Of debatable origin, the words lazzi (plural) and lazzo (singular) define the transferable comic routines inserted into commedia dell’arte plots and are now also used to refer to any actor's stage “business” teased out of a plot. Lazzo is generally accepted as deriving from l’azzo or l’azione, meaning “action” or activity on stage, although some authorities also apply it to verbal pyrotechnics, “a jest, a witticism, or a metaphor, in words or actions” (Perrucci, 1699/2008, p. 192).

Through numerous historical records, the titles of many hundred commedia lazzi are known, although only about 250 have any descriptive details. The records cover situations, scenarios, and sketchy plots, but without dialogue, although clearly in performance, text was improvised around most of them. The arte (guild or profession) ...

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