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Six Characters in Search of an Author ()

Nobel Prize Winners (1934)

We're all familiar with the dramatic device of the "play within a play" from Shakespeare (for instance, the device is used in Hamlet).  But Nobel Laureate Luigi Pirandello had a specific use for the concept; he wanted to demonstrate the fine line that separates reality and fiction.  He did so most famously in the play Six Characters in Search of an Author.

The play opens with a theater company getting ready to begin a rehearsal.  As the director tries to bring some order to the proceedings, six people walk in off of the street looking for an author.  They want someone to dramatize their sordid true life story.  The tale that they unfold is in fact so melodramatic that the director has his troupe start acting out the six characters and repeating their lines.  Meanwhile, the six quibble with the actors' interpretations and with the reproduced dialogue and even argue with the director over whether it is possible or appropriate for anyone other than the six to play themselves.

The premise and structure of the play are amusing and thought provoking.  One can only imagine how Pirandello would react to the permutations we see spun out today with reality tv and instant tv movies based on real events, even those we've all just witnessed on live tv like the OJ trial.  In fact, just recently on the X-Files, Scully and Mulder were working with a police force which was being filmed for the live action show COPS.  Fictional characters pretending to be on a "real" show, but the players on the "real" show are fictional for this episode...  He would have loved it.  But ultimately the actual content of this play seems to be totally superfluous.  The ingenious set up is the whole point and so it ends up resembling one of those Saturday Night Live skits that doesn't know when enough is enough.  It all makes for an interesting thought experiment but a somewhat tedious, though blessedly brief, drama.


Grade: (C+)


Luigi Pirandello Links:
-PODCAST: Pirandello’s Controlled Chaos 100 years since the première of Six Characters in Search of an Author (Times Literary Supplement, 5/06/21)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: "Luigi Pirandello"June 28, 1867, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
    -Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)(kirjasto)
    -Luigi Pirandello (Nobel Site)
    -LUIGI PIRANDELLO: 1934 Nobel Laureate in Literature (Nobel Prize Internet Archive)
    -The Pirandello Lyceum:  Institute of Italian-American Studies, Research and Cultural Dissemination
    -Luigi Pirandello (Bio & Links)
    -LINKS: About Luigi Pirandello
    -ETEXT: Six Characters in Search of an Author: A Comedy in the Making
    -REVIEW: of THE LATE MATTIA PASCAL By Luigi Pirandello (Janette Turner Hospital, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Gabriele Annan: 'When One Is a Somebody', NY Review of Books
        Pirandello's Love Letters to Marta Abba edited and translated by Benito Ortolani
    -REVIEW : Her Husband by Luigi Pirandello (Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer)

    -ESSAY: The Coronation of a Jester (D. T. Max, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Nigel Dennis: The Modern Theater, NY Review of Books
        The Theatre of Revolt by Robert Brustein