The Italian Renaissance was called the beginning of the modern age. The word Renaissance itself is derived from the Latin word rinascere, which means to be reborn. Many dramatic changes occurred during this time in the fields of philosophy, art, politics, and literature. New emphasis was placed on enjoying life and the world around you. A new interest especially grew in the area of theatrical arts. This great new movement was originated and centered in Italy, and without Italian contribution, would never have launched European society into the dawning of a new era.
During the Italian Renaissance, even though theater was becoming very popular, opera was the most popular form of entertainment. One could also attend the widely popular, public form of theater, known as commedia dell'arte, an improvisational form of theater. Even still were the private court theater performances held by the priviledged citizens (nobility). These plays were presented by the courts and were only held on special occasions. As the demand for permanent theaters arose, so did the demand for more efficient equipment for staging. The look of the theaters during this time was derived mostly from the Greeks and Romans, which in turn was the influence for pretty much everyone else. You would find elongated U-shaped auditoriums, boxes in tiers around walls (usually 2 or more), and an undivided gallery above top row (for servants/lower classes). A central floor space (orchestra or pit) was not a popular place for the elite until the late 19th century, and some theatres had no seats till the late 18th century. Spectators could stand and move around.
Perspective became very important. The stage was raised slightly(raked) in the rear to give the viewer more to see. The proscenium arch still remains, to give that "picture frame" look to the stage. Border flats hid rigging and machinery that was overhead. The scenery consisted of a series of flats. These flats were situated on small groves in the floor to allow for rapid scene changing, although still manual. However, Giacomo Torelli invented a device that would actually shift all the flats in and out of a given scene simultaneously!!!! This system consisted of chariots or wagons on tracks below the stage. Poles came up through slots cut parallel to the front of the stage with scenery and wings and backs attached to them. A system of ropes and pulleys helped get a simultaneous shift of scenery.
As for the actual theater, there are really two types in Italy at this time. The court theaters, as mentioned, were private theaters with plays held for nobles at a special occasion
of some kind. These plays were often written and designed totally by court writers and designers. These plays were very well received among those that actually got to see them. These shows, no matter how successful, still mostly ran one night only. The truly
vibrant theater scene in Italy during the Renaissance belongs to the commedia dell'arte troupes. These improvisational plays were extremely popular due to their stock characters and scenarios; and the fact that these were public performances that were accessible to many more people than the court plays.
The fixed plot in the comedies was the same. After a lot of complications the young lovers get each other, the servants get their reward and the old men are deceived: The rich persons want to protect their fortunes by arranging marriages between each others' children. The barrister