Pirandello: Six Characters in Search of an Author -- analysis, dramatic elements, dramatis personae, themes (with textual reference), genre, synopsis, setting

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Six Characters in Search of an Author

By: Luigi Pirandello

GENRE: Italian Drama - theatre of the grotesque

SETTING: Daytime, the present, the stage of a theatre

THEMES: How does one define reality/truth?

"At least admit that the actress who will play her will be less true than what you see before your very eyes" (Father, II)




MotherLeading Man

StepdaughterLeading Lady

SonSecond Female Lead

Boy (mute role)Ingenue

Little Girl (mute role)Juvenile

Madam PaceOld Character Lady

Other Actors and Actresses

Stage Door Man

First Stage Manager

Second Stage Manager


Roles for 9 men and 8 women plus other minor characters.


A theatre company is preparing to rehearse one of Pirandello's plays, "which no one understood when it was written and which makes even less sense today" (Director, I). Before they are able to begin, however, the Characters enter and explain who they are, and that the author that created them had not been able to finish their play, and that they were in search of someone who would help them by finishing the job.

The director agrees, and the characters tell their story, demonstrating scenes that were to be played. Not long after the first scene is played, it appears that there is some disagreement between the Characters and the Company, regarding the direction that the scenes should take. The Characters argue that they way that the Company play their roles is not "real" enough, not "true" enough. Contrariwise, the Director argues that some license must be allowed for the physical and temporal restrictions that stage production puts on their "reality."

The Characters insist on continuing their demonstration, culminating in the suicide of the Boy. The Company is horrified, some believing the child to be truly dead, others insisting that it was a trick. The Father replies to their questions with "What do you mean, a trick? It is reality, reality, ladies and gentlemen! Reality!" (Father, III). The Director, horrified and confused, calls for lights. When the lights have come up, the Characters are gone. Exasperated, the Director cries, "They've cost me a whole day of rehearsal!"


Point of Inciting Interest: The Characters appear during rehearsal and reveal that they are seeking someone to tell their story. The director agrees to help.

Major Crises:

*The Director realizes that the Characters are not actors looking to rehearse, and that they expect him to serve as their author and write their play. After some discussion with the Father, he agrees to continue.

*At several points during the play, the Director is confronted with situations in which the Characters are unhappy with the scenery or the look or performance of the actors, or the direction that the Director is giving. Each time, there ensues a discussion on the "reality" of what the Company is portraying, versus the reality of the Characters' story. Each time, the Characters eventually decide, reluctantly, to accept a less-than-perfect portrayal of their story. These crises have been condensed into one bullet point for conciseness.


The Boy, demonstrating the final scene, shoots himself and dies.


The Company is horrified. The Father explains to them simply that this is "reality, ladies and gentlemen!" The Director calls for lights and finds the Characters have gone. He then cancels the remaining rehearsal time and exits.


Pirandello takes on quite a challenging question in Six Characters. This question, of how reality can be defined, goes all the way back to Plato, with his Allegory of the Cave. While Pirandello does not answer that question, perhaps an ultimate answer is impossible to conceive, he does take it to a different level, and leaves the audience thinking.

This universal question, in Six Characters, takes on a great...
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