When we speak of commedia dell’arte today, we are likely to think of Harlequin, physicality or, perhaps, a scripted play by Goldoni. In other words, we may picture commedia as it evolved in the eighteenth century. If we rely on their Elizabethan detractors, we may think commedia players differed radically from the English, as Thomas Nashe claimed:

Our players are not as the players beyond the sea, a sort of squirting bawdy comedians, that have whores and common courtesans to play women’s parts, and forbear no immodest speech or unchaste action that may provoke laughter, but our Sceane is more stately furnisht … not consisting like theirs of a Pantaloun, a Whore and a Zanie, but of Emperors, Kings and Princes, whose true tragedies they do vaunt.1