Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Six Characters in Search of an Author is a parody of the “well-made play.” All theatrical conventions and functions of personnel are examined in the play-within-the-play, which operates on different temporal planes.
A troupe plans to rehearse a play, and the introductory remarks underline the necessity of following Pirandello’s directions. The Actors’ clothing and mirthful comportment contrast with those of the disintegrated family who appear on stage to be immortalized in art. The rehearsal is postponed, and a theater workshop ensues. As the title suggests, the Characters offer a play-in-the-making, which, like the commedia dell’arte, justifies a “crucial scene.” Their attempt to generate a play, based on a sketch that a writer had made before abandoning the project, constitutes the inner play, while the comments of the Director and Actors, as audiences, form the outside comedy. Their improvisations, however, are judged unsatisfactory; they know neither how to create a play nor how to interpret roles. Without a literary text, the theater, too, must reject them. That is their tragedy.
Even though the Characters cannot agree about the facts, a linear plot emerges, and two events are staged. In the first melodramatic tableau, the Father visits Madame Pace’s boutique, a front for a brothel. While he is embracing his wife’s daughter, the Mother instinctively intervenes to safeguard the girl’s virtue. Unlike those of...
(The entire section is 450 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Six Characters in Search of an Author Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
As a stage manager and a group of actors prepare to rehearse a Pirandello play, they are interrupted by the appearance of six characters: a man of about fifty, a woman, a young woman, a young man of twenty-two, a boy of fourteen, and a little girl. The man and the young woman are searching for an author who will put all six of them into a drama. They insist that they are already living characters but that they need an author to put their drama into suitable form for the stage. The manager, at first annoyed at the interruption of his rehearsal, finally listens with some interest to the rather confused story that the man and the young woman, who, it turns out, is his stepdaughter, try to tell him.
Years ago the father got rid of his wife, whom he found both boring and pitiable, by providing her with a lover, his former secretary, to whom she might go when she was rejected by her husband. Long afterward, the father visited Madame Pace’s dress shop, a legitimate business that she operated as a cover for her procuring, and was provided with a pretty young woman whom he did not recognize as his stepdaughter until they were separated by the sudden appearance of his wife. When he learned that his wife was destitute, her lover having died two months before, he permitted her to return to his home with her daughter and two younger children, all illegitimate.
To forestall a refusal by the manager to act as vicar-author for the drama, the father assures...
(The entire section is 1224 words.)
When Six Characters in Search of an Author begins, the stage is being prepared for the daytime rehearsal of a play and several actors and actresses are milling about as the Producer enters and gets the rehearsal started. Suddenly the guard at the stage door enters and informs the Producer that six people have entered the theatre asking to see the person in charge. These six "characters" are a Father, a Mother, a 22-year-old Son, a Stepdaughter, an adolescent Boy, and young female Child. These "characters" claim that they are the incomplete creations of an author who couldn't finish the work for which they were conceived. They have come looking for someone who will take up their story and embody it in some way, helping them to complete their sense of themselves.
The Producer and his fellow company members are initially incredulous, convinced that these "people" have escaped from a mental institution. But the Father, speaking for the other characters, argues that they are just as "real" as the people getting ready to rehearse their play. Fictional characters, he maintains, are more "alive'' because they cannot die as long as the works they live in are experienced by others. The Father explains that he and the other "characters" want to achieve their full life by completing the story that now only exists in fragments in the author's brain.
The Stepdaughter and Father begin to tell their "story.'' The Father was...
(The entire section is 1274 words.)