The Red Hat: A Commedia dell'arte scenario

Copyright 1993, by Jeff A. Suzuki

Pantalone, a merchant
Arlecchino, his servant
Isabella, his daughter
Clarice, her servant
Gratiano, a scholar
Oratio, a young law student
Pedrolino, his servant
Spavento, a Spanish Captain
Maria, Spavento's mother
Francheschina, her servant
a Priest
some food vendors

a book
a red hat
a bag of money
a sword for Spavento
a sword for Oratio
a will

Act I: In front of Chez Pantalone

PANTALONE and ARLECCHINO enter. Pantalone berating Arlecchino about something, beating him a few times, eventually chasing him off stage. Enter GRATIANO, who wants to ask a small favor: he wants Pantalone to lend him some money so he can buy an astrology book. Pantalone refuses until Gratiano mentions that this book will enable him to make more precise astrological predictions; Pantalone picks up on the business possibilities. Agrees to loan him the money. Exit both.

ORATIO and PEDROLINO enter, Oratio wearing a red hat. Oratio bemoaning his fate, to be in an arranged marriage with a woman he doesn't love. Pedrolino says that his father will catch them eventually. Oratio comes up with the idea of finding his true love and marrying her before his marriage with Laura. Pedrolino suggests he goes door to door, not seriously; Oratio takes him seriously, and determines to look for someone to marry. He takes off his hat to wipe his head, hands it to Pedrolino. Pedrolino accidentally drops the hat, leaving it on stage; both exit.

ARLECCHINO enters, on an errand. Finds hat, tries it on and decides it's not his, since it doesn't fit. Decides to find its true owner. Enter ISABELLA and CLARICE, discussing men and her latest disaster. Arlecchino tries the hat on them, decides it doesn't fit; they exit, telling Arlecchino to get back to work. Enter PRIEST. Arlecchino tries the hat on priest; it doesn't fit either. Priest asks where Isabella is; Arlecchino points the way. Priest exits.

SPAVENTO enters. In town looking for work, tries to interrogate Arlecchino. Gets nowhere, slaps him around some. Arlecchino tries the hat on Spavento --- it fits, and Arlecchino says he is the true owner. Spavento is about to throw the hat back at Arlecchino when he decides he likes the hat and will keep it. Both exit in opposite directions.

Enter ISABELLA, CLARICE, and PRIEST; Isabella is talking about her latest disaster with men, and how she wishes she could find someone with half a brain, like perhaps a lawyer. Priest tells Isabella that she must be getting married soon. Enter ORATIO, looking for Pedrolino. Priest begins to quote canon law, saying that Isabella must be married by the time she is 16 or else she will have to join a nunnery. Oratio overhears, corrects the Priest. They argue over law for a while. Isabella and Clarice draw off to the side, wondering who the new person is; they exit. PEDROLINO enters, drags Oratio off. Exit Isabella and Clarice.

Enter PANTALONE. Priest sees him, reprimands him for not giving a proper amount to the Church, and warning him of the peril of purgatory. Pantalone says he's still young and not going to die anytime soon, and will give to the Church later, when he's older. Both exit, arguing.

GRATIANO enters, with his book, exceptionally happy. As a favor to Pantalone, he will cast his horoscope, but he doesn't remember his birthday. ARLECCHINO enters on some errand. Gratiano grabs him and asks him for Pantalone's birthday; Arlecchino answers in his own way but gives three days after St. Michael's day as the date. Gratiano exits.

ISABELLA, CLARICE enter, see ARLECCHINO just standing there. They ask Arlecchino what he's doing; he mentions in passing that Gratiano wanted to know Pantalone's birthday so he could cast a horoscope. Isabella is excited over this, and suggests to Clarice that she have Gratiano cast her horoscope, and perhaps find out what sort of man she will marry. Isabella and Clarice exit.

MARIA and FRANCHESCHINA enter. Maria is looking for Spavento to drag him back to Spain so he can face up to his ``responsibilities''. She grabs Arlecchino and demands information; when Arlecchino doesn't deliver, she throws him aside and storms off, Francheschina following.

Enter PANTALONE, who sees Arlecchino just standing there. Demands to know why Arlecchino hasn't completed the errand he sent him out on; Arlecchino says he forgot. Pantalone beats Arlecchino, sends him back out. Both exit.

Enter PEDROLINO, looking for Oratio. Says he was supposed to keep Oratio out of trouble, and now look what has happened. Enter ISABELLA and CLARICE; Isabella recognizes Pedrolino as Oratio's servant and asks about him, tries to get details, who he is, etc. Pedrolino stalls, when ORATIO enters. Their eyes meet, they talk, they fall in love. Eventually, Pedrolino drags Oratio offstage.

Enter GRATIANO, distraught, says he must talk to Pantalone immediately. Clarice runs off to get him. Isabella and Gratiano talk briefly, CLARICE, ARLECCHINO and PANTALONE enter. First, Gratiano says that Isabella will be happily married to a man wearing a red hat. But second, Gratiano says that Pantalone will die a very wealthy man. When Pantalone begins to celebrate, Gratiano adds the terrible news that he will die very wealthy --- but in only three days. Gratiano leaves, leaving Isabella, Arlecchino and Clarice to comfort Pantalone in their own ways. Pantalone decides that he must make amends for his life of parsimony, and just maybe forestall Gratiano's prediction.

Act II: The Marketplace

Some food vendors are around.

PANTALONE and PRIEST enter. Pantalone is trying to give a large sum of money to the Church; the priest is refusing because he thinks that Pantalone has some ulterior motive and doesn't want to get involved. Both exit in opposite directions.

ORATIO and PEDROLINO enter, buying food. Oratio waxing eloquent about Isabella and how he is certain that this one will be his true love; Pedrolino gets nauseated, certain his master is going to get in more trouble than he can handle.

ISABELLA and CLARICE enter. They meet, talk; Isabella mentions her father's upcoming demise; Oratio is sympathetic. Isabella looks Oratio over carefully, but finds no red hat. *sigh* They talk for a while, then Isabella and Clarice exit, rather distant. Oratio and Pedrolino wonder what happened, then Oratio exits, threatening to throw himself in the river; Pedrolino offers useful suggestions, following.

SPAVENTO enters, tries to get food from vendor at a very low price. CLARICE and ISABELLA enter. Clarice notices Spavento's red hat and points this out to Isabella. Spavento notices Isabella and approaches her, attempting to be amorous. Isabella and Spavento talk disastrously. Spavento exits, certain that Isabella is swooning over him. Isabella is convinced that Spavento is the man she must marry; they exit.

Enter PEDROLINO to buy food, muttering about how Oratio always gets into these moods, etc. MARIA and FRANCHESCHINA enter, Maria full of dire threats of what she will do to Spavento once she catches him. Maria grabs Pedrolino and demands information on the whereabouts of her son, Spavento; Pedrolino knows nothing, exits hastily.

PANTALONE enters, decides to do a good deed by giving the ``poor old woman'' some money. Maria takes great offense at being called a poor old woman, and beats Pantalone off stage. She stays, complaining about the price of food.

GRATIANO enters, looking for something to cure his upset stomach. Maria interrogates him. Gratiano answers in his own way; Maria, frustrated, and Francheschina exit.

Enter ISABELLA. Isabella asks Gratiano how accurate astrological predictions really are. Gratiano goes into a long spiel about how some practitioners are mere amateurs, using imperfect works, but with the new book he has he is certain that his predictions are accurate --- he's dreadfully sorry about what will happen to Pantalone, but isn't it better that he knows about it in advance and can prepare for it. Isabella asks about the prediction for her, and whether or not she has to marry someone wearing a red hat. Gratiano says that if she does not, then she would be defying the natural order of the cosmos and she would be very unhappy. Exit Isabella.

PANTALONE enters, distraught. Every time he's tried to give his money he's been miserably unsuccessful, since no one trusts his motives. Gratiano tries to cheer Pantalone up, purgatory isn't all that bad, then exits.

ARLECCHINO enters, sees Pantalone, is overjoyed because he just remembered what he was supposed to have done yesterday, and he did it. Pantalone shouts that he needed it done yesterday; having it done today is useless, and is about to beat Arlecchino until he realizes what he is doing and decides to be nice to him instead.

SPAVENTO enters; Spavento asks Pantalone for a job. Pantalone immediately notices Spavento's red hat, and says he has just the job for him: he's going to marry him to his daughter, and his dowry will be the Pantalone family fortune. ISABELLA and CLARICE enter; Pantalone announces the plan and how they must be married soon, so that Pantalone is still alive to give her away.

Act III: In front of Chez Pantalone

PANTALONE enters, following FRANCHESCHINA. Pantalone wants to give Francheschina some money; she accepts graciously and tries to give Pantalone something back. Pantalone is mortified (since this would only increase his debt of sin...), and runs hastily off stage. Francheschina reacts; both exit.

SPAVENTO and ISABELLA, followed by CLARICE. Spavento and Isabella not hitting it off at all. Enter PEDROLINO, who talks to CLARICE. Says that Isabella is quite taken with Oratio, but it was foretold that she would marry a man with a red hat. But Oratio has a red hat, Pedrolino says, and I have it. Pedrolino realizes that he doesn't have it, and that he must have dropped it, and Spavento must have picked it up. Don't worry, Pedrolino says, he has a plan, but don't tell anyone. Just make sure everyone's at the wedding as scheduled. Pedrolino exits. Spavento exits, leaving Clarice and Isabella to talk about him.

Enter ORATIO, who pours out his heart to Isabella. Although she is very taken with him, she explains, she must marry Spavento, or else the natural order of the universe will be disrupted and she will be unhappy. Oratio exits, depressed. Clarice and Isabella exit.

PANTALONE and GRATIANO enter. Pantalone has been miserably unsuccessful in giving his money away for charity in person, so he wants Gratiano to write up a will giving it to the appropriate agencies, so that hopefully he won't have to spend a long time in purgatory. He gives Gratiano a bag of money to carry on his work as well. Gratiano leaves ecstatic, saying now he can buy more astrology books. Pantalone exits downcast.

Enter PEDROLINO and ARLECCHINO. Pedrolino wants Arlecchino to get back Spavento's red hat. Arlecchino refuses, saying that the hat is Spavento's because it fits him. Pedrolino tries to explain the situation, eventually getting it across that the hat fits Oratio much better than Spavento. Enter SPAVENTO. Arlecchino tries several times to get the hat, but is unable to do so. Pedrolino notices someone coming, and runs off.

Enter PANTALONE and PRIEST. They talk for a while; Pantalone sends Arlecchino out to get Isabella. (Arlecchino can still be trying to get the hat off Spavento) Arlecchino exits.

Enter GRATIANO, still carrying the bag of money, saying he has the will. Pantalone signs it; says that Gratiano might as well stay for the wedding.

ISABELLA, CLARICE and ARLECCHINO enter. Isabella says prediction or no prediction, she doesn't want to marry Spavento, since she can't stand the man.

Enter ORATIO, PEDROLINO, at a distance. Oratio *sigh*ing because the woman he's fallen in love with is going to marry someone else, and he'll have to marry...Laura. Pedrolino says not to worry about a thing, because....

Enter MARIA, fuming at Spavento. Spavento cringes when he hears her voice. She tells him of his responsibilities back home, etc., etc., while he protests to no avail. Pedrolino pushes Oratio into the fray, telling him to help return Spavento to Spain. Oratio eventually draws his sword and threatens dire consequences unless Spavento goes with Maria. Exit Maria and Spavento; Pedrolino grabs the red hat from him, and returns it to Oratio. Oratio explains the whole situation. Isabella and Oratio get married. All exit except Gratiano, Pantalone, and Arlecchino, and Priest.

Pantalone begins discussing funeral plans for himself. The Priest says he looks quite healthy; Gratiano interrupts saying that because Pantalone was born three days after St. Michael's day, he will die tomorrow. Pantalone corrects Gratiano, saying that he was born three days before St. Michael's day. But if that's true, then the prediction of your death is completely wrong, says Gratiano. Pantalone is overjoyed, but he takes great pains to destroy the will he has just signed. Gratiano mentions in passing that if Arlecchino hadn't told him the wrong day, none of this would have happened, and exits.

Pantalone glares at Arlecchino and chases him off the stage.


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