Definitions for "Commedia dell'arte"
an improvised style of comedy popular during the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, originating in Italy and involving stock characters and the use of masks
Type of improvised drama popular in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italy; makes use of stereotyped characters.
This is a term used for professional improvized Italian-style Masked Comedy of the 16th and 17th centuries. Antonio Fava points out that this really represents 'all theater' in the time period of interest. The term was not in use in the 16th century. The term can roughly be translated to Comedy (or happy songs) by people in theatercraft. Some terms used during our period of interest include Commedia Italiana, Commedia Improvvisa, or the more specific, Commedia di Zanni (for servant comedy), or Commedia di Gratiani (for pedant comedy). The pejorative terms Commedia d'Istrioni, Commedia Mercenaria, and Commedia a Braccio (off the cuff) were also sometimes used.