Commedia dell'arte, an improvised performance art that flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, vanished leaving very few traces. What remain, besides some intriguing descriptions, are about a dozen manuscript collections of plot outlines, or scenarios, often written in dialect, which the Italian professional actors must have used to guide them through each drama, from scene to scene and act to act. Only a few such collections have ever been published in Italian, and far fewer in English translation. The present volume remedies this situation by providing bilingual access to the largest known collection of scenarios: the Casamarciano manuscripts of Naples. There are 176 decipherable scenarios in the source's two volumes. They record some important early examples of plays or operas that would later become famous, like the legend of the stone guest (cf. Moliere's Don Juan ou, Le Festin de Pierre, or Mozart's Don Giovanni), preserved in this manuscript under the title "Comvitato de Pietra." They also give us a rare glimpse into living cultural traditions that were at the root of modern theater. Stock characters like clueless Pulcinella and cunning Coviello, jealous lovers and lecherous fathers, swaggering soldiers, mystified strangers, and clever chambermaids-all conspire to bring to life an art form too long hidden in indecipherable Italian manuscripts. This book received a 2001 Weiss/ Brown Publication Subvention Award from the Newberry Library. The award supports the publication of outstanding works of scholarship that cover European civilization before 1700 in the areas of music, theater, French or Italian literature, or cultural studies. It is made to commemorate the career of Howard Mayer Brown.