It is interesting and significant that, in some of the plays he wrote between 1592 and 1606, Shakespeare’s representation of Italy and performance of scenes borrowed from Italian popular drama should include carnivalesque elements with masques, torches, fifes and drums, cross-dressing as well as more subversive aspects such as those concerned with sexuality and satire.1 These scenarios often involve a patriarchal, family structure in an urban environment away from the more romantic patterns of ‘green world’ comedy (like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It) as well as a specific generic instability, since comedy is always close to real or potential tragedy. Such hybridity was never theorised in England and seems to proceed from a number of empirical choices and specific needs of the public playhouses and the professional stage in Shakespeare’s day and it does reveal a number of interactions with the world of commedia dell’arte which some actors like William Kempe seem to have been quite familiar with.2