Goldoni, Carlo

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Goldoni, Carlo

(kär`lō gōldô`nē), 1707–93, Italian dramatist. He was enamored of comedy from childhood, having sketched his first comic drama at eight. He took a degree in law at Padua but thereafter devoted himself to the theater. He created a new Italian character comedy, considered artistically superior to the old commedia dell'arte. This he achieved by building on the old comedy of masks, but amplifying written parts; by judicious imitation of Molière and adaptation of classical themes; and by applying his own excellent comedic sense. Goldoni wrote more than 260 dramatic works of all sorts, including opera. Among the most notable of his 150 comedies are La locandiera (1753, tr. The Mistress of the Inn, 1856), Il ventaglio (1763, tr. The Fan, 1911), Il burbero benefico (1771, tr. The Beneficent Bear, 1849), and La buona figliuola (1756, tr. The Accomplished Maid, 1767), which was set to music by Niccolò Piccinni. Toward the end of his life he was supported in France by a royal pension that was cut off by the Revolution. He died in poverty.


See Goldoni's memoirs (1787, in French; tr. by J. Black, 1926); biography by H. C. Chatfield-Taylor (1913); study by H. Riedt (tr. 1974).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Goldoni, Carlo


Born Feb. 25, 1707, in Venice: died Feb. 6, 1793. in Paris. Italian dramatist, reformer of the Italian theater, and father of Italian comedy.

Goldoni was the son of a doctor. The essence of Goldoni’s reform consisted in replacing the improvisational commedia dell’arte. or comedy of masks, with plays that had a set text and realistic human characters and that were permeated with the ideas of the Enlightenment and witty criticism of the vices of feudal society. The basic theoretical principles of the Enlightenment reform of the Italian theater were expounded by Goldoni in his comedy-manifesto The Comic Theater (1750). in the foreword to the first edition of his comedies (1750). and in his Memoirs. Goldoni’s reform was fully realized in the comedies he wrote between 1748 and 1753, including The Clever Widow. The Coffeehouse, The Liar. Women’s Gossip, A Servant of Two Masters, and The Tavern Maid.

Goldoni’s dramaturgy established the didactic comedy of character types based on the portrayal of everyday family life. Nevertheless, while revealing the decay of the whole feudal system through examples of the moral degradation of the Italian aristocracy (The Cavalier and the Lady, The Flatterer) and depicting the class contradictions between the nobility and the rising bourgeoisie, Goldoni did not restrict himself narrowly to family problems. The common people gradually became the main positive hero in his plays. In his comedies The Honest Girl (1749) and The Good Wife (1749). Goldoni still endowed his heroines from among the people with bourgeois virtues, but in the comedy Women’s Gossip (1751), the collective image of the Venetian common people crowded out the bourgeois moralist Pantalone. Goldoni preserved the best achievement of the commedia dell’arte— cheerfulness and dynamic plot development. In the mid-1750’s, Goldoni wrote several verse comedies in the Venetian dialect, in which the characters were mainly common people, including The Cooks (1755). The Housekeepers (1755), The Crossing (1756). and Merry Women (1758). In these comedies reality was criticized from the people’s point of view and by the people themselves. The depth of Goldoni’s enlightened realism was most vividly revealed in the prose comedies written in the Venetian dialect. Petty Tyrants (1760) and Signore Todero (1762). where the satire took on a clearly antibourgeois character. In Chiozzotte Skirmishes (1762). Goldoni brought to the stage simple Venetian fishermen and their wives. This was comedy with the popular masses as hero, truly innovative for the 18th century. Goldoni spent the last period of his creative work in France. His comedy The Grumbling Benefactor (1771, written in French) brought him European fame. The Memoirs of Carlo Goldoni were written in France from 1784 to 1787. Goldoni wrote 267 plays in all.

Goldoni’s reform was supported by most writers of the Enlightenment, both in Italy (P. Verri, G. Gozzi) and abroad (Voltaire, G. E. Lessing, and J. W. von Goethe), but came under fierce attack from the opponents of Enlightenment ideas, whose spokesman was C. Gozzi. Goldoni enormously influenced the development of Italian national drama. F. De-Sanctis called him “the Galileo of the new literature.”

Russian readers and theatergoers became acquainted with Goldoni in the 18th century, when A Servant of Two Masters (1789). A True Friend (1794), The Liar (1796), and other plays were translated into Russian and staged. In 1827 the first Russian translation of The Tavern Maid appeared, by A. A. Shakhovskoi. The Coffeehouse was translated by A. N. Os-trovskii in 1872. In the Soviet period Goldoni has been translated by M. L. Lozinskii, A. K. Dzhivelegov, T. L. Shchepkina-Kupernik. S. S. Mokul’skii, and others. Many of Goldoni’s plays are being successfully performed on the modern stage.


Opere complete, vols. 1–40. City of Venice edition. Edited by C. Musatti, E. Maddalena, and G. Ortolani. Venice, 1907–57.
Tulle le opere, vols. 1–14. Edited by G. Ortolani. Milan. 1935–56.
In Russian translation:
Komedii. vols. 1–2. Edited by A. L. Volynskii. Foreword and notes by A. V. Amfiteatrov. Petrograd, 1922.
Komedii, vols. 1–2. Edited with an introduction by A. K. Dzhivelegov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933–36.
Komedii. Moscow, 1949.
Komedii. vols 1–2. Edited by A. A. Smirnov. Introduction by B. G. Reizov. Leningrad-Moscow, 1959.
Memuary Karlo Gol’doni, soderzhashchie istoriiu ego zhizni i ego teatra, vols 1–2. Translation, introduction, and notes by S. S. Mokul’skii. Leningrad, 1933.


Friche, V. M. “’K. Gol’doni (Obshchestvennoe soderzhanie egokomedii).” Golos minuvshego, 1913, no. 4.
Mokul’skii, S. S. Istoriia zapadno-evropeiskogo teatra, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad. 1939.
Mokul’skii. S. S. “Gol’doni.” In Ital’ianskaia literatura: Vozrozhdenie i Prosveshchenie. Moscow, 1966.
Reizov. B. G. K. Gol’doni. ¡707–1793. Leningrad-Moscow. 1957.
Ortolani, G. Delia vita e delle opere di C. Goldoni. Venice. 1907.
Chatfield-Taylor. H. C. Goldoni. Bari, 1927.
Barratto, M. “Mondo” e “Teatro” nella poética del Goldoni. Venice. 1957.
Dazzi. M. C. Goldoni e la sua poetica sociale. Turin, 1957.
Petronio, G. Goldoni. Palermo, 1958.
Caccia, F. Carattere e caratteri nella commedia del Goldoni. Venice-Rome [1959].
Momigliano. A. Saggi goldoniani. Venice-Rome [1959].
Studi goldoniani, vols. 1–2. Edited by V. Branca and N. Mangini. Venice-Rome [1966].
Spinelli. A. G. Bibliografia goldoniana. Milan, 1884.
Magini. N. Bibliografía goldoniana. Venice-Rome, 1961.
Cordié, C. “Rassegna goldoniana.” Paideia. 1965. no. I.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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