Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 355
The Father, who, during preparations for the rehearsal of a play, appears on stage with five members of his family, in search of an author who will put them, already living characters, into a drama. The manager finally agrees to hear their story and allows them all to rehearse their parts as their illusions cause them to believe them to be.
The Mother, who years ago was provided with a lover by her husband. After the lover tires of her, she returns, destitute, with her three illegitimate children and is again received into her husband’s home. She watches, sorrowing, as she sees her husband act out his visit to Madame Pace, from whom he attempts to purchase a replacement for his wife. Unknown to him, the girl he desires is the illegitimate daughter of his own wife.
The Stepdaughter, who, while playing her part in Madame Pace’s establishment, is approached by her stepfather, who does not recognize her. She is abruptly pulled from him by her horrified mother, who rushes in from offstage.
The Son, who, when urged by the manager to play his part, insists that he simply walked in the garden. He violently accuses the father of displaying the family shame to the world and of dragging him onstage. He finally admits finding the body of the little girl in the fountain.
The Little Girl
The Little Girl, who, placed by the stage manager beside a fountain, is found dead in its waters.
The Boy, who is placed by the stage manager behind some bushes, from which comes the sound of a pistol shot. In the resulting confusion, the rehearsal ends in a frantic discussion about whether or not the boy’s death is real or pretended.
Madame Pace, a procuress. Scandalized at having to play her part before the mother, she leaves the stage.
The Stage Manager
The Stage Manager,
the Leading Lady
the Leading Lady, and
the Leading Man
the Leading Man, the professional company interrupted in rehearsal by the six characters in search of an author.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1181
See The Mother
See The Producer
The Father is the leading spokesperson for the six "characters " He is the biological father of the 22 year-old son he had with the Mother, and he is the stepfather of the three children the Mother had during her relationship with the Father's secretary. In his "Preface" to Six Characters in Search of an Author, Pirandello describes the Father as "a man of about fifty, in black coat, light trousers, his eyebrows drawn into a painful frown, and in his eyes an expression mortified yet obstinate." The Father is mortified by his stepdaughter's charge that he has felt incestuous feelings for her since she was a child, stalking her when she was a schoolgirl, and attempting to buy her in Madame Pace's brothel. The Father insists that his concern for his family has always been genuine and that he was surprised to discover his stepdaughter at Madame Pace's establishment. The Father is determined to have their story told. According to Pirandello, the Father and Stepdaughter are the "most eager to live," the "most fully conscious of being characters," and the "most intensely alive'' as the two of them"naturally come forward and direct and drag along the almost dead weight of the others."
The Little Boy
The Little Boy is 14 years old and the eldest son of the Mother from her relationship with the Father's secretary. The Little Boy is dressed in mourning black, like his mother and two sisters, in memory of the death of his natural father. He is timid, frightened, and despondent because in his short stay in the Father's house following the incident in Madame Pace's brothel he was intimidated by the Father's natural son. His elder sister, the Stepdaughter, also disdains the Little Boy because of his action at the end of their story. The Little Boy does not speak because he is a relatively undeveloped character from the author's mind, and in the "Preface'' Pirandello lumps the Little Boy with his younger sister as "no more than onlookers taking part by their presence merely." At the end of the story, the Little Boy will shoot himself with a revolver when he sees his little sister drowned in the fountain behind his stepfather's house.
The Little Girl
About four years old, the youngest daughter of the Mother from her relationship with the Father's secretary, the Little Girl is dressed in white, with a black sash around her waist. For the same reason as with her brother, the Little Girl does not speak, and she will drown at the end of the story presented by the "characters."
The wife of the Father and the mother of all four children (the eldest son by the Father and the other three by the lover who has just died). She is dressed in black with a widow's crepe veil, under which is a waxlike face and sad eyes that she generally keeps downcast Her main goal is to reconcile with her 22-year-old "legitimate" son, to convince him that she did not leave him of her own volition. The Mother is deeply ashamed of the Father's experience with her eldest daughter in Madame Pace's brothel. According to Pirandello in the "Preface," the Mother, "entirely passive," stands out from all the others because "she is not aware of being a character... not even for a single moment, detached from her 'part.'" She "lives in a stream of feeling that never ceases, so that she cannot become conscious of her own life, that is to say, of her being a character.''
Other actors, actresses, and company members
The other members of the Producer's company are proud of their craft and initially contemptuous of the six "characters" but then become quite intrigued by their story and are anxious to portray it.
The owner of the dress shop that doubles as a brothel, Madame Pace is old and fat and is dressed garishly and ludicrously in silk, wearing an outlandish wig and too much makeup. She speaks with a thick Spanish accent and is mysteriously summoned by the Father when she appears to be missing from the brothel scene between the Father and Stepdaughter. She is, essentially, the "seventh" of the "characters." In the "Preface" Pirandello points out that as a creation of the moment Madame Pace is an example of Pirandello's "imagination in the act of creating."
The Producer (or Director or Stage Manager, depending on the text and translation that is used) is the main voice for the theatrical company that is attempting an afternoon rehearsal for their current production when the six "characters" enter and request their own play to be done instead. The Producer initially attempts to dismiss these "people" as lunatics, intent on getting his own work done. Gradually, however, he becomes intrigued by the content of their story and comes to accept their "reality" without further questioning because he sees in their story the potential for a commercial success. An efficient and even violently gruff man, the Producer is also patient, flexible, and courageous, willing to go forward without a great deal of conventional understanding of where things are taking him. He is, however, comically inflexible in that he insists on modifying what the "characters'' give him to fit the stage conventions to which he is accustomed.
See The Little Girl
The only biological child of both the Mother and Father, this tall 22- year-old man was separated from his mother at the age of two and was raised and educated in the country. When he finally returned to his father, the Son was distant and is now contemptuous of his father and hostile toward his adopted family. Pirandello describes him as one"who stood apart from the others, seemingly locked within himself, as though holding the rest in utter scorn."
The Stage Manager
See The Producer
The Stepdaughter is 18 years old and the eldest child from the Mother's relationship with the Father's secretary. After her natural father died, the Stepdaughter was forced into Madame Pace's brothel in order to help the family survive, and it was at the brothel that she encountered her stepfather. Pirandello describes her as "pert" and "bold" and as one who "moved about in a constant flutter of disdainful biting merriment at the expense of the older man [the Father].'' Desiring vengeance on the Father, the Stepdaughter is elegant, vibrant, beautiful, but also angry. She, too, is dressed in mourning black for her natural father, but shortly after she is introduced to the Producer and his company, she dances and sings a lively and suggestive song. The Stepdaughter dislikes the 22-year-old son because of his condescending attitude toward her and her "illegitimate" siblings, and she is also contemptuous of her 14 year-old brother because he permitted the Little Girl to drown and then "stupidly" shot himself. She is, however, tender toward her four-year-old sister. The Stepdaughter and the Father are the author's two most developed characters and thus dominate the play.