Truffaldino, Pantalone, Smeraldina, Beatrice, Florindo Aretusi, Silvio, Clarice
Carlo Goldoni plays, Musicals
The servant of two masters
Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il servitore di due padroni) is a comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni written in 1746. Goldoni originally wrote the play at the request of actor Antonio Sacco, one of the great Truffaldinos in history. His earliest drafts had large sections that were reserved for improvisation, but he revised it in 1753 in the version that exists today. The play draws on the tradition of the earlier Italian commedia dell'arte.
The play opens with the introduction of Beatrice, a woman who has traveled to Venice disguised as her dead brother in search of the man who killed him, Florindo, who is also her lover. Her brother forbade her to marry Florindo, and died defending his sister's honor. Beatrice disguises herself as Federigo (her dead brother) so that he can collect dowry money from Pantaloon (also spelled Pantalone), the father of Clarice, her brother's betrothed. She wants to use this money to help her lover escape, and to allow them to finally wed. But thinking that Beatrice's brother was dead, Clarice has fallen in love with another man, Silvio, and the two have become engaged. Interested in keeping up appearances, Pantalone tries to conceal the existence of each from the other.
Beatrice's servant, the exceptionally quirky and comical Truffaldino, is the central figure of this play. He is always complaining of an empty stomach, and always trying to satisfy his hunger by eating everything and anything in sight. When the opportunity presents itself to be servant to another master (Florindo, as it happens) he sees the opportunity for an extra dinner.
As Truffaldino runs around Venice trying to fill the orders of two masters, he is almost uncovered several times, especially because other characters repeatedly hand him letters, money, etc. and say simply "this is for your master" without specifying which one. To make matters worse, the stress causes him to develop a temporary stutter, which only arouses more problems and suspicion among his masters. To further complicate matters, Beatrice and Florindo are staying in the same hotel, and are searching for each other.
In the end, with the help of Clarice and Smeraldina (Pantalone's feisty servant, who is smitten with Truffaldino) Beatrice and Florindo finally find each other, and with Beatrice exposed as a woman, Clarice is allowed to marry Silvio. The last matter up for discussion is whether Truffaldino and Smeraldina can get married, which at last exposes Truffaldino's having played both sides all along. However, as everyone has just decided to get married, Truffaldino is forgiven. Truffaldino asks Smeraldina to marry him.
The most famous set-piece of the play is the scene in which the starving Truffaldino tries to serve a banquet to the entourages of both his masters without either group becoming aware of the other, while desperately trying to satisfy his own hunger at the same time.
One of the main themes of this play is found in the character development of Truffaldino. As mentioned above, he is always hungry. That is his action: it is what he wants in the play. Yet, the play does not end when he finally gets a meal and a full belly; it ends with a kiss shared between him and Smeraldina. Truffaldino, it is implied, was hungry for love. Themes of confrontation between young and old are presented through confrontations between Dr Lombardi and his son, Silvio, as well as Pantalone with his daughter, Clarice.
The characters of the play are taken from the Italian Renaissance theatre style Commedia dell'arte. In classic commedia tradition, an actor learns a stock character (usually accentuated by a mask) and plays it to perfection throughout his career. The actors had a list of possible scenarios, each with a very basic plot, called a canovaccio, and throughout would perform physical-comedy acts known as lazzi (Italian lazzo, a joke or witticism) and the dialogue was improvised.
The characters from Servant of Two Masters are derived from "stock characters" used in commedia dell'arte. True commedia dell'arte is more or less improvised without a script, so Servant of Two Masters is not true commedia. The stock characters were used as guides for the actors improvising.
There have been several adaptations of the play for the cinema and for the stage: