I Gelosi

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I Gelosi performing, by Hieronymus Francken I, ca. 1590

I Gelosi («The Zealous ones») was an Italian acting troupe that performed commedia dell'arte from 1569 to 1604. Their name stems form their motto: Virtù, fama ed honor ne fèr gelosi. This was long thought to mean "Virtue honour, and renown are only for the jealous", signifying that the former qualities could only be attributed to those who guarded them jealously. Modern reevaluations have considered "zealous" as a more accurate translation over "jealous"; redefining their motto to signify that, as actors, they were zealous to please.[1]

I Gelosi was formed in Milan, Italy by Flaminio Scala. Their first notable performer was Vittoria Piisimi. I Gelosi was the first troupe to be patronized by nobility: in 1574 and 1577 they performed for the king of France. After this they toured all over Europe, spreading commedia dell'arte from Italy to France, Poland, Spain, Germany, and England.

In the 1570s, Francesco Andreini joined I Gelosi and in 1578 he married Isabella Canali, an actress with the troupe. The Andreinis became the troupe's most famous performers and eventually Francesco took over as its head.

In 1604, Isabella died in childbirth in France. Francesco was so overwrought that he disbanded the troupe and retired from the stage. The stock commedia dell'arte character Isabella is named in her honor.


Formation and Members[edit]

The Gelosi are first recored as performing in Milan in 1568. Many of the original members of the troupe were also associated with the troupe of Zan Ganassa. When Ganassa left for Spain, some of his actors remained in Italy and reformed under the Gelosi title, with Flaminio Scala as the first director of the new troupe.[2] Francesco Andreini, is first heard of in the troupe in 1576, and succeeded Scala as director in 1578, though Scala remained with the troupe. Vittoria Piisimi was the group's first prima donna, but was effectively replaced with Isabella, already married to Francesco, in 1578. Francesco and Isabella made their marriage public in this year, but it is believed they were previously married in a private ceremony in 1576, soon after the birth of their first child.[3] VIttoria left the troupe to join I Confidenti, and there were rumors that the group's banishment from Mantua was of her doing; the Confidenti were the troupe patronized by the Duke of Mantua, and the actress may have influenced his decision.[4] The troupe, as with most of the era, always contained between 10-12 members, with most remaining in the troupe during their "Golden Age" in the late 16th Century.

Composition of I Gelosi [5]
Member Character State of Origin
Francesco Andreini Capitano Spavento di Vall' Inferna Pistoia
Isabella Andreini Prima Donna Padua
Flaminio Scala Flavio Rome
Giulio Pasquati Pantalone Padua
Lodovico de Bianchi Il Dottore Graziano Bologna
Gabriele delle Haste Francatrippe Bologna
Orazio de Nobili Innamorati Padua
Silvia Roncagli Fraceschina Bergamo
Prudenzia Seconda Donna Verona
Adriano Valerini Aurelio Verona

Travels to France[edit]

The Gelosi avoided sponsorship from a sole source; this prevented them from being tied down to a single location, allowing them to travel across Europe and spread the style of Commedia. They are the first troupe to be heard of in France, which was their most frequent destination and which earned them massive success on separate occasions, despite heavy resistance within the country.


I Gelosi's first recorded travel to France, at the invitation of the Duke of Nevers. Performed in front of English Dukes and Ambassadors, and later King Charles IX. Forced to leave after prohibitions were put in place by Parliament against acting in public, likely to protect the monopoly of the Confrerie de la Passion.[6]


Organized a caravan to travel to France at the behest of King Henri III. The troupe was captured en route by Huguenots, who were embroiled in conflict with the French Government. Henri III ransomed the players, recouping the money lost from admission costs in Lois and Paris.[7] They were again banned from performing by the Confrerie de la Passion, on the basis of vulgarity and bawdry.[8] Henri III again bailed the group out, and they continued performing until their departure in 1578.


Returned again to the court of Henri III. Were again subjected to parliamentary prohibition. Their departure was likely motivated by increasing rebellion amongst the populace, as well as the murder of the Duke of Guise, who was close to Henri III and indicated those within the King's court were not smart to remain.[9]

Gelosi (Play by David Bridel)[10][edit]

I Gelosi is a play by David Bridel, the current Dean of the USC School of Dramatic Arts. It was first performed in 2006 by the MFA Acting class of UCLA, of whom Bridel was a teacher. It was then staged professionally by the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble in 2008.


The play is very loosely based on the history of the troupe. The plot centers around Isabella Andreini's joining of the group in its early days, elevating them from poor street performers to massive success with her acting and poetry, and the revolutionary act of allowing a woman to perform onstage. Their attention earns them the patronage of the Duke of Mantua and their official adoption of the I Gelosi title. Throughout this, a romance buds between Isabella and Francesco. The play dramatizes the company's travels to France, where they perform a play satirizing the Pope that thrusts them into scandal. They become involved in the Huguenot Rebellion on both sides, taken hostage by the Huguenots and labeled spies by the Monarchy. They flee to Mantua only to be turned away for the controversy they have created. Isabella begins to go mad, and turmoil and conflict arises within the group. The play ends with Isabella dying and the troupe being disbanded, their success lost and returning to poverty.

The play is a fictitious account of the troupe, with the plot elaborating and dramatizing facts of the company's travels.

Historical Inaccuracies[edit]

  • The play has Francesco Andreini forming I Gelosi, in reality it was Flamenco Scala who formed the troupe, with Andreini joining later. Scala is, in fact, omitted entirely from the play.
  • The troupe is shown embroiled in the Huguenot Rebellion, in reality they left France before even the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, with the true Huguenot Rebellion not occurring until 1620, after the group's disbandment. Though the group was captured by Huguenots at one point, there is no indication of violent resistance.
  • The troupe's disbandment is shown leaving the members in poverty and ruin; in reality the group was disbanded while still relatively successful, with the disbandment motivated more by the death of Isabella.
  1. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 13. 
  2. ^ Ducharte, Pierre Louis (1966). The Italian Comedy. Toronto: General Publishing Company. p. 87. 
  3. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 17. 
  4. ^ Smith, Winifred (1912). The Commedia Dell'arte: A Study in Italian Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 151. 
  5. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell’arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 14. 
  6. ^ Rudlin, John (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 16. 
  7. ^ Smith, Winifred (1912). Commedia Dell'arte: A Study in Italian Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 149. 
  8. ^ Ducharte, Pierre Louis (1966). The Italian Comedy. Toronto: General Publishing Company. p. 88. 
  9. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupe. London: Routledge. p. 21. 
  10. ^ Bridel, David (2014). I Gelosi. Los Angeles: Original Works Publishing. 


  • Bridel, David. I Gelosi. Los Angeles: Original Works Publishing, 2014.
  • Ducharte, Pierre Louis. The Italian Comedy. Toronto: General Publishing Company, 1966. 50-101. Print.
  • Oreglia, Giacomo (1968). The Commedia dell'arte. Methuen.
  • Rudlin, John, and Olly Crick. Commedia Dell’arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge, 2001. 14-24. Print.
  • Smith, Winifred (1912). The Commedia dell'arte: A Study in Italian Popular Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press. Copy at Google Books; 1964 reprint (with added illustrations): New York: Blom.