Luigi Pirandello Characters

Six Characters in Search of an Author

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Six fictional characters rejected by their author interrupt a rehearsal of Pirandello’s MIXING IT UP and, after much mix-up, persuade the theater company’s manager to let them act their story instead. The prompter will record a script in shorthand, and the company’s actors will also look on to learn their parts.

The confusion continues. The characters’ sensational story comes out piecemeal and disjointed, mainly through narration--about a man who gives his wife to her lover, then years later is tragically reunited with her and her children. Only two scenes are acted: the man’s tryst with a prostitute who turns out to be his stepdaughter (possibly his daughter) and the deaths (by drowning and suicide) of two younger stepchildren.

The characters’ play-within-a-play is cheap domestic tragedy, but their bustling interaction with the theater company results in brilliant intellectual farce. The unruly characters with their uneven story suggest the author’s messy creative process, his unsuccessful attempt to mold his material. Another object of satire is the theatrical world--its tawdry tastes, its prudish censorship, the actors’ hackneyed interpretations, the practical but insensitive manager’s concern for staging, box office, and time.

The farcical action also raises philosophical questions about art and life, illusion and reality. The illusions of art (the characters) are truer than the reality of life because they...

(The entire section is 515 words.)