In his three-act tragedy, Henry IV, Pirandello unveils pretenses and the subconscious to reveal that a person’s illusions constitute the only viable reality. Like the actor in classical theater, the mock emperor becomes his mask.
Pirandello uses the analytic technique to reconstruct the history of the emperor. In the expository scene, he alerts the audience to the relativity of words. The new man, prepared to work for the English king, learns that the name “Henry IV” can refer to two kings, as well as to the emperor. The actor must transform himself and adopt another linguistic system. Thus, what takes place at the subconscious level issues as concrete reality. Moreover, the spectator identifies with that employee; both are foreigners in a strange land, ignorant of history and of the dynamics of Henry’s magic theater.
In preparation for the carnival, the Umbrian became an expert on, and assimilated the life of, his persona. Henry IV rode in the cavalcade with his beloved (Mathilda of Tuscany) and in front of Belcredi, his rival in love. Henry fell from his horse and hit his head. When he regained consciousness, the mask was fused to his face; he has lived for the past twenty years in the medieval palace that his sister constructed in her villa. Later, Henry recovered his sanity; however, he feared growing old in a hypocritical society and chose to remain in isolation in the temporal zone of a twenty-six-year-old Henry IV. His...
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