commedia erudita Italian, literally, erudite comedy
Sixteenth-century Italian comedy played from a text written in Latin or Italian and based on the scholarly works of earlier Italian and ancient Roman authors. Compare commedia dell'arte.
Because the language used in the commedia erudita was not easily comprehensible to the general public, the plays were performed for the nobility, usually by nonprofessional actors (dilettanti). Sources for commedia erudita included the comedies of the Roman dramatists Plautus and Terence and works of the 14th-century Italian humanist Giovanni Boccaccio. Other dramas were contributed by Ludovico Ariosto, considered the best writer of early Italian vernacular comedy and a principal figure in the establishment of this literary form; the philosopher-playwright Giambattista della Porta, author of a number of stinging satires; and Niccolo Machiavelli, whose La mandragola (first dated publication 1524; "The Mandrake") was one of the outstanding comedies of the century.