How to Be a Serious Actor, 1699

illustration of figures in ridiculous costumes, including an egg costume with a frying pan hat Lodovico Burnacini, Nani e maschere ridicole (c. 1680)

Laughing on stage at the wrong time is a defect. Hence one must remain unperturbed at all times, because laughter is unbecoming when one is playing a serious role… Also, in comic roles, remaining unperturbed moves the audience to even more laughter. Should a smirk escape anyway, one must know how to control it… [Mocking] is done by wrinkling up one’s nose, twisting one’s mouth, and showing one’s teeth… Mocking is also done by stretching out the middle finger and keeping the others folded, which is a great insult… When this occurs while acting, beware of who does it and to whom it is done, because it may at times be permitted to buffoons, whereas it is always wrong in serious roles.

Andrea Perrucci, Dell’arte rappresentativa, premeditata ed all’improvviso (trans. Francesco Cotticelli, Anne Goodrich Heck, & Thomas F. Heck)

Excited for your debut as Hamlet? Try not to give Claudius the finger.