Commedia dell"arte, improvisational Italian comedy of the 16th and 17th centuries with stock character masks, a fixed succession of scenes and improvised dialogue; played by professional actors who always appeared in the same masks (Arlecchino, Pantalone, Dottore, Pulcinella, Colombina, and others); itinerant commedia troupes first came to Austria in the second half of the 16th century, at about the same time as the English Comedians. Traces of their influence can be found in the old Viennese popular theatre, for example in J. A. Stranitzky, G. Prehauser, F. Raimund and J. Nestroy.
Literature#H. Kindermann and M. Dietrich, Die Commedia dell´arte und die Entwicklung des Altwiener Volkstheaters, 1966; K. Riha, Die Commedia dell´arte, 1980; G. Hansen, Formen der Commedia dell"arte in Deutschland, 1984.