Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Luigi Pirandello began his writing career as an essayist and poet. He turned soon to narrative fiction, producing several hundred pieces over a period of forty years. His work in drama began in 1908. Critical assessment of Pirandello’s drama has moved between the extremes of the continuum from his own time until the present. He has been vilified as a mere juggler of repetitious words and ideas amassed for their confusing effect and lauded as the greatest theatrical innovator of the early part of the twentieth century. His work in drama has been likened to that of Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, and James Joyce in short stories and novels, in its presentation of fragmented and contradictory views of the same reality.

Pirandello’s plays, and especially those of the theater trilogy, were designed to expose the conventional morality and pretensions of European society in the early years of the twentieth century. His style of drama was identified with the “grotesque school,” the teatro dell’grottesco. Writers in this style were reacting against the romanticized and bourgeois drama of the first dozen or so years of the twentieth century in the Italian theater. Touched as they were by the new pessimism of a Europe about to fall into internecine war, and inspired by the growing body of psychological speculation about the multiple and shifting nature of human beings, writers such as Pirandello sought means of expressing these deeper currents in their...

(The entire section is 481 words.)