ANGELO BEOLCO (named Ruzante)

“Never I would had written and performed ‘Mistero Buffo’ without the lesson from Ruzante. I have ‘sacked’ him.
(Dario Fo, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1997)

Angelo Beolco, Magnificent Ruzante
Angelo Beolco, Magnificent Ruzante

Angelo Beolco (1496-1542), known as Ruzante from the name of one of his theatre characters, was a playwright, actor and director recognised as the genius of the Italian theatre long before Goldoni. His ability to melt down the tragic and the comic was outstanding, so that some contemporary Renaissance authors like Ariosto considered him marvellous.

Ruzante, an extremely cultured man, was a rebel against formal, conventional rules both in society and in literature; in his comedies he described the rural world with strong realism, using the vernacular of his own country, the Paduan dialect.

His plays opened the road to the Commedia dell’ Arte but were censured for three centuries because of the Counter-Reformation. Rediscovered by the French, the plays of Ruzante were re-evaluated and put on stage also in Italy since 1920. Twenty years ago Dario Fo has rewritten the Ruzante’s textes in a recent vernacular language.

Mario Pirovano has selected and translated four monologues, each one of them full of brio and humanity:

“Prima orazione al Cardinal Cornaro” (“First Oration to Cardinal Cornaro”)
“Parlamento de Ruzante che iera vegnù de campo” (“The speech of Ruzante who came back from the battlefield”)
“Dialogo tra Galileo e il contadino Nale” (“Dialogue between Galileo and the peasant Nale”)
“La vita” (“The life”)

The monologue “First oration to Cardinal Cornaro”, recognised as a masterpiece of comic ars oratoria, is the delightful and fresh description of men and women who live in the countryside between Padua and Venice. The peasant Ruzante, as spokesman for the rural community, asks the just elected Cardinal Cornaro to introduce new laws for them: these would be based on pleasure and natural needs to liberate the people from the repressive morality of the Church and from subjugation to the privileged dominating classes.

The tragicomedy “The speech of Ruzante who came back from the battlefield” is the portrait of a peasant in a period of social turmoil, who went to war to gain plunder. He is returning home in a pitiful state, but he didn’t fight; he prefers to be a live coward then a dead hero: ‘Canker to the fields, to the war and to the soldiers… and to the soldiers and to the war. The devil I’ll go again in a battlefield!’ Looking for his woman, he discovers that she has moved to Venice, where she is now living with a bully, Hector, a ‘bravo’ who has a lot of money.

“The dialogue between Galileo and the peasant Nale” is an outline composed by Galileo, who was a great admirer of Ruzante. Dario Fo has recovered and developed this outline written in a Ruzante style. In a language rich in fantastic images, the peasant Nale rejects the old theories of a conceited academician.

In the last play, called “The life”, Ruzante addresses an actor of his company offering to him a passionate and ironic reflection about human existence, death, dignity, awareness and the divine sense of creation.

Mario Pirovano performed this play in English in Florence, Syracuse University, in 2013.
He acted it in Italian in Bruxelles (Belgium), in January 2015.