The History of Carnival
For over 700 years, Venetian masks have played a major part in the intrigues and mystique of Venice.
In modern times this intrigue has been enhanced by two movies: Fellini's controversial Casanova in 1976 and the more recent Eyes Wide Shut, directedin 1999 by Stanley Kubrick and starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
The three main characters were ‘El Captiano’, ’Pantalone’ and ‘El Dottore’ who displayed arrogance, stupidity, and greed. The servants who where smart and devious or sometimes rather stupid were always looking to get one up on their masters.
’Arlecchino’, the devious Joker, was believed to be one of the first characters created who developed into the character of ‘Harlequin’. The term ‘slapstick’ came from the wooden stick he wore, designed to produce maximum noise when engaging with other characters in mock fights.
For young Commedia actors, who were learning the trade, there was the neutral mask. This was quite expressionless and covered the whole face, meaning that they could use neither facial expressions nor speech to convey things to the audience, only body language and gestures.
Popular throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.it developed into other forms such as the 18th century Vaudeville.
'Masquerading' started in the thirteenth century, when Venice was as lively and crowded as it is today.
As a result many people, particularly the rich and famous but also courtesans, gigolos, and others who needed to conduct themselves with the utmost discretion and privacy and who required anonymity, started to wear masks to achieve this.
Consequently a new breed of professionals emerged who were able to make stunning masks for these clients and a whole new industry was born.
But the secrecy that the masks provided also led to an inevitable increase in crime and a general decline in morals.
In the fourteenth century it became necessary to introduce decrees forbidding the everyday wearing of masks, and masquerading was restricted to special carnivals and festivals.
These spectacular happenings draw visitors from all over the world with the main Venetian event, The Carnavale, taking place in February each year