One of the conundrums which has most exercised historians of Italian theatre can be simply stated: how to account for the imbalance between, on the one hand, the centrality and importance of the Italian theatrical tradition for the very development of theatre in Europe and, on the other, the scarcity of high-quality theatrical scripts produced by Italian dramatists? What are the factors that caused a theatre whose impact has been so rich, so enduring, so multi-faceted, so decisive, and indeed so formative for the creation of western theatre to have contributed so comparatively few authors or scripts to the recognised European canon? Richard Andrews puts the matter succinctly when, writing of the sixteenth century in Italian theatre, he notes that it was an age of radical innovations which have had ‘a fundamental effect on performed art in what we now think of as Western culture and civilisation’, but then adds the telling rider that ‘this remains true even though Italy has left us very few play scripts now perceived as possessing lasting quality’. 1 Silvio D’Amico made a comparable point when, taking a wider canvas, he identified an enduring, defining characteristic of Italian theatre, ‘La verità è che in Italia, per abitudine secolare, a teatro si va a sentire non l’autore ma l’attore, il virtuoso’. 2 Apart from its own intrinsic importance, the question brings into focus many wider issues concerning the collaborative process that is theatre-making, principally the power relations between the writer and the actor. An examination of the different qualities of English and Italian theatre might help elucidate this issue, and this article will propose the thesis that while the central figure in Italian theatre has been the actor, the figure of comparable importance in English theatre has been the author.