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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I Gelosi performing, by Hieronymus Francken I, ca. 1590
I Gelosi performing, by Hieronymus Francken I, ca. 1590

I Gelosi (pronounced [i dʒeˈloːsi, -oːzi]; "the Zealous Ones") was an Italian acting troupe that performed commedia dell'arte from 1569 to 1604. Their name stems form their motto: Virtù, fama ed honor ne fèr gelosi, long thought to mean "Virtue, fame and honour made us jealous", or "We are jealous of attaining virtue, fame, and honour",[1] signifying that such rewards could only be attained by those who sought for them jealously. Modern reevaluations have considered "zealous" (present-day Italian zelanti) as a more accurate translation over "jealous", redefining their motto to signify that, as actors, they were zealous to please.[2]

I Gelosi was formed in Milan, Italy by Flaminio Scala. Their first notable performer was Vittoria Piisimi. I Gelosi was the first troupe to be patronized by nobility: in 1574 and 1577 they performed for the king of France. After this they toured all over Europe, spreading commedia dell'arte from Italy to France, Poland, Spain, Germany, and England.

In the 1570s, Francesco Andreini joined I Gelosi and in 1578 he married Isabella Canali, an actress with the troupe. The Andreinis became the troupe's most famous performers and eventually Francesco took over as its head.

In 1604, Isabella died in childbirth in France. Francesco was so overwrought that he disbanded the troupe and retired from the stage. The stock commedia dell'arte character Isabella is named in her honor.


Formation and Members

The Gelosi are first recorded as performing in Milan in 1568. Many of the original members of the troupe were also associated with the troupe of Zan Ganassa. When Ganassa left for Spain, some of his actors remained in Italy and reformed under the Gelosi title, with Flaminio Scala as the first director of the new troupe.[3] Francesco Andreini, is first heard of in the troupe in 1576, and succeeded Scala as director in 1578, though Scala remained with the troupe. Vittoria Piisimi was the group's first prima donna, but was effectively replaced with Isabella, already married to Francesco, in 1578. Francesco and Isabella made their marriage public in this year, but it is believed they were previously married in a private ceremony in 1576, soon after the birth of their first child.[4] VIttoria left the troupe to join I Confidenti, and there were rumors that the group's banishment from Mantua was of her doing; the Confidenti were the troupe patronized by the Duke of Mantua, and the actress may have influenced his decision.[5] The troupe, as with most of the era, always contained between 10-12 members, with most remaining in the troupe during their "Golden Age" in the late 16th Century.

Composition of I Gelosi [6]
Member Character State of Origin
Francesco Andreini Capitano Spavento di Vall' Inferna Pistoia
Isabella Andreini Prima Donna Padua
Flaminio Scala Flavio Rome
Giulio Pasquati Pantalone Padua
Lodovico de Bianchi Il Dottore Graziano Bologna
Gabriele delle Haste Francatrippe Bologna
Orazio de Nobili Innamorati Padua
Silvia Roncagli Fraceschina Bergamo
Prudenzia Seconda Donna Verona
Adriano Valerini Aurelio Verona

Travels to France

The Gelosi avoided sponsorship from a sole source; this prevented them from being tied down to a single location, allowing them to travel across Europe and spread the style of Commedia. They are the first troupe to be heard of in France, which was their most frequent destination and which earned them massive success on separate occasions, despite heavy resistance within the country.


I Gelosi's first recorded travel to France, at the invitation of the Duke of Nevers. Performed in front of English Dukes and Ambassadors, and later King Charles IX. Forced to leave after prohibitions were put in place by Parliament against acting in public, likely to protect the monopoly of the Confrerie de la Passion.[7]


Organized a caravan to travel to France at the behest of King Henri III. The troupe was captured en route by Huguenots, who were embroiled in conflict with the French Government. Henri III ransomed the players, recouping the money lost from admission costs in Lois and Paris.[8] They were again banned from performing by the Confrerie de la Passion, on the basis of vulgarity and bawdry.[9] Henri III again bailed the group out, and they continued performing until their departure in 1578.


Returned again to the court of Henri III. Were again subjected to parliamentary prohibition. Their departure was likely motivated by increasing rebellion amongst the populace, as well as the murder of the Duke of Guise, who was close to Henri III and indicated those within the King's court were not smart to remain.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Compagnia dei Gelosi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  2. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 13.
  3. ^ Ducharte, Pierre Louis (1966). The Italian Comedy. Toronto: General Publishing Company. p. 87.
  4. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 17.
  5. ^ Smith, Winifred (1912). The Commedia Dell'arte: A Study in Italian Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 151.
  6. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell’arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 14.
  7. ^ Rudlin, John (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge. p. 16.
  8. ^ Smith, Winifred (1912). Commedia Dell'arte: A Study in Italian Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 149.
  9. ^ Ducharte, Pierre Louis (1966). The Italian Comedy. Toronto: General Publishing Company. p. 88.
  10. ^ Rudlin, John; Crick, Olly (2001). Commedia Dell'arte: A Handbook for Troupe. London: Routledge. p. 21.


  • Bridel, David. I Gelosi. Los Angeles: Original Works Publishing, 2014.
  • Ducharte, Pierre Louis. The Italian Comedy. Toronto: General Publishing Company, 1966. 50-101. Print.
  • Oreglia, Giacomo (1968). The Commedia dell'arte. Methuen.
  • Rudlin, John, and Olly Crick. Commedia Dell’arte: A Handbook for Troupes. London: Routledge, 2001. 14-24. Print.
  • Smith, Winifred (1912). The Commedia dell'arte: A Study in Italian Popular Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press. Copy at Google Books; 1964 reprint (with added illustrations): New York: Blom.
This page was last edited on 1 January 2021, at 07:22
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