Critical Context

Every play of Pirandello, even the folk plays first performed in 1913 and 1916, is about the paradoxical nature of reality and about living as acting. These themes and the suffering and compassion that are both their cause and result he presented perhaps most movingly in Così è (se vi pare) (pr. 1917; It Is So! [If You Think So], 1952). Art as an imperfect reflection of life, the values of art, the relationships of the artist to art and life, and the need for synthesis of the two were also lifelong subjects of Pirandello’s thought and his plays.

In the period from 1921 to 1928, Pirandello wrote three plays particularly concerned with the relationship of theater to life; these plays made use of the theater itself as setting and of characters in the roles of real-life people and of actors. The first of these, Pirandello’s most widely known play, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (pr., pb. 1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922), treats the impossibility of capturing spontaneous life in art and also the reality and independence of life created by the imagination. Produced in 1922, Enrico IV (Henry IV, 1923), considered by many Pirandello’s finest play, shows both the beauty and the tragedy of real life confined in the repeatable eternity of art.

In the second of his three theater plays, Ciascuno a suo modo (pr., pb. 1924; Each in His Own Way, 1924),...

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