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Zanni

From Academic Kids

Zanni (from the Italian, dialectal nickname for Giovanni) was the archetype of the comic servant characters of the Commedia dell'arte. The character of Zanni was an older, impoverished man and hired servant of one of the other characters, typically Pantalone.

Zanni's costume was loosely fitting white smock and pants. He wore a black mask reminiscent of his more popular descendant, Arlecchino. His behavior is a cartoon of the impoverished rural folk of Bergamo who were forced to move to Venice in order to make a living. As such, his interests do not always coincide with those of his master. His primary goals are his own comfort and the satisfaction of various immediate desires.

In later periods the character fell into disuse and the word "zanni" came to mean (but not in Italy) the whole category of comic servant characters such as Arlecchino, Brighella, Pulcinella, and Pierrot. The word eventually evolved into the English word "zany".

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