THE ENGLISH WEBSITE DEDICATED TO:
Born 1707 Venice - died 1793 Paris
“The world is a beautiful book, but of little use to him who cannot read it”.
Translations of Goldoni's plays into English:
Il servitore di due padroni - The Servant of Two Masters (1747) - Translated by Frederick H. Davies
Il vero amico - The True Friend (1750) - Translated by Anna Cuffaro - see www.sparklingbooks.com
La bottega del caffè - The Coffee House (1751) - Translated by Jeremy Parzen
La locandiera - The Innkeeper Woman (1753) - Translated by Lady Gregory
Arcifanfano: King of Fools - Translated by W.H. Auden
Le morbinose - The Good-Humoured Ladies - Translated by Richard Aldington
Il teatro comico - Comic Theatre - Translated by John W. Miller
Four Comedies: I due gemelli Veneziani (1750), La vedova scaltra (1748), La locandiera (1753), and La casa nova (1761) - Translated by Frederick Davies
Carlo Goldoni's Villeggiatura Trilogy: Le smanie della villeggiatura, Le avventure della villeggiatura, and Il ritorno dalla villeggiatura - Translated by Robert Cornthwaite.
The Holiday Trilogy: Three Comedies - Translated by Antony Oldcorn
Works about Goldoni in English:
Mémoires (1787) Memoirs of Carlo Goldoni. Translated by John Black, edited by William A. Drake. Goldoni's autobiography.
Playing with Gender: The Comedies of Goldoni by Maggie Gunsberg
Goldoni and the Venice of His Time by Joseph Spencer Kennard
Goldoni: A Biography by H. C. Chatfield-Taylor
Goldoni As Librettist: Theatrical Reform and the Drammi Giocosi per Musica by Ted Emery
Notes on Carlo Goldoni's Influence on Western Theatre by William Harvey Whedbee
Carlo Goldoni and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Joseph Farrell Editor
Secret Sharers in Italian Comedy: From Machiavelli to Goldoni by Jackson I. Cope
Scroll down to the bottom for a list of Goldoni's plays
1707 - Born in Venice.
1719 - Jesuit College in Perugia.
1720 - Studies philosophy in Rimini.
1721 - Joins and runs away with the theatre company Florindo de' Maccheroni.
1722 - Goes to live with his family in Chioggia.
1723 - Studies law in at the Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia.
1725 - Expelled from Collegio Ghisleri due to his satirical writing, Il colosso, about the people of Pavia.
1726 - Continues law studies law in Modena but, following nervous breakdown, he returns to Chioggia.
1727 - Clerk in the criminal chancellery of Chioggia.
1729 - Clerk in the criminal chancellery of Feltre.
1732 - Obtains his Doctorate in Law at Padova and is then admitted to the Venetian bar.
1733 - Secretary to the Venetian minister at Milan.
1734 - Dismissed from his diplomatic position.
1735 - Falls in love with an actress who subsequently leaves him.
1736 - Goes to Genova, where he meets and marries Nicoletta Connio, with whom he
returns to Venice.
1738 - Writes his first comedy, L'Uomo di mondo. (The Man of the World).
1740 - Appointed Genovese consul in Venice from which he resigns in 1744.
1744 - Practises law in Pisa.
1748 - Returns to Venice where he collaborates with the composer Baldassare Galuppi in producing a new form of opera buffa.
1750 - Goldoni coins the term 'La commedia dell'arte' in his play Il teatro comico "Comic Theatre"
1757 - Has harsh disputes with playwright Carlo Gozzi and other fellow countrymen about the nature of theatre. Gozzi criticises Goldoni for having disposed with poetry and imagination in drama.
1761 - Moves to Paris where he is appointed in charge of the Italian Theatre at the Royal Court. For his service Goldoni receives a pension.
1762 - Settles in Paris where he writes plays and his memoirs in French.
1771 - Writes Le Bourru bienfaisant, on the occasion of Louis XVI's marriage to Marie Antoinette.
1789 - With the advent of the French Revolution, the monarchy is deposed and Goldoni loses his income.
1793 - Dies in poverty in Paris afflicted by blindness.
It was reserved for Carlo Goldoni to effect the dramatic revolution so frequently attempted by men whose talents were unequal to the task. Goldoni, a native of Venice, was born in 1707, and almost lived out the century, for he died in Paris in 1792. In his memoirs, written by himself, is depicted with the utmost liveliness the born comedian, careless, light-hearted and with a happy temperament, proof against all strokes of fate, yet thoroughly respectable and honourable. Such characters were common enough in Italy, and it is somewhat remarkable that he should have been the only one of his many talented countrymen to win a European reputation as a comic writer. In tragedy other names have appeared since the death of Alfieri, but Goldoni still stands alone. This may be partly explained by the absence in comedy of a literary style which at the same time was national. Goldoni gave to his country a classical form, which, though it has since been cultivated, has never been cultivated by a master.
The son of a physician, Goldoni inherited his dramatic tastes from his grandfather, and all attempts to direct his activity into other channels were of no avail. Educated as a lawyer, and holding lucrative positions as secretary and councillor, he seemed, indeed, at one time to have settled down to the practice of law, but an unexpected summons to Venice, after an absence of several years, changed his career, and thenceforth he devoted himself to writing plays and managing theatres. It was his principal aim to supersede the comedy of masks and the comedy of intrigue by representations of actual life and manners, and in this he was entirely successful, though not until after powerful opposition from Carlo Gozzi, who accused him of having deprived the Italian theatre of the charms of poetry and imagination. Gozzi had obtained a wide reputation by his fairy dramas, and this so irritated Goldoni that he removed to Paris, where, receiving a position at court, he passed the latter part of his life in composing plays and writing his memoirs in French. Notwithstanding that his works became extremely popular in Italy, he could never be induced to revisit his native land. In his last years he was afflicted with blindness, and died in extreme poverty, a pension granted by Louis XVI being withdrawn by the National Convention. It was, however, restored to his widow, at the pleading of the poet Chénier. "She is old," he urged, "she is seventy-six, and her husband has left her no heritage save his illustrious name, his virtues and his poverty."
Goldoni's first dramatic venture, a melodrama named Amalasunta, was unsuccessful. Submitting it to Count Prata, director of the opera, he was told that his piece "was composed with due regard to the rules of Aristotle and Horace, but not according to those laid down for the Italian drama." "In France," continued the count, "you can try to please the public, but here in Italy it is the actors and actresses whom you must consult, as well as the composer of the music and the stage decorators. Everything must be done according to a certain form which I will explain to you." Goldoni thanked his critic, went back to his inn and ordered a fire, into which he threw the manuscript of his Amalasunta. He then called for a good supper, which he consumed with relish, after which he went to bed and slept tranquilly throughout the night.
Goldoni's next attempt was more successful, though of its success he afterward professed himself ashamed. While holding a position as chamberlain in the household of the Venetian ambassador at Milan he made the acquaintance of a quack doctor who went by the name of Antonimo, and was the very prince of charlatans. Among other devices to attract customers the latter carried with him a company of actors, who, after assisting in selling his wares, gave a performance in his small theatre in a public square. It so happened that a company of comedians engaged for the Easter season at Milan failed to keep its appointment, whereupon, at Antonimo's request, Goldoni wrote an intermezzo entitled The Venetian Gondolier, which, as he says, "met with all the success so slight an effort deserved." This trifle, despised by its author, was the first of his performed and published works.
Goldoni took for his models the plays of Molière, and whenever a piece of his own succeeded he whispered to himself, "Good, but not yet Molière." The great Frenchman was the object of his idolatry, and justly so, for not only was Molière the true monarch of the comic stage but nearness of time and place, with similarity of manners, made the comedies of the French master suitable for imitation. By the middle of the eighteenth century none but literary enemies contested Goldoni's title as the Italian Molière, and this has been confirmed by the suffrage of posterity. Un Curioso Accidente, Il Vero Amico, La Bottega del Caffe, La Locandiera and many other comedies that might be named, while depicting manners of a past age, retain all their freshness in our own. Italian audiences even yet take delight in his pictures of their ancestors. "One of the best theatres in Venice," says Symonds, "is called by Goldoni's name. His house is pointed out by gondoliers to tourists. His statue stands within sight of the Rialto. His comedies are repeatedly given by companies of celebrated actors." As Cæsar called Terence a half-Menander, so we may term Goldoni a half-Molière. The Menandrine element in Molière is present with him, the Aristophanicis missing. Goldoni wants the French writer's overpowering comic force, and is happier in "catching the manners living as they rise" than in laying bare the depths of the heart. Wit, gayety, elegance, simplicity, truth to nature, skill in dramatic construction, render him nevertheless a most delightful writer, and his fame is the more assured from his position as his country's sole eminent representative in the region of polite comedy. "The appearance of Goldoni on the stage," says Voltaire, "might, like the poem of Trissino, be termed: 'Italy Delivered from the Goths.'"
In the outset of his career, Goldoni found the comic stage divided between two different species of dramatic composition--classical comedy and the comedy of masks. The first was the result of careful study and strict observance of Aristotelian rules, but possessing none of the qualities sought for by the public. Some of them were pedantic copies of the ancients; others were imitations of these copies, and still others were borrowed from the French. People might admire these pseudo-classic dramas; they certainly admired the more brilliant comedy of Goldoni, but the commedia dell'arte, or comedy of masks, is what pleased them best. To suppress the last of these forms the great comedian devoted his utmost efforts, but though he succeeded partially, and for a time, the task was beyond him; for in the comedy of masks was the real dramatic life of the nation, and though, except in the hands of Gozzi, it never assumed the form of dramatic literature, it was transplanted into several European nations in the costume of Harlequin, Columbine and Pantaloon.
Goldoni is considered by the Italians as the author who carried dramatic art in Italy to its highest point of perfection, and he possessed no common powers. He had a fertility of invention which readily supplied him with new subjects for his comic muse, and such facility of composition that he infrequently produced a comedy of five acts in verse within less than as many days, a rapidity which prevented him from bestowing sufficient pains upon the correctness of his work. His dialogue was extremely animated, earnest and full of meaning; and with a very exact knowledge of the national manners he combined the rare faculty of giving a lively picture of them on the stage.
This above biography is from The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization ed. Alfred Bates. New York: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 63-68
Carlo Goldoni's Plays
This list below is by no means exhaustive. As an incredibly prolific playwright, he wrote over 250 plays. Most of his plays are either comedies featuring the masked characters of la commedia dell'arte, or comedies of manners/comedies of errors (without masks).
(in alphabetical order without the articles)
L'adulatore, "The Flatterer"
L'amante di se medesimo, "The Lover of Himself"
Gli amanti timidi o sia L'imbroglio de' due ritratti, "The Shy Lovers" or "The Affair of the Two Portraits"
L'amore paterno o sia La serva riconoscente, "Paternal Love" or "The Grateful Maidservant"
Gli amori di Alessandro Magno, "The Loves of Alexander the Great"
Gli amori di Zelinda e Lindoro, "The Love of Zelinda and Lindoro"
Les amours d'Arlequin et de Camille, "The Love of Harlequin And Camilla"
L'amante militare, "The Military Lover"
L'apatista o sia L'indifferente, "The Apathic Man" or "The Indifferent Man"
L'avare fastueux, "The Ostentatious Miser"
L'avaro, "The Miser"
Le avventure della villeggiatura, "Holiday Adventures"
L'avventuriere onorato, "The Honorable Scoundrel"
L'avvocato veneziano, "The Venetian Lawyer"
Le baruffe chiozzotte, "The Chioggia Scuffles"
La bella giorgiana, "The Georgian Beauty"
La bella selvaggia, "The Savage Beauty"
La bottega del caffè, "The Coffee Shop"
Le Bourru bienfaisant, "The Beneficent Grumbler"
Il Bugiardo, "The Liar"
La buona famiglia, "The Good Family"
La buona madre, "The Good Mother"
La buona moglie, "The Good Wife"
Il buon compatriotto, "The Good Compatriot"
La burla retrocessa nel contraccambio, "The Joke Rebounds"
La cameriera brillante, "The Brilliant Maidservant"
Il campiello, "The Little Square"
La casa nova, "The New House"
La castalda, "The Female Administrator"
Il cavaliere di buon gusto, "The Gentleman with Good Taste"
Il cavaliere e la dama, "The Gentleman and the Lady"
Il cavaliere di spirito o sia La donna di testa debole, "The Witty Gentleman" or "The Feebleminded Woman"
Il cavaliere giocondo, "The Merry Gentleman"
Chi la fa l'aspetti o sia I chiassetti del carneval, "Avenging Wrong"s or "The Carnival Lanes"
Il contrattempo o sia Il chiacchierone imprudente, "The Unwelcome Event" or "The Careless Chatterbox"
Un curioso accidente, "A Curious Mishap"
La dalmatina, "The Dalmatian Woman"
La dama prudente, "The Prudent Lady"
Don Giovanni Tenorio o sia Il dissoluto, "The Dissolute"
La donna bizzarra, "The Bizarre Woman"
Le donne di buon umore, "The Good Humoured Women"
Le donne de casa soa", "The Women from His Own Home"
Le donne curiose, "The Curious Women"
La donna forte, "The Strong Woman"
La donna di garbo, "The Fashionable Woman"
Le donne gelose, "The Jealous Women"
La donna di governo, "The Government Woman"
La donna di maneggio, "The Woman in Charge"
La donna sola, "The Lone Woman"
La donna stravagante, "The Extravagant Woman"
La donna di testa debole, "The Feebleminded Woman"
La donna vendicativa, "The Vengeful Woman"
I due gemelli veneziani, "The Two Venetian Twins"
Enea nel Lazio, "Aeneas in Latium"
L'erede fortunata, "The Lucky Heiress"
La famiglia dell'antiquario, "The Antiquarian's Family"
Il feudatario, "The Feudal Lord"
Le femmine puntigliose, " The Obstinate Women"
Il festino, "The Banquet"
La figlia obbediente, "The Obedient Daughter"
La finta ammalata, "The Fake Illness"
Il filosofo inglese, "The English Philosopher"
Il frappatore, "The Deceiver"
La gelosia di Lindoro, "Lindoro's Jealousy"
Il geloso avaro, "The Jealous Miser"
Il genio buono e il genio cattivo, "The Good Nature and the Bad Nature"
Il giuocatore, "The Gambler"
La guerra, "The War"
L'impostore, "The Impostor"
L'impresario delle Smirne, "The Merchant of Smyrna”
L'incognita, "The Unknown Woman"
Gli innamorati, "The Lovers"
Les inquiétudes de Camille, "Camilla's Worries"
L'inquietudini di Zelinda, "Zelinda's Worries"
Ircana in Julfa, "Ircana in Jaffa"
Ircana in Ispaan, "Ircana in Isfahan"
La jalousie d'Arlequin, "Harlequin's Jealousy"
La locandiera, "The Mistress of the Inn" also known as "Mirandolina "
La madre amorosa, "The Loving Mother"
I malcontenti, "The Unsatisfied Men"
Le massere, "The Servant Girls"
Il matrimonio per concorso, "The Marriage Contest"
Il medico olandese, "The Dutch Doctor"
Il mercante fallito o sia La bancarotta, "The Bankrupted Merchant" or "The Bankruptcy"
I mercatanti, "The Merchants"
La moglie saggia, "The Wise Wife"
Il Moliére, "Molière"
Il Momolo cortesan, "Momolo the Court Man"
Le morbinose, "The Good-Humoured Ladies"
I morbinosi, "The Good-Humoured Men"
L'osteria della posta, "The Tavern at the Mail Station"
Il padre di famiglia, "The Father of the Family"
Il padre per amore, "The Father for Love"
La Pamela, "Pamela"
Pamela maritata, "Pamela Married"
La peruviana, "The Peruvian Woman"
I pettegolezzi delle donne, "Women's Gossip"
Il poeta fanatico, "The Fanatical Poet"
Il prodigo, "The Prodigal Man"
I puntigli domestici, "The Domestic Squabbles"
La pupilla, "The Female Ward"
La putta onorata, "The Honourable Maid"
Il ricco insidiato, "The Sought After Rich man"
Rinaldo di Montalbano, “Rinaldo from Montalbano”
Il ritorno dalla villeggiatura, "Back from Holiday"
I rusteghi, "The Tyrants"
Lo scozzese, "The Scotsman"
La scuola di ballo, "The Dance School"
La serva amorosa, "The Loving Maid"
Il servitore di due padroni, "The Servant of Two Masters"
Il sior Todero brontolon o sia Il vecchio fastidioso, "Grumpy Mr. Todero " or "The Annoying Old Man"
Le smanie per la villeggiatura, "Pining for a Holiday"
Lo spirito di contraddizione, "The Spirit of Contradiction"
La sposa persiana, "Persian Wife"
La sposa sagace, "The Clever Wife"
Il teatro comico, "Comic Theatre"
Torquato Tasso, Torquato Tasso
Il tutore, "The Guardian"
Una delle ultime sere di carnevale , "One of the Last Carnival Evenings”
L'uomo di mondo, "The Man of the World"
L'uomo prudente, "The Prudent Man"
La vedova scaltra, "The Shrewd Widow"
Il ventaglio, "The Fan"
Il vecchio bizzarro, "The Bizarre Old Man"
La vedova spiritosa, "The Witty Widow"
Il vero amico, "The True Friend"
La villeggiatura, "The Holiday "
Bates, Alfred - Editor The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization New York: Historical Publishing Company, 1906
Drabble, Margaret - Editor The Oxford Companion to English Literature Oxford University Press, 1995
Spencer Kennard, Joseph Goldoni and the Venice of his Time Macmillan, 1920