Let's read the theatre・The exclusion of truth (part 1): Goldoni's La bottega del caffè (The coffeehouse) Passa ai contenuti principali

Let's read the theatre・The exclusion of truth (part 1): Goldoni's La bottega del caffè (The coffeehouse)

The coffee house and Lady Windermere's Fan: the exclusion of truth

Carlo Osvaldo Goldoni (1707 - 1793)

Two comedies far from each other for space and time: La bottega del caffè (The coffeeshop) by Carlo Goldoni (1750) and Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde (1892). A common point between them: the exclusion of truth.

La bottega del caffè is a three acts play born from a previous intermezzo (interlude) (1736) by the same author. It is said to be one of the most successful Goldoni's plays (Venice, 1707 - Paris 1793), who gradually abandoned the masks of the Italian Commedia dell'Arte. This play is dedicated to the venetian nobleman Lodovico Widiman.

The play takes place from the early morning to the evening of the same day in a venetian square surrounded by Pandolfo's gambling house, a barbershop, an inn, the house of the dancer Lisaura and Ridolfo's coffeeshop.

Ridolfo, a generous and altruistic man, tries to help the reckless Eugenio, who spends his time in the gambling house, and the earl Leandro Ardenti, a young and poor man from Turin indeed, who wants to marry the beautiful Lisaura. 

Their wives, respectively Vittoria and Placida, try to bring them home. Ridolfo helps everyone, particularly Eugenio, while don Marzio, a curious neapolitan nobleman who lives by lending money with high interests, can't help to tell others matters to anyone he meets.

Because of him the efforts of Ridolfo to pacify the couples are totally wasted by several misunderstandings and Pandolfo, the keeper of the gambling house, cares only about his earnings.

Finally, all is resolved: thanks to the unaware don Marzio and his gab, Pandolfo is arrested and the couples are reunited by the good words of Ridolfo. Don Marzio is obliged to go away.

Don Marzio is seen as the source of the other characters' problems: he's the only one who waists others reputation. This is a great guilt according with the morality of that society, as explained by Ridolfo:

  RIDOLFO (to Leandro): [...] actually, the only thing that we have in this world is good name, fame and reputation.
Act III, scene XV

Although don Marzio is bad and rude, by his words characters (and public) become aware of the truth. Everyone hates him, but his accusations often aren't false. For instance, he says that Eugenio is having an affair with the pilgrim (who is Placida, so disguised not to be recognized by her husband Leandro). Indeed, this affair doesn't exist but Eugenio shows that his plans are not so far from don Marzio suspect, when he decides to invite Placida to a lunch along with Leandro, Lisaura and don Marzio himself:

   EUGENIO: Says the song: « Joy is not complete, without women! »
                      [...] I'll try to bring the pilgrim (i.e. the disguised Placida).
Act II, scene XV

But why Goldoni choices such an annoying man as don Marzio is to reveal the truth about all the characters? Goldoni likes speaking by irony about the new society of bourgeois that was rising during the XVIII century. But irony isn't his target: he uses it to make his plays more enjoyable for the public.

His Comedy is quite close to the Genre Painting of the Dutch XVII century painters. If you look at The Girl with the Wine Glass by Vermeer you can imagine a contemporary watcher who enjoyed the painting and, at the same time, who was recalled to a topic in which Dutch people of that time were very concerned: the marital fidelity. But you can also look at a painting by Pietro Longhi, a venetian painter of the same time of Goldoni: The Charlatan (1757).

Jan Vermeer, The Girl with the Wine Glass (1659 - 1660)

Pietro Longhi, The Charlatan (1757)

In the same way, it could be said that Goldoni's plays, with their lively and eventful plots, opened viewers' eyes onto their own society without attack them, but making them laugh. Laugh about themselves.

Goldoni choices don Marzio, a man without any nobility but his vain title's one, to say the truth in order to make the good bourgeois feel safe. Also, the link with the contemporary society isn't broken.

At the end of the play, when don Marzio can't do anything else but going away because other characters have gathered against him, I feel like Goldoni wants to create an identification between don Marzio and the viewer: in fact, it is quite an easy link the one with the single character excluded by the group. 

This is only a personal opinion. I see don Marzio like the only one who tells everyone the truth; but the others don't mind about the truth. They're only concerned about their comfort.

The next post will be about the Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan, the rejection of truth, the voluntary departure of truth. 


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The exclusion of truth: The coffeeshop and Lady Windermere's Fan

In the first part of the article I have commented Goldoni's La bottega del caffè (The coffeehouse). More than a century later, in 1892, it was played Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan.

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