RUZZANTE

(1496-1542)
Angelo Beolco, more commonly known by his stage name Ruzzante, was a famous actor and playwright in the Venetian and Paduan territories. He was the illegitimate son of Giovanni Francesco Beolco, a member of Paduan high society and rector of the faculty of medicine at the University of Padua. As a young man he was charged with the administration of the country estates of Alvise Cornaro, a wealthy landowner, who became Ruzzante's patron. During this same period Ruzzante founded a dramatic company and performed in comic recitals in the street celebrations of carnival time and in the homes of Venetian patrician families.
His first play, called simply La pastoral, first performed in 1518, is a parody of the artificial pastoral drama much in vogue at the time. Instead of the en­amored shepherd swain, the protagonist is a rough, almost animalistic peasant who speaks the crude rustic dialect of the Paduan countryside, bristling with obscenities and double entendres. The other characters in the play, in comic contrast, use either a literary, Tuscanizing Italian or other dialects, like the quasi-incomprehensible Bergamask of the doctor.
Ruzzante made a spirited apology for the naturalness of the rustic dialect and the natural, genuine life of the country in an oration delivered at the formal installation of a relative of his patron as bishop of Padua. More blatantly nat­uralistic is Ruzzante's next theatrical production, La Betia, a marriage comedy belonging to a genre called the mariazo, performed at rustic weddings. It ends in a happy, country-style melange a quatre between two married couples with the connivance of the lover of one of the spouses. Ruzzante once more pits the realism of his peasant world against the artifices of pastoral poetry and the stylized conversations of the new courts of love, as in Cardinal Pietro Bembo's* Gli Asolani, set in a villa near Padua.
In 1529 Ruzzante presented a monologue entitled Parlamento, spoken by a peasant who went off to the wars hoping to escape his misery but returns more impoverished than ever and finds that his wife has turned prostitute and repu­diated him. In La Anconitana Ruzzante makes use of the time-honored device of mistaken identity. Ginevra, a widow from Ancona, falls in love with Gis-mondo, who turns out to be her own sister, who had been captured by pirates and had assumed male disguise.
Toward the end of his life, under the influence of Ludovico Ariosto,* with whom he collaborated at the court of Ferrara, Ruzzante wrote two comedies based very closely on two plays of Plautus, although they still retained the pungency and naturalism of the Paduan peasantry. It is interesting to note that many of Ruzzante's plays were performed in a theater designed by the famous architect Giovan Maria Falconetto on the classical principles formulated by the Roman writer on architecture, Vitruvius.
On the vigil of a celebration in which he was to play a role in Sperone Speroni's* horrendous tragedy Canace, Ruzzante took sick and died. It was as if he could not survive his own stage image nor be completely integrated into the academism of his patrons.
Bibliography
L. Carroll, Angelo Beolco (Il Ruzante), 1990.
N. Dersofi, Arcadia and the Stage, 1978.
Charles Fantazzi

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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