Rugantino is a mask of the Roman theater. This mask personifies a typical Roman character, ” er bullo de Trastevere”, quick with words and ” cor cortello” (with Knife) , the arrogant and arrogant young man but basically good and lovable. The characteristic aspect of Rugantino is ruganza, a Roman word that means “arrogance”.
Ghetanaccio, who was the best known Roman puppeteer, was known above all for his representations that had Rugantino as their protagonist, this suggests that his origins date back to the end of the 1700s.
Odoardo Zuccari , on 13 September 1848 presented the character in the first issue of a satirical sheet, with these verses :
“Cor hat to du ‘lace, cor long snout du’ parmi, co ” na scucchia revortata ‘nsù to use a spoon, co’ no ‘broadsword that there is no bit that der Sor Radeschio, and co’ cianche the Arco de Pantano, if he presents, my gentlemen, Rugantino was tough, born in our little castle and raised by force of flapping, because he has always had the vice of rugà and arilevacce “
Thus the first Rugantino must have been the caricature of the gendarme, and conversely he was also identified with the leader of the brigands.
Over the years this first image turned into the young neighborhood bully who assumed the attitudes of the tough guy, but who was actually a braggart ready for words but fearful in deeds. The typical mask therefore sees him dressed in two ways: as a henchman, in a striking way dressed in red with a two-pointed hat, or as a poor commoner, with worn shorts, band around the waist, shirt with jacket and handkerchief around the neck.
In papal Rome of the nineteenth century Rugantino, a young braggart, arrogant and averse to any job, lives by expedients aided by his faithful Eusebia, whom he passes off as his sister. The two get board and lodging by tricking the freshman on duty: first an elderly marquis who, deceased, does not reserve them any bequest; then Mastro Titta, the famous executioner of the Papal State, an authentic historical figure. Mastro Titta is also the owner of an inn which he runs together with his son, nicknamed Bojetto, after his wife left him, who did not approve of his job; he takes care of Rugantino and Eusebia, but ends up falling in love with this one, a love soon reciprocated. The beautiful Rosetta enters the scene, wife of the violent and jealous Gnecco Er Matriciano, cross and delight of all young Romans including Rugantino, who bets with some friends to seduce her before the Evening of the Lanternoni. The young man, despite humiliating vicissitudes, succeeds in his intent, but ends up falling in love with the girl, so as not to mention the undertaking, out of respect, to his companions; an attitude that soon fades due to his braggart, thus hurting her feelings.
During the Carnival, Gnecco is murdered by a criminal while Rugantino is elsewhere, in the company of a noble. The protagonist is found by chance next to the corpse and therefore, in order to redeem himself, he accuses himself of the murder, whose motive would be love for Rosetta. Imprisoned and sentenced to death, with Rosetta declaring herself madly in love, he climbs to the gallows claiming his guilt and thus proving, in facing death, to be a real man. The story ends with Mastro Titta who executes a Rugantino finally respected and admired by all.