Costumes and Volpone

Characteristics of Costuming for the Theatre

 two indivudals in their theater costumes
  1. A stress on their theatricality -- they have a hint of ceremony and performance about them.  If they are realistic, they should still give a sense of the theatre environment.
  2. A revelation of historical, social, and/or psychological context.
  3. An expression of the individual character's personality, profession, class, tastes, self-understanding.
  4. Wearable clothing; one must be able to actually act in them.   One has to account for movement, fitting, and quick changing.

[adapted from Cohen, Robert. Theatre. 5th ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 2000.]

Costume and Makeup Considerations

The following shape the way a costume and a character are perceived by the audience:

  • choice of fabric, including its texture, weight, ability to drape, fold, crush, twist, and dye.
  • color
  • the appearance or "aging" of the fabric
  • hairstyles (including beards and moustaches)
  • use of jewelry, badges, accessories
  • display or coverage of the body
  • period styles, abstractions
  • choice of shoes
  • makeup's lightening or darkening of facial color
  • heightening of eyes, wrinkles, jawlines, eyelashes and eyebrows

Commedia dell'arte Costumes

"Signor Flamineo, will you down, sir? Down!/ What, is my wife your Franciscina, sir?/ . . . Ere tomorrow I shall be new christened/ And called the Pantalone di Besogniosi."

-- Volpone 2.3

The following are some typical commedia dell'arte characters: 

arlechino theater costume shown in a back-facing side view arlechino theater costume shown in a front-facing view arlechino costume show in a front-facing side view

Arlechino: harlequin, poor but good-hearted

mattaccino frombolatore in theater costume
frombolatore: the fun-loving reveler, known to pull pranks at the carnivals,often carries a sling to throw eggs

pantalone pantalone

pantalone: the old wealthy nobleman

pulceinella dressed in white garmentspulcinella dressed in white garments

Pulcinella: poor, melancholy dreamer, he often has a positive attitude

image of a dottor batoardoimage of nataio carrying a caneimage of a plague doctor

dottor batoardo (useless pedant); nataio (notary) ; medico (plague doctor)

two indivudals in dellarte masks

With the above in mind, how would you costume the following characters from Jonson's Volpone?  What fabrics, colors, and accessories would you pick out? What kind of makeup option would you choose? Would you try to play off their associated animal types? What would you hope to show about their personality, social position, etc.?

  • Volpone  (The Fox)
  • Mosca (The Fly)
  • Nano, Castrone, and Androgyno
  • Voltore (The Vulture)
  • Corbaccio (The Raven)
  • Corvino (The Crow)
  • Celia (The Heavenly One)
  • Bonario (The Honest, Uncorrupt One)
  • Sir Politic Would-Be
  • Lady Politic Would-Be
  • Peregrine (The Pilgrim Hawk)