Carlo Goldoni was born in Venice in 1707 and spent his early childhood in the house of his grandfather, a keen enthusiast for the theatre. A toy theatre was the boy’s favorite plaything, and plays his favorite reading.
He was sent to school at Rimini and escaped back to Venice with a theatrical company; he studied law at Pavia, but was expelled from his college on account of a satire which he had written. He took his degree in law at Padua in 1731 and practiced as a lawyer for some time at Venice. But the theatre always interested him more than the law, and from 1734 onwards he wrote regularly for the stage.
His earliest efforts were tragedies in verse and libretti for operas; in 1747 he definitely abandoned the law for the theatre, and produced some hundred comedies and a large number of comic operas. It is by his comedies alone that Goldoni is generally remembered, but his comic operas, set to music by Galuppi, enjoyed in their day a popularity, both in Italy and in England, comparable to that of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The Servant of Two Masters is one of his earliest plays; it was written in 1743 at the request of the actor Sacchi, who suggested the subject and himself played the part of Truffaldino. The Italian theatre of that day was dominated by the improvising actors who wore the traditional masks, and in the original form of this play the comic scenes were left to the actor’s own invention. Goldoni wrote them down when he printed the play in 1753, and there can be no doubt that he incorporated a great deal of Sacchi’s traditional business. Mozart had a great admiration for The Servant of Two Masters, and in 1783 contemplated turning it into a comic opera.
The improvised Comedy of Masks, the history of which goes back to the days of ancient Rome, was frequently coarse and obscene. In the early eighteenth century, as Goldoni himself says, there was an English theatre and a French theatre, but no real Italian theatre. The Opera had become the most popular entertainment of the cultivated classes, and even the opera stood badly in need of reform until Apostolo Zeno and Metastasio gave it real literary distinction. Goldoni made it his mission to give an artistic form to the spoken comedy. The four traditional masks which appear in his plays are Pantalone, the Doctor, Brighella and Arlecchino. Pantalone is the old Venetian merchant, wearing the dress of the sixteenth century. By tradition he was merely senile and lascivious; Goldoni made him a model of respectability, while never losing sight of his comic character. The Doctor represents the old man of the educated classes; he is a Doctor of Law of the University of Bologna, pompous and pedantic, much given to Latin quotations. He plays a small part in Goldoni’s plays. Brighella and Harlequin come from Bergamo and represent the two types of servant, knave and fool. Truffaldino is also from Bergamo and is much the same person as Harlequin.
Goldoni is at his best when he lays his scene in his native Venice. His heroes and heroines are conventional figures, often of little interest, but he gives a vivid presentation of types from humbler life, porters, waiters, fisher-folk and gondoliers.
The trend of the age was towards sentimental comedy, and this becomes more and more noticeable in Goldoni’s later plays, especially those written after 1762 for the Théâtre Italien in Paris. The masks disappear and the scene is laid in more aristocratic circles. The earlier plays, written for Venice, deal with middle-class family life; Goldoni’s Venice is the Venice of the remoter streets, not the gay international city of pleasure shown us in Volpone and in the Memoirs of Casanova. Goldoni’s plays are conventional in construction, trivial in incident, undistinguished in dialogue and strictly moral in intention; yet when they are seen on the stage, especially if acted by a Venetian company, no one could fail to enjoy their delightful humour. Goldoni’s puritanism was in fact of an entirely negative type; he simply ignored the coarser and rougher jests because, like Mozart’s Don Alfonso, he saw every little event of daily life from a comic point of view.
Blog by Brock D. Vickers adaptor of The Hound of the Baskervilles opening September 9
The Hound of the Baskervilles is such a great story because it puts us into a world where everything we’ve come to expect of the Sherlock mythos is upside down. Sherlock is missing for most of the story, the moors are a place that invoke a desperate feeling deep within us, and we are asked to face our fear of the unknown and question reality. Without Holmes there as the voice of reason, we slide deeper and deeper into a dark world where reason seems to fly off the handle.
Hound is not your traditional mystery; in fact, I would make the argument Hound is a thriller, and not a mystery at all, one that is meant to be enjoyed like a horror film or a good piece of pulp fiction.
Holmes is one of the most iconic characters of all time. He was the inspiration for my favorite detective, Batman, and has been portrayed more times in film and television than Hamlet (technically Dracula is the most filmed character, but given that he is undead, Sherlock ranks in as the number one human).
In addition to being portrayed himself, Sherlock has served as the basis for numerous on-screen personalities such as Dr. Gregory House and Patrick Lane. For over a century, this mind has intrigued writers, actors, and directors from all mediums. Where would screenwriting be today without the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Furthermore, why are we so intrigued by this cunning, calculating detective?
Although Arthur Conan Doyle did not give us the first detective story (that distinction belongsto Edgar Allan Poe and C. Auguste Dupin), he certainly expanded the genre to greater depths. Take, for instance, fingerprints. Sherlock uses them in 1890, even though the first recorded criminal recording is in Argentina in 1893, years before Scotland Yard, which did not adopt the practice until 1901. For those CSI and Dexter fans out there, Sherlock was the first detective to use both ballistics and blood splatter as evidence.
When we think of Holmes, ideas of deerstalker hats, pipes, and tweed immediately come to mind. The likes of Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch elicit thoughts of precise minds and expert study. We have seen both a humanizing approach by Sir Ian McKellen and a neurotic depiction by Robert Downey Jr.
We recognize his devotion and his obsession, like a man crazed by a puzzle. Yet, unlike us, Sherlock thrives on the obstacle. With each case, the detective hunts for greater, more challenging enigmas.
Again and again, we come back to Sherlock: for mystery, for clues, for the thrill of the chase. This singular detective, and his compadre Dr. Watson, live in our imaginations as if they were old friends.
Sherlock is an ideal, albeit a wild one. As an audience we like to imagine the possibilities of Sherlock. What are his limits? What would we be like if we had his intellect? What could we do if no safe could hold a secret?
Watson, on the other hand, is a reality. Though traditionally depicted as a bit of a rube, Dr. Watson represents us: the reader, the audience, the novice always one step behind Sherlock. With each adventure, the good doctor races into battle, pistol in hand, without a clue as to what the detective has led him to this time.
So together, Doyle has given us a perfect pair. In each, we can see ourselves: how we are, and how we could be. Therefore, while we sit in a stone theatre away from civilization, let’s lose ourselves in this foggy world of mystery. Let the shadows of Hedgerow fill you with dread, the images of Sherlock and Watson transport you to another place, the voices of the actors fill you with wonder, and the words of Doyle take you to a place long forgotten by time.
Blog by Brock D. Vickers
With countless iterations in the books, on TV and movie screens, and theatre stages, adapting a tale about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero should be easy, right? Not necessarily. In paring down Doyle’s third Sherlock Holmes mystery for our latest Storyboard thriller The Hound of the Baskervilles (September 9-18), I found that these classic stories are a little more classic and a little less story.
Now before internet trolls begin sending copies of Benedict Cumberbatch’s headshot to my email, allow me to explain: Doyle was writing for a different time. When we read a novel like Baskerville we read a novel of atmosphere. Much like a gothic tale from Poe or a modern Lars Von Trier film, atmosphere is king in this novel.
As one reads this book, we find the moors a place not unlike the gothic American South, a place full of mystery, magic and demons. An average English reader at the time would have already considered the moors a place rife with fear, a place people did not go if they had any sense about them.
Therefore, when a Dr. Mortimer shows up with his lottery ticket for Sir. Henry Baskerville, it would be the equivalent of the beginning of every haunted house movie ever written: The Shinning, House on Haunted Hill, or Thirteen Ghosts (seriously check this movie out, it’s as awful as it is brilliant and is worth every second of insanity). Yet, given the context of the Sherlock Holmes motif, genius detective breaks down unsolvable crime, from the beginning the gothic style is undermined, almost.
We as the audience trust the Detective to break through any malaise of supernatural. Watson can believe it all he wants, but we know Holmes could never be duped in that way. We know that no matter how crazy the case gets, he’ll ultimately find a rational solution, just as TV viewers could trust that Dr. Gregory House, one of the modern iterations of Holmes, would always diagnose his patient’s perplexing illness.
Still, we want to believe—and this is the crux of the story—the ever raging battle between our rational mind and our desire to believe. With no guiding light, we lose ourselves in the mystery of the moors, and for a while, we forget about reason.
Imagine consuming this novel the way we binge watch Stranger Things: sitting alone at night, tucked away in a dark corner, no television or internet, just you (Watson) and Sir Henry Baskerville lost in the myth of the moor. This is the brilliance of Doyle’s novel. We expect a turn, and therefore we allow ourselves to believe in stranger things for a while.
Sherlock may be coming to rescue our minds, but not for another hundred pages. Luckily, we have expedited that process in our Storyboard and brought the audience all the aura and none of the extraneous fluff.
So if you are looking to share that experience of being a frightened kid listening to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or a tantalized young adult watching Basil Rathbone with your child, then come check out our latest adaptation of one of Doyle’s most timeless Sherlock stories; but remember, no one makes it out of the moors.
Brock D. Vickers
This is the beginning of a new part of life: a habit: an idea: a routine to dig at what makes a man great.