a type of Italian comedy developed in the 16th through 18th cent. and employing a stereotyped plot, improvised dialogue, and stock characters such as Pantaloon, Harlequin, and Columbine
It, lit., comedy of art
See commedia dell'arte in American Heritage Dictionary 4
A type of comedy developed in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries and characterized by improvisation from a standard plot outline and the use of stock characters, often in traditional masks and costumes.
Origin: : commedia, comedy
Origin: + dell'arte, of the guild, professional (from arte, art, craft, guild)