We may recognize similarities between comedies by Moli re, Marivaux, Goldoni and Beaumarchais; but it is not fully appreciated that these playwrights belong to a single continuous genre of comedy inspired by Plautus and Terence. In fact comedies which we can call Classical were first composed by Humanists such as Ludovico Ariosto; and their format was quickly taken up by improvising actors of what we now call commedia dell'arte. The erudite and artisan strains soon mingled, and created a series of audience expectations in Europe as to what comedies should contain. A dialogue developed over nearly three centuries between stage comedies in Italy and France, with the two traditions regularly consulting, and borrowing from, each other. Comic opera contributed to the mix, and the story reaches its climax and its end with Le nozze di Figaro by Da Ponte and Mozart.
Richard Andrews graduated in Italian and French from St John's College, Oxford, where his personal tutor was the Moli re specialist W.G. Moore. He is Emeritus Professor Of Italian at the University of Leeds.