In Prinzessin Brambilla Hoffmann combines his study of mental pathology with his involvement in theater performance. Hoffmann introduces figures of the commedia dell'arte as street players in the midst of carnival. The derangement of Giglio Favia, an actor, is played out amidst the paradigm shift from the Classic to the Romantic. As in his other tales with delusional protagonists, Hoffmann draws from contemporary mental pathology, not just in constructing character but also in adapting medical case studies as narrative models. The revival of commedia dell'arte and the staging of fable and the harlequinades introduced modes of multiple role-playing on the stage. Hoffmann found in Johann Christian Reil and Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert strong advocates for play-acting as a cure for madness. Locating that opportunity in the disguises of carnival, Hoffmann has the mountebank pathologist Celionati guide the impressionable Giglio out of his delirium by means of play-acting in a fairy tale.
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Frederick Burwick; Play-Acting in Hoffmann's Prinzessin Brambilla. Comparative Literature 1 December 2014; 66 (4): 399–419. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2823854
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