard explanations. One of these flavours, perhaps subtler than the others, is the influence of the Commedia dell’Arte. Despite the landmark work of K.M. Lea, Ferdinando Neri, Allardyce Nicoll, Winifred Smith, and others, the case for the influence of the Commedia dell’Arte on the plays of Shakespeare is weakened by the relative paucity of documented visits of the troupes/actors to London. However, Shakespeare’s texts as we have them are full of extraneous verbal elements such as puns, topical allusions and songs in the manner of the verbal lazzi of the Commedia dell’Arte. After all, Shakespeare’s context is the London commercial theatre and the professional troupe of players. From 1576-1642 the London stage was an arena of vigorous and innovative theatrical activity. Moving in theatrical circles as he did, Shakespeare would most certainly have been aware of (documented) visits of the Italians.
Key Words: Commedia dell’Arte, Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare.