Luigi Pirandello Biography


(History of the World: The 20th Century)

Article abstract: Pirandello revolutionized modern drama by creating innovative plays that explored the nature of drama itself. He created an intellectual drama that redefined the nature of the self and examined in detail the effects of relativity on the human psyche.

Early Life

On June 28, 1867, in the midst of a cholera epidemic, Luigi Pirandello was born prematurely at Il Caos, in Girgenti, Sicily. He was a fragile, weak, and lonely child. Unable to communicate with his authoritarian father, he felt isolated and turned rebellious. This feeling of isolation became a central theme in his creative work. Pirandello was also influenced by his Sicilian background. Sicily’s hierarchical, almost feudal, society demanded restrictive codes of honor and strict adherence to convention, which led to repressed emotions and acts of violence. This conflict between individual desires and repressive social norms would become a recurring motif in Pirandello’s work.

As a student, Pirandello read classical and Italian literature, and at fifteen he wanted to be a poet. His early poetry already showed his preoccupation with the themes of death and madness. After an unsuccessful venture into his father’s business, he pursued his academic studies at the University of Rome and at the University of Bonn, where he earned a doctorate in philology.

After completing his education, Pirandello returned to Rome and became involved in the literary circle of the realist author Luigi Capuana. He then began to focus on his prose writing and published a collection of his short stories, Amori senza amore (1894; loves without love). In 1893, he began to formulate his artistic credo. He saw modern humanity trapped in a maze and believed that the old social norms were disintegrating, leaving the world in a state of uncertainty.

At twenty-six, Pirandello entered into an arranged marriage with Antonietta Portulana, the daughter of his father’s business partner and a woman he hardly knew. Four years later, he began teaching in Rome at the Instituto Superiore Magistero, a teacher’s college for women. In 1903, his father’s sulfur mine was destroyed in a flood, leaving the family bankrupt. Distraught by these events, his wife was stricken by hysterical paralysis and later went insane. She became obsessively jealous, tried to stab Pirandello, and accused him of incest with his daughter. After many years of torment, he finally put her in a clinic in 1919. From living with a madwoman, he learned that reality was a matter of perception and that in the eyes of his demented wife, he could become many different people. These experiences would influence his writing.

Life’s Work

Pirandello soon began to establish himself as a noted writer of short stories, novels, and most significantly, dramas. With his novel Il fu Mattia Pascal (1904; The Late Mattia Pascal, 1923), he gained recognition both within Italy and abroad. In the novel, he shows how the modern individual tries both to escape the conventional roles placed on him and to free himself from social restraints. The attempt is a failure. Mattia, an insignificant, unheroic man, always questioning his own actions, finds out that he cannot exist outside the bounds of society, nor can he return to a role he once had.

In Si gira . . . (1916; Shoot, The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator, 1926), Pirandello continues to treat the themes of alienation and loss of identity. In this novel, he uses the diary form to trace the fragmented impressions of a cameraman who tries to become a detached recorder of the lives of glamorous movie stars. In Uno, nessuno centomila (1925; One, None, and a Hundred Thousand, 1933), he foreshadows the modernist novel. The work is composed of long interior monologues, lengthy self-reflexive digressions, and an unreliable narrator who cannot certify what he has seen.

Throughout his career, Pirandello continued to publish short stories, 233 in all. He had planned to do twenty-four volumes but completed only fifteen. His stories reflect a pessimistic worldview tinged with a sense of tragicomic irony. As journeys in search of the unattainable, they bring out the humor in the disparity between human ideals and the cruel realities of experience.

Pirandello was to reach the height of his artistic genius as a dramatist. In 1915, Angelo Musco coaxed Pirandello into writing for the Sicilian theater. Writing plays in the Sicilian dialect, he began to achieve popular success as a playwright, and drama became the perfect medium for him to explore his vision. Between 1916 and 1924, Pirandello made his most significant contribution to modern drama in particular and world literature in general. In Così è (se vi pare) (1917; Right You Are (If You Think So), 1922), he shows how a husband who separates his wife and his mother-in-law can lead a whole town into confusion as both the mother-in-law and the husband claim that they are playing along with the deluded perceptions of the other. In this play and in subsequent dramas of this period,...

(The entire section is 2126 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Luigi Pirandello was born on June 28, 1867, at Villa del Caos in Girgenti (now Agrigento), Sicily, and moved to Palermo with his family when he was fourteen. Son of an owner of sulfur mines, Pirandello entered into an arranged marriage in 1894 with Maria Antonietta Portulano, the daughter of one of his father’s business associates. Their first son, Stefano (named after Pirandello’s father), was born a year later; Lietta, a daughter, was born in 1897, and Fausto, a son, in 1899. In 1903, when his father’s mines were flooded and Pirandello’s assets were lost, his wife suffered a shock that progressed into paranoia, finally necessitating her confinement in a nursing home (where she remained for forty years). Until 1919, however, when he consented to the transfer, Pirandello cared for his wife at home, an experience that undoubtedly stimulated the writer’s preoccupation with the distinctions between sanity and madness.

Pirandello was a well-educated man, who studied at the universities of Palermo, Rome, and Bonn. In 1891, he completed a dissertation on his native Sicilian dialect, receiving the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Bonn. In 1898, he accepted a position as a professor of Italian at a normal school, Istituto Superiore di Magistero Femminile, in Rome. Ten years later, he was given that institution’s chair in Italian language.

Pirandello published his first poems as early as 1883; he wrote his first play, “Gli uccelli dell’alto” (birds that fly), in 1886; his first novel, L’esclusa (The Outcast, 1925) in 1901; and he published his first collection of short stories, Amori senza amore (loves without love), in 1894. Until the early 1920’s, Pirandello’s work was known primarily in Italy. He gained international recognition, however, with performances of Six Characters in Search of an Author in Rome, London, New York City, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin between 1921 and 1924. Also active as the first director of the Teatro d’arte di Roma, Pirandello toured Europe, North America, and South America between 1924 and 1928. Pirandello’s frequent travel was followed by residences in Paris and Berlin and by a period of intense creativity. Two years before his death of pneumonia in Rome on December 10, 1936, Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Born June 28, 1867, to wealthy parents in a small village on the island of Sicily, Luigi Pirandello was brought up with the expectation that he would work in the family sulfur-mining business. From an early age, however, he showed little interest or talent in business matters. Instead, he began writing poetry and short stories and, in 1886, persuaded his father to allow him to pursue a classical education at the University of Palermo. In 1887, he went on to the University of Rome, transferring from there to the University of Bonn, Germany, where he completed his doctorate in 1891 with a dissertation in philology: a rhetorical study of the dialect of his native Sicilian area.

At the age of twenty-seven, he entered an arranged marriage with the daughter of his father’s business partner and settled in a career as a novelist and short-story writer, while teaching at a girls’ academy in order to support his growing family of three children. In 1903, the emotional trauma of the failure of the family’s sulfur business so affected Pirandello’s wife that she became mentally unstable. For more than a dozen years, she plagued him with paranoiac jealousy, spying on his movements and raging about his every relationship both within and without the home. Pirandello devoted himself at great sacrifice to caring for her personally until, in 1919, he finally conceded to placing her in a nursing institution, where she remained until 1959.

During these...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Luigi Pirandello was born a few years after the achievement of Italian unification, into a prosperous middle-class Sicilian family. Stefano Pirandello and Caterina Ricci-Gramitto had initially come together because of their shared patriotic zeal, an enthusiasm whose ashes their son was to depict in his historical novel The Old and the Young. Following an early interest in literature, Pirandello studied classics and humanities at the University of Palermo, then at Rome, and finally at Bonn. During these student years, the fledgling writer experienced his first sentimental attachments and briefly flirted with Socialist ideas.

Upon finishing his thesis in linguistics on the dialect of his native Agrigento,...

(The entire section is 776 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Luigi Pirandello (pihr-uhn-DEH-loh) was born in Girgenti, Italy, on June 28, 1867, to Stefano and Caterina Pirandello. He and his older sister, Lina, grew up in a comfortable home, for their father was the wealthy owner of a sulfur mine. His father expected him to run the business eventually, but the sensitive and introspective son had different dreams. The child enjoyed listening to family stories about heroic struggles for political independence, as well as their servant’s ghost stories, which helped Luigi to develop his imagination and interest in literature.

During his privileged youth, Pirandello became an avid reader. He began to question traditional customs and beliefs, and he learned to be self-assertive. He...

(The entire section is 823 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Luigi Pirandello’s renown rests upon his achievements as a playwright. With adroit stagecraft, he contrasts Art and Life. His magic mirrors reflect illusions of appearance and reality, while his analysis of the structures of personality reveals that people wear masks to survive in society. Humanity condemned to self-deception merits the audience’s compassion.

His masterpieces, Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV, incorporate the main ideas of his immense literary production. They have an international audience and have influenced the authors of the Theater of the Absurd, who consider him the creator of contemporary drama.

(The entire section is 99 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Luigi Pirandello (pee-rahn-DEHL-loh), who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934, became a force in twentieth century drama by calling attention to the limitations of the school of the “well-made” play, the poetic drama, and the naturalistic drama of the nineteenth century. He offered in their stead a theater that the Italians called grottesco and that elsewhere has been called expressionistic. However named, Pirandello’s theater directs attention to the psychological reality that lies beneath social appearances and overt social action. He found inadequate the plays of Eugène Scribe and Victorien Sardou, which are cleverly contrived to excite and divert, and he rejected the overwrought and often insincere...

(The entire section is 654 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Drama for Students)

Luigi Pirandello was born to affluent parents in 1867 in a small provincial town in Sicily. He was sensitive and ill-suited to follow his...

(The entire section is 508 words.)

Luigi Pirandello Biography

(Drama for Students)
Luigi Pirandello Published by Gale Cengage

Luigi Pirandello was born in Sicily (the large island near the "toe" of Italy) on June 28, 1867, to a wealthy father who owned sulphur mines....

(The entire section is 429 words.)