Six Characters in Search of an Author Analysis

Luigi Pirandello

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Theater stage

Theater stage. The primary setting of the stage play is itself a theater stage. On this naked, darkened protruding platform in a theater, actors are rehearsing another Pirandello play, Mixing It Up, until they are interrupted by six people claiming to be dramatic characters hoping to be realized by an author. These six people (Father, Mother, Step-daughter, Son, Boy, and Child) are mystically enshrouded in light, suggesting further the theme of tension between art or illusion and life or reality. These six real personages dressed in black and wishing to relay their tragic stories are contrasted to the stage actors and the play’s manager, who listen to the tale of the Mother who “ran off” with the Father’s secretary and started a new family, only to be left a destitute widow of three offspring and of the Step-daughter, who is fixated in time by a near-incestuous encounter with the Father at Madame Pace’s brothel.

Madame Pace’s shop

Madame Pace’s shop. Attractive women’s shop with a table, racks of women’s cloaks, and hats that in act 2 is a front for procurement. The play’s stage becomes a mental platform on which the Step-daughter and Father insist on reliving their true feelings and actions, much to the chagrin of Leading Lady and Leading Man, who perceive, as artists, their own interpretation as more valid. Audiences must decipher which is more “real”—the never-changing illusion or the universal human tragedy. Readers, too, must examine their own selves in the process and must question their own philosophical-moral-aesthetic beliefs.


Out-of-doors. Location of the third act, which is a naturalistic one with a backdrop of trees with one or two wings and a fountain basin. It can be any time or place. The Child is found drowned in the fountain; the Boy, hiding behind the trees, fires a revolver. The play’s manager-author, like Pirandello the dramatist himself, becomes agitated with conventions and closure and with the uncertainty of reality, shouting: “To hell with it all! Never in my life has such a thing happened to me. I’ve lost a whole day over these people, a whole day!”

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author was a watershed in the history of drama because...

(The entire section is 965 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

The Play Within the Play
The most obvious device that Pirandello uses to convey his themes is to portray the action as...

(The entire section is 931 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1921: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States from 1933 to 1945, contracts the poliomyelitis that...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Read a biography of Pirandello to learn about the relationship Pirandello had with his mentally unstable wife. Then research the relationship...

(The entire section is 264 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Six Characters in Search of an Author was presented in a full-length firm version in 1992 by BBC Scotland, starring John Hurt as the...

(The entire section is 503 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Pirandello's second "masterpiece," Henry IV (1922), is another examination of human role-playing and the...

(The entire section is 383 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Balakian, Anna. "Pirandello's Six Characters and Surrealism," in A Companion to Pirandello Studies,...

(The entire section is 662 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bentley, Eric. The Pirandello Commentaries. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1986. These essays include an erudite analysis of Six Characters in Search of an Author. Bentley explores the abstraction of time and space, the characterizations, and Pirandello’s dialectical opposition of reality and illusion in the play.

DiGaetani, John Louis, ed. A Companion to Pirandello Studies. Wesport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1991. This major source book features four studies on Six Characters in Search of an Author and two dozen essays on Pirandello’s influence, life, and other works. Appendices include the...

(The entire section is 244 words.)