In classical Italian "maschera" refers to both the physical object of the mask as well as the character type they represent. This means that even the characters who are not "masked" are considered "masks"
The mask "spectacularizes" the human face and so we as commedia actors "spectacularize" the human form and the human condition of the characters. In this, Commedia becomes entirely larger than life.
(All Portraits Credit to: Distant Era Photography)
The bulk of the comedy comes from the "servant" characters, or "zanni"
Classically the zanni are migrant workers new to the city where the play takes place, they are not stupid, but they do not speak the local language nor know its customs so they are easily taken advantage of and are easily confused. In our modern interpretation, they tend to be day laborers, TaskRabbits, gig workers, etc. The working class just trying to get by.
In the system of pairs that Antonio Fava breaks the characters into, we have the 1st and 2nd versions of every type. The 2nd zanni is the most widely known of Commedia, Arlecchino, Truffaldino, etc.
They tend to be less intelligent and more naive than the 1st zanni.
The 1st Zanni are the workers who maybe scraped enough money together to be more appealing as workers for the women of the house, the middle management of household tasks, or even owning their own small business.
Names such as Brighella, Scapino, Smeraldina, Colombina, Pedrolino
In direct contrast to the zanni, the next group to emerge are the "vecchi" or old men. These are the more wealthy older citizens of the city. They may be greedy, but they struggled their way into wealth, they are not the high society, they are the merchants, the lawyers, still "working class." They are not Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, but mid tier small corporation owners or partners at big law firms, or private practice doctors.
Our primary update is the addition of the female and non-binary variations, the venue of business and law is no longer restricted to men, so we have Pantalona, Dottoressa, etc.
Considered the "1st vecchio" most commonly known as Pantalone. The Magnifico or "Magnanimous" is a merchant or business owner who is often the parent of one of the lovers.
Il Magnifico can be greedy or lecherous, but also sometimes caring, sometimes generous.
Dottori are a class of notaries, lawyers, "doctors" (often not medical doctors).
Their comedy comes from being the one who must prove how intelligent and well read they are.
They are often the parent of the other lover.
Finally Commedia dell'Arte is completed with the addition of the lovers. First and Second in this case carry the connotation of dramatic and comic respectively.
The 1st lovers, or the dramatic lovers, or the serious lovers. They are young, born into the wealth their parents earned. Well-educated, they live in a world of poetry, song, dance, and beauty.
This poetry and song also includes the darkness of losing love and of great battles and great duels.
They are either seeking, have found, or lost their "one true love"
The zanni are naive to the customs of the world, the 1st lovers are naive to the realities of the world. But that naivety is what makes them spectacular.
2nd Lover - Capitano
The 2nd lover in the "male" form is the Capitano. Typically a braggart intruder from out of town, he says he has slain dragons, led armies, won wars, but he likely is just an low ranking soldier on leave or fleeing the actual battle. There exists a classical variant "Bravo" who is the real victorious hero and functions more similar to a 1st lover.
Classically the 2nd lovers are split in male and female forms. As of yet Laughing Stock has not broken this system, but we have begun exploration of that.
2nd Lover -
The Capitano's "female" counterpart, the Signora is often either wed to one of the old men, or is a widow from some previous old wealthy man. She was most likely a 1st zanni before marriage.
Intense, vain, beautiful, full of awe and terror, Signora is a force of nature, sex, and will. She will accomplish all that the Capitano has said he has.