Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 383
Pirandello's second "masterpiece," Henry IV (1922), is another examination of human role-playing and the subtle differences between art and rife, madness and sanity. An accident leaves a man thinking for years that he is the German Emperor Henry IV. One day in private the man regains his sanity but decides to continue playing the role of Emperor and is finally trapped in his assumed identity.
Pirandello's Right You Are (If You Think So) (1917) has been called by many, including Eric Bentley, the "quintessential Pirandello." The situation in the story is told in three conflicting versions and the audience can never know which one to accept as true.
Many of Pirandello's novels elaborate on themes developed in the major plays. In The Late Mattia Pascal (1904) the hero permits himself to be thought dead and assumes a false identity to escape his past but discovers that he cannot start a new life without his old self. In One, None, and a Hundred Thousand (1926) a man who realizes he cannot be known by the multiplicity of his many selves renounces life and becomes the inmate of a poorhouse.
R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots; 1922), by Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek, presents a slightly different kind of confrontation between human and non-human figures who closely resemble human beings.
No Exit (1948), by French playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, takes place in Hell and focuses on the Pirandellian idea that we are the roles we play and that our personal identity is constructed by how others see us rather than by our own concept of ourselves.
The Rehearsal (1950), by French playwright Jean Anouilh presents a Pirandellian situation involving romance, role playing, and a play-within-a-play. A group of aristocrats meets in a villa and works out its romantic entanglements through their amateur production of a play.
Old Times (1971), by British playwright Harold Pinter frustrates the audience's desire for certainty when the memories of the three characters are quite contradictory and the audience cannot know whose version of the past is most accurate.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), a film by Woody Allen, is a modern, cinematic treatment of the Pirandellian idea that fictional characters can have a certain kind of reality that rivals the reality of human beings A number of other Woody Allen films deal with similar Pirandellian situations, such as Deconstructing Harry (1997).
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