The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The handbill that the audience receives upon entering the theater notes that the evening’s performance is based on a true tragedy: the suicide of La Vela, a young artist, whose fiancé, the noted actor Amelia Moreno, had betrayed him through an affair with Baron Nuti, a nobleman engaged to La Vela’s own sister. The handbill informs the audience that the number of acts to be performed cannot be stated specifically because of “unpleasant incidents” the management fears may arise during the evening.

The performance opens at the Palegari home, with the report of an argument of the previous evening between Doro Palegari and Francesco Savio concerning the guilt of this unfaithful woman, here played by Delia Morello. Doro had defended her as innocent of any intent to harm the artist by her flirtation, while Francesco had blamed Delia for the young man’s suicide. Under probing by his friend Diego Cinci, Doro reverses his position and declares Delia guilty of treacherous deceit. At this point, Francesco arrives to apologize for his angry words to Doro on the previous evening; he too, under questioning by Diego, reverses his opinion, so that he now professes Delia blameless in the affair. Paradoxically, Doro and Francesco again quarrel from their new positions, this time to the point of a duel to take place the following morning at Francesco’s home.

At this juncture, Delia herself appears to thank Doro for his brave defense of her character, although she confesses herself deserving of blame for the artist’s death since she had gone off with Michele Rocca not out of love but rather merely to spite her young fiancé’s family for treating her as unworthy to marry their son. Her admission of such motivation only confuses Doro further. He sees himself now as committed to a duel with a close friend over a sordid affair concerning whose moral truth even the chief precipitator has no clear notion.

The curtain falls on the first act, only to go up again immediately on a replica of the side hall and a corner of the lobby of the theater itself. Here actors mingle as “critics” and “audience” to discuss the events of the first act. Some praise it as a true view of life in which “a single conception may present different phases, according as you look at it”; others condemn it as “just word play! All on the surface!” Suddenly Amelia Moreno appears among them, supposedly from her box in the theater, protesting that she is being maligned by this distorted and thinly veiled presentation of her painful situation. Her friends intervene and lead her off...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Each in His Own Way is one element of Pirandello’s so-called theater trilogy, which also includes Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (pr., pb. 1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922) and Questa sera si recita a soggetto (pr., pb. 1930; Tonight We Improvise, 1932). The central metaphorical structure of each of these works is a play folded within a play. Pirandello viewed life itself as the ultimate drama and strove through this structural device to immerse the audience within the ambience of the theater so deeply that they could realize themselves as an integral part of the action being played out before them, as actors in their own dramatic role of spectators in the theater of life.

Within Each in His Own Way, the audience actually experiences the dichotomy of reality and illusion as it views its very self in the two interludes. With an inversion of stage space that brings the lobby into the audience chamber, Pirandello allows the audience to eavesdrop on its own ambiguous feelings concerning the convoluted events of acts 1 and 2. The characters are effectively in the actual audience, the apparent audience is in the play, and all is in turmoil. Pirandello extends the physical and psychological limits of the stage into the dressing room and out into the audience itself; characters, actors, and audience together are the drama. Through this metatheatrical device, Pirandello strives to make...

(The entire section is 509 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Bassanese, Fiora A. Understanding Luigi Pirandello. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Bishop, Thomas. Pirandello and the French Theater. New York: New York University Press, 1960.

Caesar, Ann. Characters and Authors in Luigi Pirandello. New York: Clarendon Press, 1998.

Caputi, Anthony. Pirandello and the Triumph of Modern Consciousness. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.

Matthaei, Renate. Luigi Pirandello. Translated by Simon Young and Erika Young. New York: F. Ungar, 1973.

Paolucci, Anne. Pirandello’s Theater: The Recovery of the Modern Stage for Dramatic Art. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1974.

Starkie, Walter. Luigi Pirandello, 1867-1936. 3d rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965.