Six Characters in Search of an Author

by Luigi Pirandello

Start Free Trial

Why are the characters in Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author nameless?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, the six incomplete characters are searching for an author to finish fleshing them out and complete their story. Part of the incompleteness of the characters is their lack of names. Their being identified merely by roles within a family rather than having individual names emphasizes that they are not fully rounded characters but rather the sort of character types that are found in commedia dell'arte which are realized in improvisatory performance but still remain types rather than fully individuated realistic characters.

The lack of names is also important because it reflects on the nature of acting, especially as it was practiced in the stock companies of the types portrayed in the play. Actors rotated through various different roles, sometimes even taking on multiple roles in the same play and subsuming their own personalities to that of their roles. Authors would write scripts that were sometimes fully fleshed out but sometimes only fully realized in performance.

In this play, with its nameless characters, rather than trying to create a realistic illusion, Pirandello displays for the audience the artificial nature of theater and the the complex and messy process of creation. The lack of names for the characters fits with the way in which they never really get their finished narrative.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think this choice may be explained by focusing on the play not so much as a narration of a particular story with particular characters but as meta-theatre. Six Characters in Search of an Author makes us think about theatrical conventions by calling attention self-consciously at the opposition between reality and illusion. Giving names to the characters is part of that tacit agreement between the author and the audience that what is being represented on stage is the reality. Yet, after a beginning in a realist vein, Pirandello breaches that agreement in many ways. One of these is to point out that his characters are not real people, but archetypes from which an author can select certain traits instead of others. Another possible explanation has to do with Pirandello's refusal of a definite identity and his preference for characters that have no sense of stability. When we recall the name of a person we know, we immediately associate to it an identity. Pirandello robs his characters of the most basic feature of their identities: their names.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial