Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello: Introduction

Six Characters in Search of an Author is about the relationship between art and life. Especially it focuses upon the relationship between drama and the life. The premise of the play is absurd. In the middle of the play rehearsal, several characters appear and request that an author be present to put them into the play.

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)

The stage manager assumes that they are presenting themselves as actors to be in a play, but they explain that they are not actors. They are real characters. This implies a paradox that characters are independent of the actors who play them. When they demand actors to represent them, we know that one limit of impossibility has been reached.

The characters in Six Characters in Search of an Author who appear are, in a sense, types: a father, a mother, a step-daughter, a son, the boy and the child and finally a milliner, Madame Pace. They share the stage with the actors of the company who are rehearsing the Pirandello's play Mixing it Up. The six characters have been abandoned by their creators, the author who has escaped, leaving them in search of a substitute.

Pirandello uses his characters and their situation to comment on the life of the theatre in the 1920s, and he also uses them to begin a series of speculations on the relationship of a public to the actors they see in the plays, the characters the actors play, and the authors who create them. To an extent, the relationship between the author and his characters always implies a metaphor for the relationship between a creator and the creation. It is tempting to think of Samuel Beckett years later in his Waiting for Godot imagining an author having abandoned his creations because they failed to satisfy him. The six characters or creations who invade the stage in Pirandello's play have a firm sense of themselves and their actions. They bring with them a story as all characters in plays do and they invite the manager to participate in their stories, just as characters invite the audiences to become one with their narratives.

One of the more amusing scenes depicts the character's reactions to seeing actors play their parts. Since, they are real characters, they have the utmost authority in knowing how their parts should be played, and they end up laughing at the useless efforts of the actors in act II. When manager disputes with them, wondering why they protest so vigorously they explain that they want to make sure the truth is told. The truth seems so simple on the surface, but in the situation that Pirandello has conceived, it is loaded with complexities that the stage manager cannot fathom.

Six Characters in Search of an Author has endured because it still rings true in its examination of the relationship between art and life, illusion and reality. The very word illusion is rejected by the characters. As characters they are part of the illusion of reality. They reject the thought that they are literature, asserting that "This is life, this is passion."

The play Six Characters in Search of an Author is a Meta theatre, which is a dramatic experimentation. When people go to the theatre for the entertainment they find themselves as characters. This very concept of Meta theatre creates a kind of way out beyond the limitation of earlier concept of well-made plays.

Related Topics

Six Characters in Search of an Author: Summary

The Relation between the Creator and the Created in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Modernism in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Scientific and Philosophical Theories of Relativity in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Art and Life in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Relationship between Characters and Actors in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Illusion and Reality in Six Characters in Search of an Author

The Concept of Meta-theatre in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Luigi Pirandello: Biography