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Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921)

by Luigi Pirandello

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,4393012,920 (3.73)68
Six people arrive in a theatre during rehearsals for a play. But theyare not ordinary people. They are the characters of a play that has notyet been written. Trapped inside a traumatic event from which they longto escape, they desperately need a writer to complete their story andrelease them. Intrigued by their situation, the director invites themto act out the key events of their lives ...Pirandello's best-known play and oneof the most extraordinary and mysterious plays of the 20th century, SixCharacters speaks directly to an age of uncertainty: where do we comefrom, where are we going, how do we become what we want to be?… (more)
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» See also 68 mentions

English (23)  French (3)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
“Six Characters in Search of an Author” is an absurdist metaplay that deals with the nature of reality and illusion. While a theater company is rehearsing “Mixing It Up” by Pirandello, a family of six characters arrive in search of an author. They insist that the Manager write their story. The characters have quite a melodramatic tale to tell, and the Manager, eventually intrigued, asks the actors to observe and the Prompter to take it down in shorthand while the characters reenact their story. What I liked best were the sarcastic and self-referential lines rather than the more philosophical themes. Examples of the latter:

The Father: “And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.”

The Father: “A character, sir, may always ask a man who he is. Because a character has really a life of his own, marked with his especial characteristics; for which reason he is always ‘somebody.’ But a man—I’m not speaking of you now—may very well be ‘nobody.’”


Examples of the former:

The Manager: “Oh for God's sake, will you at least finish with this philosophizing and let us try and shape this comedy which you yourself have brought me here? You argue and philosophize a bit too much, my dear sir…”

The Step-Daughter: “In my opinion he [their original author] abandoned us in a fit of depression, of disgust for the ordinary theatre as the public knows it and likes it.”


and especially, near the beginning, which serves as both a good introduction and a neat summary:

The Manager: “Ridiculous? Ridiculous? Is it my fault if France won’t send us any more good comedies, and we are reduced to putting on Pirandello’s works, where nobody understands anything, and where the author plays the fool with us all?”


Pirandello won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934 "for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art.” It is probably worth noting that he donated his Nobel Prize medal to the Italian Fascist government to be melted down as part of the 1935 Gold to the Fatherland campaign to raise funds in face of League of Nations sanctions. ( )
  Charon07 | Jan 1, 2024 |
3½ stars. Upgraded this to 4 after discussion.

It took me a bit to warm up to this unusual play but in the end it was thought-provoking. I would like to see a performance! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Once upon a time this must have been brilliant, but it was already old hat when I was in high school. That's a problem with most things "experimental".

Library copy ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
L'ho letto quando ero in seconda media e non ci capii niente. l'ho ripreso poi quando ho avuto gli strumenti necessari a capire questa affannosa ricerca! ( )
  cloentrelibros | Aug 23, 2016 |
"Six Characters" is a pivotal text in modernist studies, as well as theatre arts. But saying that does not communicate nearly enough the dynamism and brilliance of this text. Taking it apart on the levels of action, theme, and philosophy makes one's mind bubble with new insights into theatrical conventions, but what's more, the work forces you to ask yourself questions about issues of living, being, and essence. In addition to being a joyous read, it is wonderful to teach in a variety of contexts. ( )
1 vote voncookie | Jun 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Luigi Pirandelloprimary authorall editionscalculated
Agrell, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beunis, KarelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Makosch, AnnikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nord, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Storer, EdwardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When the audience arrives in the theater, the curtain is raised; and the stage, as normally in the daytime, is without wings or scenery and almost completely dark and empty.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Six people arrive in a theatre during rehearsals for a play. But theyare not ordinary people. They are the characters of a play that has notyet been written. Trapped inside a traumatic event from which they longto escape, they desperately need a writer to complete their story andrelease them. Intrigued by their situation, the director invites themto act out the key events of their lives ...Pirandello's best-known play and oneof the most extraordinary and mysterious plays of the 20th century, SixCharacters speaks directly to an age of uncertainty: where do we comefrom, where are we going, how do we become what we want to be?

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