Pirandello, Luigi (28 June 1867 - 10 December 1936)
Luigi Pirandello (28 June 1867 - 10 December 1936)
University of Toronto
See also the Pirandello entry in DLB 264: Italian Prose Writers, 1900-1945.
BOOKS: Mal giocondo (Palermo: Libreria Internazionale Lauriel di Carlo Clausen, 1889);
Pasqua di Gea (Milan: Libreria Editrice Galli, 1891);
Laute und Lautentwickelung der Mundart von Girgenti (Halle: Druck der Buchdruckerei des Waisenhauses, 1891); translated by Giovanni Bussino as The Sounds of the Girgenti Dialect and Their Development, American University Series: Linguistics, volume 13 (New York: Peter Lang, 1992);
Amori senza amore (Rome: Stabilimento Bontempelli Editore, 1894);
Elegie renane (Rome: Unione Cooperativa Editrice, 1895);
Zampogna (Rome: Società Editrice Dante Alighieri, 1901);
Beffe della morte e della vita, 2 volumes (Florence: Lumachi, 1902, 1903);
Il turno (Catania: Giannotta, 1902); translated by Frances Keene as The Merry-Go-Round of Love in The Merry-Go-Round of Love and Other Stories (New York: New American Library, 1964);
Quand’ero matto (Turin: Streglio, 1902);
Bianche e nere (Turin: Streglio, 1904);
Il fu Mattia Pascal (Rome: La Nuova Antologia, 1904); translated by Arthur Livingston as The Late Mattia Pascal (New York: Dutton, 1923);
Erma bifronte (Milan: Treves, 1906);
Arte e scienza (Rome: W. Modes Libraio Editore, 1908);
L’esclusa (Milan: Treves, 1908); translated by Leo Ongley as The Outcast (New York: Dutton, 1925);
L’umorismo (Lanciano: R. Carabba, 1908); revised and expanded (Firenze: Battistelli, 1920); translated by Antonio Illiano and Daniel P. Testa as On Humor (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1974);
Scamandro (Rome: Tipografia Roma di Arnani e Stein, 1909);
La vita nuda (Milan: Treves, 1910);
Suo marito (Florence: Quattrini, 1911); republished as Giustino Roncella nato Boggiòlo in Tutti i romanzi (Milan: Mondadori, 1944); translated by Martha King and Mary Ann Frese Witt as Her Husband (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000);
Terzetti (Milan: Treves, 1912);
Fuor di chiave (Genoa: Formíggini, 1912);
I vecchi e i giovani (Milan: Treves, 1913); translated by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff as The Old and the young, 2 volumes (London: Chatto & Windus, 1928; New York: Dutton, 1928);
Le due maschere (Florence: Quattrini, 1914);
La trappola (Milan: Treves, 1915);
Erba del nostro orto (Milan: Studio Editoriale Lombardo, 1915);
Si gira (Milan: Treves, 1916); revised as Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore (Florence: Bemporad, 1925); translated by Scott-Moncrieff as Shoot: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator (New York: Dutton, 1926);
Se non così (Milan: Treves, 1917); republished as La ragione degli altri in L’innesto; La ragione degli altri (Milan: Treves, 1921);
E domani, lunedì (Milan: Treves, 1917);
Liolà (Rome: Formíggini, 1917); translated by Eric Bentley and Gerardo Guerrieri in Naked Masks, edited by Bentley (New York: Dutton, 1952);
All’uscita (Milan: Treves, 1917); translated by Blanche Valentine Mitchell as At the Exit in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928);
Un cavallo nella luna (Milan: Treves, 1918); translated by Samuel Putnam as Horse in the Moon: Twelve Short Stories (New York: Dutton, 1932);
Pensaci, Giacomino!; Cosi è (se vi pare; Il piacere dell’onestà) (Milan: Treves, 1918); Cosi è (se vi pare) translated by Livingston as Right You Are! (If You Think So) in Three Plays (London: Dent, 1922; New York: Dutton, 1922); Il piacere dell’onestà translated by Livingston as The Pleasure of Honesty in Each in His Own Way, and Two Other Plays (London: Dent, 1923; New York: Dutton, 1923);
Berecche e la guerra (Milan: Facchi, 1919; enlarged edition, Milan: Mondadori, 1934);
Il carnevale dei morti (Florence: Battistelli, 1919);
Il giuoco delle parti; Ma non è una cosa seria (Milan: Treves, 1919); Il giuoco delle parti translated by Robert Rietty as The Rules of the Game in The Rules of the Game; The Life I Gave You; Lazarus, edited by E. Martin Browne (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1959);
Lumìk di Sicilia; Il berretto a sonagli; La patente (Milan: Treves, 1920); Lumìe di Sicilia translated by Isaac Goldberg as Sicilian Limes in Plays of the Italian Theatre (Boston: J. W. Luce, 1921); Il berretto a sonagli translated by John and Marion Field as Cap and Bells–Il berretto a sonagli (New York: Manyland Books, 1974); La patente translated by Elisabeth Abbott as The Licence in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928);
Tutto per bene (Florence: Bemporad, 1920); translated by Henry Reed as All for the Best in Right You Are! (If You Think So), All for the Best, and Henry IV, edited by Browne (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1962);
Come prima, meglio di prima (Florence: Bemporad, 1921);
L’innesto (Milan: Treves, 1921); translated by Rietty as Grafted in Collected Plays, volume 3 (London: Calder / New York: Riverrun Press, 1992);
Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (Florence: Bemporad, 1921); translated by Edward Storer as Six Characters in Search of an Author in Three Plays (London: Dent, 1922; New York: Dutton, 1922); revised (Florence: Bemporad & Figlio, 1925);
Enrico IV (Florence: Bemporad, 1922); translated as Henry IV in Three Plays (London: Dent, 1922; New York: Dutton, 1922);
La signora Morli, una e due (Florence: Bemporad, 1922);
L’uomo, la bestia e la virtù (Florence: Bemporad, 1922);
La rallegrata (Florence: Bemporad, 1922);
Lo scialle nero (Florence: Bemporad, 1922);
L’uomo solo (Florence: Bemporad, 1922);
La mosca (Florence: Bemporad, 1923);
In silenzio (Florence: Bemporad, 1923);
Vestire gli ignudi (Florence: Bemporad, 1923); translated by Livingston as Naked in Each in His Own Way, and Two Other Plays (London: Dent, 1923; New York: Dutton, 1923); original Italian version of Each in His Own Way published as Ciascuno a suo modo (Florence: Bemporad, 1924);
Tutt’e tre (Florence: Bemporad, 1924);
La vita che ti diedi (Florence: Bemporad, 1924); translated as The Life I Gave You in The Rules of the Game; The Life I Gave You; Lazarus, edited by Browne (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1959);
L’altro figlio (Florence: Bemporad, 1925); translated by William Murray as The Other Son in Pirandello’ One-Act Plays, edited by Murray (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1964);
La giara (Florence: Bemporad, 1925); translated by Livingston as The Jar in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928);
Dal naso al cielo (Florence: Bemporad, 1925; revised edition, Milan: Mondadori, 1925);
Donna Mimma (Florence: Bemporad, 1925);
Sagra del Signore della Nave (Florence: Bemporad, 1925); translated by Murray as The Festival of Our Lord of the Ship in Pirandello ’s One-Act Plays, edited by Murray (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1964);
Cecè (Florence: Bemporad, 1926); translated by Abbott as Chee-Chee in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928);
All’uscita; Il dovere del medico; La morsa; L’uomo dal fiore in bocca (Florence: Bemporad, 1926); Il dovere del medico translated by Mitchell as The Doctor’s Duty in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928); La morsa translated by Abbott as The Vice in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928); L’uomo dal fiore in bocca translated by Livingston as The Man with the Flower in His Mouth in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928);
L’imbecille (Florence: Bemporad, 1926); translated by Mitchell as The Imbecile in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello, edited by Livingston (New York: Dutton, 1928);
Uno, nessuno e centomila (Florence: Bemporad, 1926); translated by Samuel Putnam as One, None, and a Hundred Thousand (New York: Dutton, 1933);
Il vecchio dio (Florence: Bemporad, 1926);
L’amica delle mogli (Florence: Bemporad, 1927); translated by Marta Abba as The Wives’ Friend (New York: S. French, 1949);
Diana e la Tuda (Florence: Bemporad, 1927); translated by Abba as Diana and Tuda (New York: S. French, 1960);
La nuova colonia (Florence: Bemporad, 1928); translated by Abba as The New Colony in The Mountain Giants and Other Plays (New York: Crown, 1958);
Il viaggio (Florence: Bemporad, 1928);
Candelora (Florence: Bemporad, 1928);
Lazzaro (Milan: Mondadori, 1929); translated as Lazarus in The Rules of the Game; The Life I Gave You; Lazarus, edited by Browne (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1959);
O di uno o di nessuno (Florence: Bemporad, 1929);
Come tu mi vuoi (Milan: Mondadori, 1930); translated by Putnam as Alas You Desire Me (New York: Dutton, 1931);
Questa sera si recita a soggetto (Milan: Mondadori, 1930); translated by Putnam as Tonight We Improvise (New York: Dutton, 1932);
Trovarsi (Milan: Mondadori, 1932); translated by Abba as To Find Oneself (New York: S. French, 1943);
La favola del figlio cambiato, music by G. Francesco Malpiero (Milan: Ricordi, 1933);
Quando si è qualcuno (Milan: Mondadori, 1933); translated by Abba as When Somebody Is Somebody in The Mountain Giants and Other Plays (New York: Crown, 1958);
Non si sa come (Milan: Mondadori, 1935); translated by Abba as No One Knows How (New York: S. French, 1949);
L’innesto; Sogno (ma forse no); L’amica delle mogli; La morsa; La signora Morli, una e due (Milan: Mondadori, 1936); Sogno (ma forse no) translated as Dream, But Perhaps Not (1930);
Ma non e una cosa seria; Bellavita; La patente; L’altro figlio; Liolà; O di uno o di nessuno (Milan: Mondadori, 1937); Bellavita translated by Murray in Pirandello ’s One-Act Plays, edited by Murray (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1964);
Una giornata (Milan: Mondadori, 1937);
All’uscita; La nuova colonia; Lazzaro; La favola del figlio cambiato; I giganti della montagna (Milan: Mondadori, 1938); I giganti della montagna translated by Abba as The Mountain Giants in The Mountain Giants and Other Plays (New York: Crown, 1958).
Editions and Collections: Opere di Luigi Pirandello, I Classici Contemporanei Italiani (Milan: Monda-dori, 1956-1960)-comprises volumes 1 and 2, Novelle per un anno, edited by Corrado Alvaro (1956-1957); volume 3, Tutti i romanzi, edited by Alvaro (1957); volumes 4 and 5, Maschere nude, edited by Silvio D’Amico (1958); and volume 6, Saggi, poesie, e scritti varii, edited by Manlio Lo Vecchio-Musti (1960);
Tutti i romanzi,2 volumes, edited by Giovanni Macchia and Mario Costanzo (Milan: Mondadori, 1973);
Maschere nude,2 volumes, edited by Alessandro D’Amico (Milan: Mondadori, 1986, 1993);
Novelle per un anno,3 volumes in six books, edited by Costanzo (Milan: Mondadori, 1986-1990);
Tutto il teatro in dialetto,2 volumes, edited by Sarah Zappulla Muscarà (Milan: Bompiani, 1993 ; enlarged, 2002).
Editions in English: The Naked T uth and Eleven Other Stories, translated by Arthur and Henrie Mayne (London: John Lane, 1934; New York: Dutton, 1934);
Short Stories, translated by Lily Duplaix (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959);
To Clothe the Naked, and Two Other Plays, translated by William Murray (New York: Dutton, 1962);
The Late Mattia Pascal, translated by William Weaver (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964);
Tales of Madness: A Selection from Luigi Pirandello’s Short Stories for a Year, edited and translated by Giovanni Bussino (Brookline Village, Mass.: Dante University of America Press, 1984);
The Late Mattia Pascal, translated by Nicoletta Simborowski (London: Dedalus, 1986);
Tonight We Improvise; and “Leonara Addio!” translated by J. Douglas Campbell and Leonard G. Sbrocchi (Ottawa: Canadian Society for Italian Studies, 1987);
Tales of Suicide: A Selection from Luigi Pirandello ’s Short Stories for a Year, edited and translated by Bussino (Boston: Dante University of America Press, 1988);
One, No One and One Hundred Thousand, translated by Weaver (New York: Marsilio,1990),
Pirandello’s Major Plays, translated by Eric Bentley (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991);
The Rules of the Game, translated by David Hare (Bath, U.K.: Absolute Classics, 1993).
PLAY PRODUCTIONS: La morsa, Rome, Teatro Metastasio, 9 December 1910;
Lumìe di Sicilia, Rome, Teatro Metastasio, 9 December 1910;
Il dovere del medico, Rome, Sala Umberto, 20 June 1913;
Se non così, Milan, Teatro Manzoni, 10 April 1915;
Cecè, Roma, Teatro Orfeo, 14 December 1915;
Pensaci, Giacomino! Rome, Teatro Nazionale, 10 July 1916;
Liolà, Rome, Teatro Argentina, 4 November 1916; revised, Milan, Teatro Nuovo, 8 June 1942;
Cosi è (se vi pare, Milan, Teatro Olimpia, l8 June 1917;
Il berretto a sonagli, Rome, Teatro Nazionale, 27 June 1917; Rome, Teatro Morgana, 15 December 1923;
La giara, Rome, Teatro Nazionale, 9 July 1917; [in Italian], Rome, Teatro Nazionale, 30 March 1925;
Il piacere dell’onestà, Turin, Teatro Carignano, 27 November 1917;
Ma non è una cosa seria, Livorno, Teatro Rossini, 22 November 1918;
Il giuoco delle urti, Rome, Teatro Quirino, 6 December 1918;
L’innesto, Milan, Teatro Manzoni, 29 January 1919;
La patente, Rome, Teatro Argentina, 19 February 1919;
L’uomo, la bestia e la virtù, Milan, Teatro Olimpia, 2 May 1919;
Tutto per bene, Rome, Teatro Quirino, 2 March 1920;
Come prima, meglio di prima, Venice, Teatro Goldoni, 24 March 1920;
Cecè, San Pellegrino, Teatro del Casino, l0 July 1920;
La signora Morli una e due, Rome, Teatro Argentina, 12 November 1920;
Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, Rome, Teatro Valle, 9 May 1921;
Enrico IV, Milan, Teatro Manzoni, 24 February 1922;
All’uscita, Rome, Teatro Argentina, 28 September 1922;
L’imbecille, Rome, Teatro Quirino, 10 October 1922;
Vestire gli ignudi, Rome, Teatro Quirino, 14 November 1922;
L’uomo dal fiore in bocca, Rome Teatro degli Indipendenti, 21 February 1923;
La vita che ti diedi, Rome, Teatro Quirino, 12 October 1923;
L’altro figlio, Rome, Teatro Nazionale, 23 November 1923;
Ciascuno a suo modo, Milan, Teatro dei Filodrammatici, 22 May 1924;
Sagra del Signore della Nave, Rome, Teatro Odescalchi, 2 April 1925;
Diana e la Tuda, Zurich, Schauspielhaus, 20 November 1926; [in Italian], Milan, Teatro Eden, 14 January 1927;
L’amica delle mogli, Rome, Teatro Argentina, 28 April 1927;
Bellavita, Milan, Teatro Eden, 27 May 1927;
Scamandro, Florence, Teatro dell’Accademia dei Fidenti, 19 February 1928;
La nuova colonia, Rome, Teatro Argentina, 24 March 1928;
Lazzaro[in English], Huddersfield, Royal Theatre, 9 July 1929; [in Italian], Turin, Teatro di Torino, 7 December 1929;
0 di uno o di nessuno, Turin, Teatro di Torino, 4 November 1929;
Questa sera si recita a soggetto [in German], Koenigsberg, Neues Schauspielhaus, 25 January 1930; [in Italian], Turin, Teatro di Torino, 14 April 1930;
Come tu mi vuoi, Milan, Teatro dei Filodrammatici, 18 February 1930;
Sogno (ma forse no)[in Portuguese], Lisbon, Teatro Nacional, 22 September 1931; [in Italian], Genoa, Giardino d’Italia, 10 December 1937;
Trovarsi, Naples, Teatro dei Fiorentini, 4 November 1932;
Quando si è qualcuno[in Spanish], Buenos Aires, Teatro Odeon, 20 September 1933;
La favola del figlio cambiato [in German], Braunschweig, Landstheater, 13 January 1934; [in Italian], with music by Gian Francesco Malipiero, Rome, Teatro Reale dell’Opera, 24 March 1934;
Non si sa come[in Czech], Prague, National Theater, 13 December 1935; [in Italian], Rome, Teatro Argentina, 13 December 1935;
I giganti della montagna, Florence, Giardino de Boboli, 5 June 1937.
TRANSLATION: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Elegie romane (Livorno: Giusti, 1896).
SELECTED PERIODICAL PUBLICATION-UNCOLLECTED: “Dramma e sonoro,” Cinema,17 (10 November 1939): 277-278.
Luigi Pirandello was a controversial and eclectic person whose work traversed many genres and media. He was, first and foremost, a dramatist; but he was also a novelist, an essayist, a poet, and a painter. Pirandello is world-famous for his revolutionary theater, and he is best known in the English-speaking world for his celebrated trilogy of the “theater in the theater,” as he defined it in the preface to the definitive Italian edition of his complete theatrical works. The plays in this trilogy are Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (performed and published in 1921; translated as Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922), Ciascuno a suo modo (performed and published in 1923; translated as Each in Ills Own Way,1924), and Questa sera si recita a soggetto (performed and published in 1930; translated as Tonight We Improvise, 1932). His theatrical production, however, includes more than forty plays, all of which have been assembled into two volumes with the title that Pirandello himself gave the collection: Maschere nude (1958, Naked Masks). He was also a prolific writer of narrative works and wrote seven novels, all of which were collected in two volumes titled Tutti i romanzi (1973, All the Novels). The most notable of his novels are Il fu Mattia Pascal (1904; translated as The Late Mattia Pascal, 1923); Si gira (1916), revised as Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore (1925; translated as Shoot: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator, 1926), and Uno, nessuno e centomila (1926; translated as One, None, and a Hundred Thousand,1933).
Pirandello also wrote a plethora of short stories (the collection of his complete short stories is titled Novelle per un anno [1956-1957, Short Stories for a Year]), and he was once even labeled a “maestro del componimento breve” (master of short narrative). Similarly, beginning as far back as his university years, he was engaged in both critical and theoretical speculation. One of his best-known essays—one that has always been well received, highly quoted, and studied in the English-speaking world—is his study of humor, L’umorismo (translated as On Humor,1974), first published in 1908 and then expanded and reprinted in 1920. In many ways, L’umorismo can be considered a manifesto of Pirandello’s aesthetic and existential beliefs, a statement on his poetics, and a philosophical investigation into the relationship between life and art, reality and its artistic representation. Indeed, L’umorismo lies at the foundation of Pirandello’s revolutionary narrative and dramatic works and in many ways constitutes the one true key to his mysterious and alluring universe. Pirandello also wrote several poems, many of which have been compiled together with his theoretical essays and critical writings in a volume first edited by Manlio Lo VecchioMusti with the title Saggi, poesie, e scritti varii (1960, Essays, Poems, and Various Writings). Finally, beginning as far back as the early 1900s, Pirandello wrote essays and gave interviews on the cinema, and one of his novels, Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore, even focused on the world of motion pictures, thereby adding in a substantial manner to the debate generating around the flourishing new medium. Pirandello also wrote several screenplays, further contributing to the cinematic repertoire of the time.
Pirandello was constantly engaged in contemporary debate and challenged by new artistic expressions; yet, unquestionably, one of the most striking characteristics of his work, beyond its richness and diversity, is its actuality. Since 1993 there has been a considerable proliferation of productions of his theater, and especially of some of his most controversial plays, such as Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore and I giganti della montagna (translated as The Mountain Giants, 1958; performed in 1937, published in 1938), his last and incomplete play and, presumably, the third act of his so-called teatro dei miti (theater of myths). Unquestionably, the last two decades of the twentieth century recorded a renewed interest in Pirandello as one of the protagonists of the passage from the theater of the actor to the theater of the author, and then to that of the author/director, that is, the so-called teatro di regia. This revived interest in Pirandello’s love-hate relationship with the theater and, specifically, with the stage is parallel to a renewed critical attention that has been called to his equally controversial relationship with the motion picture. Yet, this complexity of feelings and intentions is in fact one of the characteristic traits of the Sicilian author; indeed, Pirandello was always rather suspicious of the theater, or at least of the mise-en-scène of a written work, even when he chose to confront it directly by being the director of his Teatro d’Arte from 1925 to 1928. Undoubtedly, the primary reason for such a rebirth of interest in Pirandello is the actuality and contemporary nature of his work.
Pirandello was born on 28 June 1867 in Girgenti, Sicily to Stefano and Caterina Pirandello. Pirandello’s life thus spanned almost seventy years, perfectly divided into two practically equal parts: the time of candlelight and the time of electricity, or the time of photography and the time of motion pictures. In identifying Pirandello both as a witness and as a protagonist of a crucial period in the development of modernity, one can better understand the reasons for his contemporary appeal. The emergence of new technologies have forever changed humankind’s perception of reality, and, accordingly, the ways of representing it.
In 1882 the Pirandello family moved to Palermo and lived there for five years while Luigi attended school. In 1886 the family returned to Agrigento, but Luigi remained in Palermo to complete his secondary studies at the Lyceum. The following year he enrolled at the University of Rome to pursue a degree in philology. During this first stay in Rome, Pirandello became an avid theatergoer.
In 1889 he moved to Germany to continue his studies at the University in Bonn. He completed all the necessary requirements for his degree in two years and returned to Italy in 1891. After a brief stay in Sicily he moved to Rome and almost immediately informed his relatives that he was writing several plays.
Almost from its onset, Pirandello’s theater constituted a fresh and utterly novel voice in the early twentieth century because of his revolutionary theatrical language that was chiefly geared toward the investigation of a character’s internal structure. With his theatrical works, as well as with his novels and short stories, Pirandello pursued the dissociation of one of the fundamental elements of the fictional construction: the character. Finally, in the contrast between the “mask” (imposed by others onto the individual) and the “face” (the subject’s true personality), Pirandello’s dissociated character finds it impossible to retrieve or even to recognize his own inner self, so much that he either identifies with the mask—as happens, for instance, to Mattia Pascal in the 1904 novel—or questions the very notion of identity, as occurs in many of his works, such as Cosi è (se vi pare) (performed in 1917, published in 1918; translated as Right You Are! (If you Think So),1922). At first, then, the character undergoes a most profound dissociation in Pirandello’s theatrical works; soon after, however, the author proceeded to shatter the entire structure of traditional theater. In his own transformation as a playwright, Pirandello brought his theater to the threshold of the modern theatrical experience, the theater of cruelty and alienation of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. He did so by consciously leading his characters to an awareness of the irreparable fracture between being and existing: in Pirandello’s disquieting paradigm, life and thought are two dissociated entities placed in a dialectical and yet nonconstructive relationship, two parallel forces that never meet. Only art, and perhaps even only theater, serves as the forum in which this seemingly irresolvable dilemma may be resolved.
Pirandello’s attitude toward the theater was a rather peculiar one. He began writing plays as a young man, but at the age of twenty he burned them all; he did write two more plays shortly thereafter, “La gente allegra” (The Merry People) and “Le popolane” (The Peasants), but these works too eventually went missing. Between 1891 and 1899 Pirandello returned to theater three times and wrote L’epilogo (1910, The Epilogue), Il nibbio (1915, The Kite), and Scamandro (published in 1909, performed in 1928; Scamander), but none of these three texts reached the stage immediately. Then, for an entire decade, from 1899 to 1909, Pirandello failed to write a single play, all the while remaining extremely prolific in writing novels, short stories, and essays. During this period Pirandello reached full artistic maturity: in 1904 he wrote the novel that gave him world renown, Il fu Mattia Pascal, and in 1908 he published L’umorismo, the essay that offers a rich philosophical and existential pronouncement and indeed serves as a manifesto of his poetics.
In 1894, while in Girgenti, Pirandello married Antonietta Portulano, a fellow Sicilian and the daughter of his father’s business associate. A week after their marriage Luigi returned with Antonietta to Rome. In 1895 their first son, Stefano was born, followed by Lietta, 1896, and Fausto, 1897. Antonietta was to have a first, although mild, nervous breakdown shortly after Fausto’s birth.
In 1903 Pirandello’s fortune changed dramatically. In fact, his father, Stefano, invested all his capital, and Antonietta’s seventy-thousand-lire dowry in a new sulphur mine that flooded. Everything was lost, and the author needed to find a way to support his family as his salary from a teaching position in Rome was barely sufficient to pay for the rent of their apartment in Rome. His wife, on the other hand, never recovered from the trauma and was ultimately housed in a mental institution in 1914.
In this period, Pirandello may not have written for the theater, but he certainly wrote on the theater. In 1899, for instance, he wrote an extremely important essay titled “L’azione parlata” (The Spoken Action), published in the journal Il Marzocco, the content of which he elaborated and expanded in his 1907 essay “Illustratori, attori e traduttori” (Illustrators, Actors, and Translators), which has proven to be one of the most noteworthy and contradictory statements on the theater he made during an entire career. In the essay, Pirandello addresses the problems posed by the mise-en-scène, the irreparable conflict between the work of art—as conceived in the mind of the author—and its staging, which, in Pirandello’s assessment, is only a poor and unsatisfactory translation of the author’s original conception. He concludes the essay by asserting that the theater is incapable of fulfilling its mandate as a legitimate form of artistic expression.
Such an outlook continued for the entire first decade of the century and was interrupted, almost exclusively for economic reasons, in 1910 when he wrote a one-act play, Lumìe di Sicilia (published in 1920; translated as Sicilian Limes,1921), for his friend Nino Martoglio, who brought it to the stage at the Teatro Metastasio in Rome. In 1911 Pirandello wrote another one-act play, Il dovere del medico (performed in 1913, published in 1926; translated as The Doctor’s Duty,1928), and in 1913 he wrote Cecè (performed in 1915, published in 1926; translated as Ghee-Ghee,1928). The writing of these two plays was then followed by another long silence that was suddenly interrupted in 1916, at which point his theatrical production virtually erupted and continued to yield impressive works until his death in 1936. In three years Pirandello worked on fifteen plays, among which were Liolà (performed in 1916, published in 1917; translated, 1952), Pensaci, Giacomino! (performed in 1916, published in 1917; Think About It, Giacomino!), Il berretto a sonagli (performed in 1917, published in 1920; translated as Cap and Bells,1974), Così è (se vi pare), and Il giuoco delle parti (performed in 1918, published in 1919; translated as The Rules of the Game,1959). The first three plays were originally written in Sicilian; only later did Italian versions accompany them. All fifteen of the plays produced between 1916 and 1919 were written with almost immediate staging in mind. Indeed, as theater continued to occupy a greater portion of the author’s consciousness and life, he found himself increasingly absorbed in the discussion surrounding the problems posed by the mise-en-scène.
In a letter to his son Stefano, written on 24 October 1916, Pirandello writes fondly about Liolà:
È dopo Il Fu Mattia Pascal, la cosa mia a cui tengo di più: forse la più fresca e viva.… L’ho scritta in quindici giorni, quest’estate; ed è stata la mia villeggiatura. Difatti, si svolge in campagna…e tutta la commedia è piena di canti e di sole. È così gioconda, che non pare opera mia…. La sentirai al tuo ritorno, perchè certo questa è opera che vivrà a lungo.
It is, after The Late Mathias Pascal, the thing I care for most: perhaps the freshest and liveliest…. I wrote it this past summer in fifteen days; it was my holiday. In fact, it takes place in the country…and the whole play is filled with songs and sunshine. It is so cheerful that it doesn’t even seem my own work…. You’ll hear it when you come back, because I am sure this work will have a long life.
The play is lively and fresh, and, to a certain extent, rather different from his other plays of the period, such as Pensaci, Giacomino!, Il berretto a sonagli, Cosi è (se vi pare), and Il giuoco delle parti, as well as All’uscita (published in 1917, performed in 1922; translated as At the Exit,1928), Il piacere dell’onestà (performed in 1917, published in 1918; translated as The Pleasure of Honesty,1923), L’innesto (performed in 1919, publishedin 1921; translated as Grafted,1992), La patente (performed in 1919, published in 1920; translated as The License,1928), and Ma non è una cosa seria (performed in 1918, published in 1919; But It’s Nothing Serious). The most striking dif ference, however, is not so much the campestral and bucolic setting filled with sunshine and singing, but the fact that in Liolà the characters are not internally dissociated; they do not become the place of the conflict between “mask” and “face”; they are not torn by internal turmoil, and in fact experience life in a largely joyful manner.
This work was clearly an extravaganza for the Sicilian author who, at the time, was profoundly troubled by the death of his mother and by his wife’s descent into madness; perhaps of even greater consequence, however, was the outbreak of World War I and the decision on the part of his son Stefano to go to war, a decision that led to his eventual internment in Austrian concentration camps. Yet, perhaps because of this overriding sensation of looming death, Pirandello created the character of Liolà: he is a peasant, but he also stands for beauty, youth, virility, and, most of all, fertility. Liolà may be, as biographer Gaspare Giudice Observed, the artistic embodiment of Stefano Pirandello, who cannot die and must, in fact, live.
Overall, the play has a utopian flare, and its story is staged in a Sicily filled with a fantastic atmosphere. The story of Liolà’s many sexual escapades, which lead at least five different women to bear him children, finds a common thread in the young man’s singing and ultimately constructs a charming Mediterranean myth. The play was first staged at the Teatro Argentina in Rome on 4 November 1916, and in an interview given two days prior to the opening Pirandello declared that the play was a “vicenda di passioni” (tale of passions), and he emphasized the fact that in Liolà, characters’ actions are motivated by envy, hate, and vengeance. In so doing, Pirandello encouraged the notion that the play was a drama rather than a comedy, for here the comedic elements serve to decontextualize the drama and somewhat undermine the naturalistic and regional elements of the tale. The play was originally written in dialect and thus directed toward a specific audience—a middle-class spectator that the author’s own son and mother would typify perfectly and whom they would identify with and find amusing. Indeed, in the preface to the 1917 Italian edition of the play, Pirandello warns the reader of the relevance of dialect for the purpose of achieving artistic freedom.
The Girgenti (Agrigento) dialect is also the language of Pensaci, Giacomino! and Il berretto a sonagli, and both plays were, along with Liolà, written in 1916. Pensaci, Giacomino! was written between the end of February and the beginning of March for the actor Angelo Musco and was the first of Pirandello’s works conceived for the Sicilian theater. Pirandello’s position toward dialect theater in general, and Sicilian dialect theater in particular, had been, until then, utterly negative in theory, though ambiguous in practice. Despite his friendship with Martoglio, the founder and promoter of Sicily’s dialect theater, Pirandello had not participated in the establishment of such a theater in the first years of the twentieth century. Martoglio attempted repeatedly to involve his friend in the renewal and renascence of a theatrical repertoire that had been defined for all too long by patriotic and social texts of the nineteenth century. In 1909 Pirandello published an essay titled “Teatro siciliano” (Sicilian Theater) in which he expressed his skepticism toward the future of a dialect theater and raised doubts on the legitimacy of such an operation outside the regional confines.
Only in the spring of 1915, after the consensus received by Musco in Florence and Milan, did Pirandello decide to rewrite one of his one-act plays, Lumiìe di Sicilia, for the Sicilian actor, and the text was eventually staged in Catania. Later, after the success garnered by Lumiìe di Sicilia at the Teatro Metastasio, in Rome, Pirandello decided to give Musco his three-act play Pensaci, Giacomino! as well. The source of the play is a short story bearing the same title and published for the first time in the Corriere della Sera on 23 February 1910; it tells of an aged junior-high-school teacher, Agostino Toti, who decides to marry a girl, Lillina. She is in love with a young man, Giacomina Delisi, and is expecting his baby. By marrying Lillina, Professor Toti decides to build his own peculiar family, which would include Giacomino and would constitute an alternative to the existing and accepted social order. He does so somewhat to secure for the young couple the money of his pension upon his death and thus to take his own personal revenge on a government and an entire society that hardly recognize the work he has done for decades.
The structure of the play follows the module of the typical Catanese theatrical piece; the first act stages the prefatory events of the short story, taking place in the ginnasio, the junior-high school of a typical Sicilian small town. The second act opens upon the situation presented in the beginning of the story. The third and final act, on the other hand, is the mise-en-scène of the second part of the story: it takes place in Giacomino’s house, and, as he enters the scene, the original dialogue between Giacomino and Toti reemerges; however, the act eventually closes with a thoroughly new ending. The most striking novelty of the piece lies in Professor Toti’s speeches on the relativity of social roles and in his inclination to surprise and to confuse the antagonist. Quite obviously, the seeds for the typical Pirandellian character are laid with Agostino Toti; unquestionably, he possesses some of the traits that were further developed and become the qualifying characteristics of Piran- dello’s many raisonneurs, such as Ciampa in Il berretto a sonagli and Lamberto Laudisi in Così è(se vi pare), as well as Diego Cinci in Ciascuno a suo modo, the second play of his famous metatheatrical trilogy. Indeed, in the complex web Toti eventually manages to construct, as well as in his long and convoluted reasoning, one finds some of the morbid and obsessive attitudes but also the estranging strategies that characterize most of Pirandello’s theater.
The author wrote the play in roughly two weeks, from 25 February to 10 March 1916, and on 10 July the play was staged at the Teatro Nazionale in Rome. Soon after, it opened throughout Italy with a final performance in Milan. Pensaci, Giacomino! was quite successful, and most critics ascribed it to the “teatro del grottesco” (theater of the grotesque) that was becoming increasingly popular at the time. The text was never printed in its original bilingual form, but Pirandello published an Italian version of it in the journal Noi e il mondo in the May June issue of 1917. The mise-en-scène of the text was riddled with problems and was frequently rejected by production companies for being excessively “regional” in form and content and far too limited by the imprint of dialect theater. The first staging of the Italian version of the play dates to 1920-1921 and was based on the Traves edition of the text; it was then given a further staging in 1926-1927 by the Compagnia del Teatro d’Arte directed by Pirandello himself, and this time they used the 1925 edition published by Bem-porad. Yet, a performance in Italian comparable to Musco’s depiction of Agostino Toti in Sicilian was not witnessed until Sergio Tofano’s performance in the spring of 1932.
Until Pensaci, Giacomino!, the writer’s relationship with the theater had been occasional and questioning; around this time, a close relationship between Pirandello and the stage truly began. With this play the Sicilian author began to develop a close dialogue with the stage, with actors and acting, and thus with the director.
In the summer of 1916, as he brought Liolà to conclusion, Pirandello intended to close his theatrical “parentheses” and to return definitively to narrative fiction, as in fact he did in September when he wrote the novel Uno, nessuno e centomila. Yet, after correcting a collection of short stories for the publishing house Treves titled E domani, lunedì (1917, And Tomorrow, Monday), he began the composition of three plays, one of which was Così è (se vi pare). He worked on it from March to April of 1917. On 3 April 1917, in a letter to his son Stefano, then a war prisoner in Mauthausen, Pirandello maintained that he had just completed a work that was more a parable than a play. He stated then that the idea came from a dream in which he envisioned a dreadfully abysmal dead-end courtyard. The official source of the work, however, is the short story “La signora Frola e it signor Ponza, suo genero” (Mrs. Frola and Mr. Ponza, Her Son-in-Law), written the same year and included in the collection Una giornata. Pirandello’s tale largely retains the themes and structures of the short story, except that in his play the individual case becomes a collective affair, a trial in which everyone is involved. The story centers on a rather ambiguous love triangle involving Mr. Ponza, Mrs. Frola—his mother-in-law—and Mrs. Ponza, whose face is never revealed to the audience. Both Mr. Ponza and Mrs. Frola have a different truth to offer in relation to the identity of Mrs. Ponza, and each maintains that the other is mad. There are no tangible accounts of their lives prior to this moment because an earthquake has destroyed all evidence of their past—a major difference between the short story and the play—and the entire community becomes embroiled in an investigation that will lead nowhere. Mr. Ponza and Mrs. Frola are even forced to confront one another in the play, but no effort will prove successful in finding a single and unequivocal truth. Laudisi, Pirandello’s raissonneur, observes the various phases of the investigation, which soon turns into a collective trial, and wittily comments upon them, thus emphasizing the fact that the tale is to be taken as a kind of parable.
From its opening in Milan at the Teatro Olimpia on 18 June 1917, Così è (se vi pare) was considered a manifesto of “pirandellismo” (pirandellism), as it came to be known, and since then it has often been interpreted in purely relativistic terms. As Romano Luperini has observed, this complex story of a man who thinks his second wife is the woman whom his mother-in-law believes to be her own daughter—and the man’s first wife—clearly examines the notions of both identity (who is the wife?) and truth (who is mad? Mr. Ponza or Mrs. Frola?). First the investigation and then the trial eventually transform the theatrical stage into what Giovanni Macchia has termed a “camera della tortura” (torture chamber). The play turns into an example of a theater of cruelty in which the petit bourgeoisie is staged in its presumptuous claim that it is indeed possible to find an objective truth, one that is thoroughly verifiable on factual grounds. The drama is generated by the way in which Pirandello deliberately and, in a way, cruelly attacks a commonsensical notion of truth and stages the sadism of the petit bourgeoisie. According to Pirandello, who herein defines his intrinsic modernity, truth is only a process, an historical and relative becoming, that lives in individual consciences and achieves total realization in the dialectic—or even in the conflict itself—of the several interpretations.
Without a doubt, Pirandello’s love-hate relationship with the stage experienced a thoroughly new phase beginning with Così è (se vi pare), and from there on the problem of the mise-en-scene become increasingly relevant and eventually central to his dramatic writing, culminating in 1921 with Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore and the trilogy of the “theater in the theater.” In the second half of the 1910s, the same theater that Pirandello had condemmed with such vehemence in his 1907 essay exerted a considerable influence over his life and work; not only did the theatrical event become the very subject matter of his plays, but it inspired him to the point of founding and directing a theatrical company, the Teatro d’Arte. The primary function of the Teatro d’Arte was not merely to stage Pirandello’s own works but rather mostly to realize those of other playwrights, thereby proving the author’s complete involvement with the theatrical experience.
In his book Pirandello: Ii disagio del teatro (1993; Pirandello: The Uneasiness of Theatre), Claudio Vicentini discusses Pirandello’s only apparently linear encounter with the theater, which had been superficially described as characterized first by suspicion, and later by utter fascination. Vicentini, however, refutes such an interpretation, citing an interview that Pirandello gave to the French newspaper Le temps on 20 July 1925. In that instance Pirandello defends the 1907 essay “Illustratori, attori e traduttori,” in which he condemned theater, and then reaffirms what he asserted previously, claiming that ultimately, the mise-en-scène is a betrayal of the original work. Vicentini warns, however, against a rash dismissal of Pirandello’s contribution to the evolution of the theatrical experience; this seemingly contradictory statement came on the eve of the opening of a play that is, after all, centered on these very issues, for the conflict between the mise-en-scène and the original text constitutes the better part of the dramatic action. This apparently incongruous behavior testifies to Pirandello’s astute awareness of the complexity of the question at hand at a time when theater was experiencing a through transformation, for he attacks that very question in his work in new and unforeseen ways.
Far from occupying a peripheral position in the development of twentieth-century poetics, Pirandello was right at the center of the debates, well aware of the fact that in the early twentieth century the two prevailing nineteenth-century poetics, naturalism and symbolism, were experiencing a pervasive crisis that led to a thoroughly new understanding of both narrative and dramatic art. In theater, it was, in fact, between 1905 and 1908 that the crisis reached its most acute stage and found its resolution in the experimentation of such diverse personalities as Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Edward Gordon Craig. As Pirandello was writing his 1907 essay and taking a stance virtually against the theater, or at least against the process of “translation” of a work—as originally conceived by the author—onto the stage, many intellectuals and dramatists were experimenting with ways to solve the precarious relationship between the written text and the staging. André Antoine was proposing absolute fidelity to the written text in observance of naturalistic aesthetic principles; Stanislavsky declared the impossibility of the theatrical transposition of the work as conceived by the author’s imagination; Meyerhold proposed to overcome the impasse by using theatrical improvisation, in ways similar to the practice of the Commedia dell’Arte; and Craig stated the need to abolish the supremacy of the written text, but he also felt that the actor was incapable of producing a true form of art.
These issues are precisely those that Pirandello discusses in his essay; he moves from a rigidly naturalistic position and states that theater is simply the reproduction on stage of a written text; yet, he maintains that it is impossible to reproduce on stage the work as it was “freely” imagined by the author since the actors are dif ferent from the characters, and stage decor cannot reproduce the place of the action that the author has imagined. He further states that the written dramatic text is complete in itself, and that as such the mise-enscène is obsolete; therefore, according to Pirandello, the only way to appreciate the work is to read it, since on stage one can only achieve an artificial and false copy. Theater can be saved only by breaking its dependence on the written text: this break implies relying solely on the actor, resorting, as it were, to something akin to the Commedia dell’Arte. Pirandello feels, however, that the actor, unstable and imperfect by nature, would only be capable of producing work that is likewise unstable and imperfect; as a result, theater would become, as was the case with the Commedia dell’Arte, “triviale, perchè opera d’improvvisazione” (trivial, because it would be a work of improvisation).
Only a few years after this powerful indictment of the theater, Pirandello began to experience his strange meetings with the characters, as several short stories indicate. The first was “Quand’ero matto” (1902, When I Was Crazy), in which his characters besiege the author himself: “Ero infatti divenuto un albergo aperto a tutti. E se mi picchiavo un po’ sulla fronte, sentivo the vi stava sempre gente alloggiata: poveretti the avevan bisogno del mio aiuto” (I had indeed become a hotel open to everybody. And if I banged on my forehead, I felt there were always people living there: those poor souls in need of my help). Then there came “Personaggi” (1906, Characters), in which the author receives the unfortunate characters of his future short stories, and for the first time there comes forth a young maid named “Fantasia” (Imagination), who later appears in the preface of the new edition of Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore. The gallery of Pirandello’s phantoms continued to grow with the creation of Dr. Fileno, the main character of “Tragedia di un personaggio” (1911, The Tragedy of a Character). In his words one finds an almost literal application of Pirandello’s poetics of humor as well as an anticipation of the words uttered by the Father in Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore.
Dr. Fileno is further developed with the “ombre brulicanti nell’ombra” (the shadows swarming in the darkness) that crowd the novella titled “Colloqui con i personaggi” (1915, Colloquia with the Characters). All these characters, these figments of the author’s imagination, these spirits live in an elsewhere that can only be accessed by the writer, and they implore him to give them an artistic form and consequently a true life. With these characters, a change in Pirandello’s focus truly occurs, a shift in his conception of the work of art—from one in which the author is creator to one that gives creative primacy to the character. In this new vision the work of art becomes the world of the characters who, as Pirandello states in an interview published in Nuova Antologia in January 1906, “devono vivere nell’opera d’arte come nella realtà, per conto loro” (must live in the work of art as they do in reality, on their own).
At this stage in his aesthetic speculation, the theatrical form became a natural venue, since placing the character at the center of the creative process means many things, such as relying more heavily on direct speech. In narrative, there is a profound transformation in the passage from the third to the first person, which translates into a shift of emphasis from monologue to dialogue: this shift is one of the main novelties in twentieth-century fiction, and indeed between 1900 and 1914 a fundamental transformation took place in Pirandello’s own narrative as the presence of firstperson discourse and dialogue increased dramatically. The eventual move to the theatrical form would seem quite natural for the Sicilian author; yet, as Vicentini observed, during the years in which Pirandello was shaping his new conception of artistic creation as being the product of the characters’ direct initiative, he was unable to find theoretical and aesthetic justification in support of the notion of an artistic dimension in the theatrical experience. In 1918 he declared:
Io sono nemico non dell’arte drammatica, bensì di quel mondo posticcio e convenzionale del palcoscenico, in cui l’opera d’arte drammatica è purtroppo, inevitabilmente, destinata a perdere tanto della sua verità ideale e superiore, quanto acquista di realtà materiale e fittizia.
I am not an enemy of the dramatic art, but of the fake and conventional world of the stage, in which unfortunately any artistic dramatic work is inevitably destined both to lose its ideal and superior truth and to acquire material and fictional reality.
From an artistic standpoint, Pirandello seems here to recognize the legitimacy of dramatic writing, but not of its mise-en-scène. World War I, among other things, helped to resolve this seemingly inextricable dilemma and radically changed the artistic and, consequently, theatrical experience of the new century. Indeed, the war prompted Pirandello to turn to dramatic action—the horrific events led him to consider just how inadequate the written word might in fact be as a means of expression. He was not alone in this regard, however, for between 1914 and 1916 the theater experienced the end of a cycle and the beginning of a thoroughly new phase of development as it addressed the vexing problem of the relationship between the written text and the mise-en-scène: this time the theater went decisively in the direction of the mise-en-scène, as is exemplified in the various avant-garde positions in the second decade of the twentieth century and eventually extending into the third.
The first play of Pirandello’s “theater in the theater” trilogy has an undeniably testamentary nature and ultimately reaffirms the principles that he established in “Illustratori, attori e traduttori.” Vicentini once again points out that the play is, after all, an application of the two basic principles expressed in that essay: the theatrical performance is but the mise-en-scène of a written work, without which the event would turn into chaos; second, the staging of a written text is destined to failure since the material means of the stage cannot adequately reproduce the fantastic reality as it freely developed in the author’s imagination. Pirandello, however, was utterly convinced at this point that theater could not be merely rejected, and he felt that the miseen-scène was almost inevitable. In fact, once dismissed by the author, the characters of the play do not go and search for another author, as was the case with Dr. Fileno in 1911, but they invade the stage, since that is the place where they were destined to attain true life, as Pirandello wrote in the 1925 preface to the play. Ultimately, as scholars have observed, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore emerges from the interwining of three motifs: the dependence of the theater on the literary work; the need for the literary work to materialize on stage; and the inability of the stage to realize the work without dissolving its artistic reality. Because of its metadiscursive nature, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore played a key role in the development of European theater in the 1920s.
On 23 July 1917, in a letter to his son Stefano, Pirandello writes of the sad story of a “romanzo da fare” (novel in progress), Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, the tale of a group of characters who haunt him and obsessively ask him to give them a narrative form; the author refuses and eventually sends them away, and the “romanzo da fare,” Pirandello writes in the letter, will then be completed. Little is known about what convinced him to write a play instead. Yet, the story remained largely the same when he gave it dramatic form in the winter of 1920. The action is fairly straightforward: on the stage of a theater, a group of actors is rehearsing Pirandello’s Ii giuoco delle parti under the supervision of a “capocomico” (theater director). The rehearsal has just begun when six odd “characters” dressed in black appear in the theater: a middle-aged man with a fairly unpleasant appearance (the Father); a mature woman with her face covered by a veil (the Mother); a beautiful but arrogant eighteen-year-old woman (the Stepdaughter); a stern and self-absorbed young man (the Son); a shy and disoriented boy (the Boy); and a four-year-old girl dressed in white (the Girl). They immediately inform their stupefied audience that they are characters born in the imagination of an author who was then unwilling or unable to give them an artistic life. Alive—but lacking true life—they have come to the theater looking for an author who might welcome them in his imagination and give them a true life.
At first the Actors direct sarcastic remarks toward the Characters, but then they become increasingly engaged as all of the Characters contradictorily but enthusiastically recount the tale of the drama each of them is eager to relive on stage. The Director is initially fascinated by the possibility of writing a script from their story, but then the Characters take over and relive before the Actors the important moments of their lives. Yet, as the Actors try to play those same scenes, the Characters rise up against the inadequate translation of their drama and laugh at the sterile attempt to render their reality on stage. The Director insists that the Actors continue, and, in a mixture of narration and representation, the Characters are about to reenact the epilogue of their story when the Son refuses to participate, and in so doing prevents the full development of the narrative and the completion of the action: the Girl ends up drowning in a fountain, and the Son ends up shooting himself. The Actors wonder if what they have witnessed is reality or fiction; the Father shouts, “Realtà, realtà!” (Reality, reality!); and the curtain falls while the Director complains about having lost an entire day of rehearsal. Thus ends the original version of the play.
The plot is straight forward, but the story is fairly complex, with a rich texture of diversified motifs: the drama of the Characters, the torment of artistic creation, and the investigation of the theatrical event, as Alessandro D’Amico explains in his prefatory remarks to the 1993 Mondadori edition of the play. In sum, the work results in a “straordinario concertato scenico” (extraordinary scenic organization) miraculously created by the new dimension given to the character, which is now no longer simply protesting but in open and outspoken revolt, thus imposing his or her own perspective upon the drama that is unfolding.
The original text was first brought to the stage by the theater company directed by Dario Niccodemi on 9 May 1921 at the Teatro Valle in Rome. The flier warned the audience that it was a “commedia da fare, in tre atti e senza scene” (play in progress, in three acts and without scenes). Despite the great performance given by Vera Vergani (the Stepdaughter) and, indeed, by the entire company, and notwithstanding the initial enthusiasm generated by the first two acts, the third part and the end provoked an extreme reaction by part of the audience, who booed the staging. Initially, the reception of Pirandello’s first play of the so-called trilogy of the theater was controversial to say the least, but then on 27 September 1921 the play was brought to the Teatro Manzoni in Milan, where it generated a triumphant response, as reported by the chronicles of the time. Thereafter, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore received many productions, both nationally and internationally, and the performances given in New York (1992), Paris (1923), and Berlin (1924) are among the most celebrated stagings of the play.
The play was eventually rewritten in 1925, and various changes were brought to the original text. Most of the revisions were inspired by a twofold experience: Pirandello was profoundly transformed by his practice as a director of the Teatro d’Arte from 1925 to 1928, and the plays that he wrote after 1925 show clear signs of his familiarity with the problems born from the staging of a written text. Such an experience prompted him to bring substantial changes to some of his earlier works. Moreover, he hired actress Marta Abba, who became his love interest and muse for the rest of his life. Pirandello also was considerably influenced by the diverse mise-en-scènes of the play produced over the years. Unquestionably, the version that most affected him was Georges Pitoëff’s 1923 production at the Comédie des Champs Elysées. Two years prior to the rewriting of the play, Pirandello witnessed the rehearsals and the premiere of Pitoëff’s mise-en-scène; even though he first rejected it, he was later inspired by it. Even though another of Pirandello’s plays, Ii piacere dell onestà, had already been staged in Paris at the Théâtre de l’Atelier on 20 December 1922, Pitoëff’s staging of Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore contributed to the creation of Pirandello’s reputation in France.
In his interpretation, Pitoëff emphasized the expressionistic elements of the play—the irrational, disquieting, and mysterious aspects, and this focus makes his staging still one of the most memorable. He also introduced several innovations: first and foremost, the ghostly and phantasmal nature of the Characters, which was further emphasized by the way in which they entered and left the scene, via an elevator normally used to bring props onto the stage; having come from the sky, they would naturally go back to the sky at the end of the performance. The Characters’ extrahuman dimension was accentuated by the actors’ outlandish, almost extraterrestrial diction, especially on the part of the actor playing the Father, Pitoëff himself. Another innovative aspect of the rendering was given by Benjamin Cremieux’s rhythmic and terse translation of the text itself.
When Pirandello decided to rewrite and eventually to stage Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore at the Teatro Odescalchi in Rome on 18 May 1925, he considered all the variations of his text, including Pitoëff’s, as well as Max Reinhardt’s production in Berlin and Brock Perberton’s staging in New York. In writing the 1925 version of Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, Pirandello made significant changes to the original text. First of all, he eliminated the fourth wall: while in the 1921 version the action unfolds only on the stage, in the new edition the stage is connected to the orchestra via a staircase, by which the Director moves back and forth between stage, and orchestra throughout the production. In the end, the Stepdaughter exits the stage through the same staircase and dashes out of the theater in horror. Second, in the original text the six Characters are simply sketched, while the 1925 version clearly specifies that Actors and Characters belong to two distinct worlds, and the opposition is manifest in the temporal dimension of the Actors and the hyperreality of the Characters who, as Pirandello states in his stage directions, must wear masks and thus be defined by the immutable trace of their fundamental sentiment. As created entities, the Characters no longer frighten the audience but ultimately mesmerize it; furthermore, in the new version the Actors remain onstage throughout, while previously only the Mother, the Stepdaughter, and the Son stayed on in the third act. Third, the end of the play is wholly different; while the 1921 edition ends with the words uttered by the Director on the strangeness of the event and the nuisance of having wasted a day of rehearsal, in the 1925 version the Father, Mother, and Son reappear onstage as the Stepdaughter flies away with a horrific scream, and the shadows of the other Characters are frozen and remain there to haunt the stage even when the play is de facto finished. The Characters thus become a menacing presence, ever capable of reappearing before the spectators. Here Pirandello willfully amplifies the metaphoric dimension of the theater in the theater. One must also remember that the preface to the play, which was absent in the first version, was first published in January 1925 in the journal Comoedia with the title, “Come e perchè ho scritto Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore” (How and Why I Wrote Six Characters in Search of an Author). The 1933 edition of the play does not differ substantially from the 1925 edition.
Naturally, the changes that Pirandello brought to the original play in 1925 are important from both a formal and an aesthetic perspective. The elimination of the fourth wall means that the boundaries of the theatrical experience are broadened considerably to encompass the spectators, who, while not directly participating in the dramatic action, are constantly reminded of their literal “immersion” in the action as it unfolds in the totality of the theatrical space. Thematically, the central issue of the 1921 version, incest, is relegated to a secondary role in the unfolding of events in the 1925 edition.
In September 1921 Pirandello proposed a new play to the actor Renato Ruggeri, one that he had not yet started writing, but whose structure he already had in mind—or so he maintained in a letter to the actor in which he also announced the title of his new work, “Enrico IV, tragedia in tre atti” (Henry IV, a Tragedy in Three Acts). At the time he was writing Vestire gli ignudi (performed in 1922, published in 1923; translated as Naked,1923), a play imagined for Emma Gramatica, and he was waiting for a response from Eleonora Duse, to whom he had proposed the subject of La vita che ti diedi (performed in 1923, published in 1924; translated as The Life I Gave you,1959). Yet, as soon as Ruggeri agreed to the project, the dramatist began to write Enrico IV (performed and published in 1922; translated as Henry IV,1922) and finished it by November of the same year.
The story unfolds just as Pirandello had originally related it to Ruggeri: twenty years in the past, a group of young aristocrats decided to organize a costume cavalcade during Carnival in an Umbrian villa. One of them, whose “real” name is never revealed throughout the play, was to dress like Henry IV, but on the day of the party, as he was parading with his dame, the Marchesa Matilde of Tuscany, his horse got disoriented, and he fell and bumped his head. When he woke, he was frozen in the false identity of Henry IV: the masque he had so meticulously constructed for himself became the true persona of the great and tragic emperor from Saxony who so strenuously fought against Pope Gregory VIII. Twenty years pass, and Henry IV lives a quiet life as a madman. He is almost fifty years old, and yet he is always the young emperor that he impersonated on the day of the cavalcade. Time seems to have frozen in that mosque, which for him has become a reality. One day, a group of friends and relatives organize a mise-en-scène to try to awaken him to reality; yet, the tragedy begins at precisely this point: the man whom everybody believes to be crazy has already “awakened” years ago, but he has been simulating his madness to deride those who believe that he is in fact mad. As the cruel mise-en-scène is enacted, he actually believes himself to be crazy for a moment, but then he recognizes the ruse and vindicates himself once and for all by killing the man, Tito Belcredi, who had eventually stolen his beloved lady, Matilde Spina. The closure of the dramatic action is utterly ambiguous, as the spectator is given no clear indication of whether the protagonist is still “sane” or if he has reverted to the world of “otherness.”
D’Amico comments on the crucial and pivotal position of this play, both chronologically and spiritually, in Pirandello’s theatrical work. He maintains that Enrico IV is “uno spartiacque tra it versante delle commedie siciliane per Musco e della serie costitutiva del personaggio pirandelliano (Laudisi, Baldovino, Gala, Lori, it Padre) e quello successivo dei ‘miti,’ del compimento della trilogia sul teatro nel teatro, delle metafore sull‘arte” (a watershed between the body of the Sicilian plays written for Musco and those that established the typical Pirandellian character [Laudisi, Baldovino, Gala, Lori, the Father], and the subsequent body of works called the ‘myths,’ those that completed the trilogy of the theater in the theater, as well as the metaphorical plays). In more than one respect the play differs from all the others; the distinctiveness of the play is also mirrored both in the aulic context that, no matter how false it may be, is thoroughly new for Pirandello, and in the fact that the play bears the subtitle of “tragedy,” a term that was later applied to both La vita the ti diedi and Diana e la Tuda (performed in 1926, published in 1927; translated as Diana and Tuda,1960) but that is truly appropriate only for Enrico IV
With regard to content, a syncretism of the most characteristic and recurrent Pirandellian themes emerges in Enrico IV. D’Amico enumerates them: the irreversibility of time (which one finds in Il fu Mattia Pascal); true or simulated madness, reality or fiction (which one finds in so many of Pirandello‘s works, such as Il berretto a sonagli and Così è [se vi pare]); history as a refuge (as in the novel I vecchi e i giovani[1913; translated as The Old and the young,1928]), and the distancing of a present that is immediately turned into history; life as a perpetual torment, as it is for the Father; and the impossibility or unwillingness to realize oneself, as happens to the Son in Sei personaggi in cerca d‘autore. Although mainly a drama of folly, Enrico IV is in fact a deceptively superficial shift from the themes and form of Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore and the other plays that later constituted the trilogy of the “theater in the theater”; indeed, in this work, Pirandello investigates, among other issues, the interplay between illusion and reality, the conflict between “living as simulation” and “acting as living,” and thus the complexities of acting and simulating in an artistic and social context.
The first staging of the play was laden with problems and ultimately took place without Ruggeri, who was ill, on 24 February 1922 at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan; yet, it was a success. Ruggeri did play the role of Henry IV repeatedly throughout his career. In 1925, disillusioned with the various productions of the play and preparing for a tour of London and Paris with the Teatro d‘Arte and having Ruggeri as guest artist, Pirandello took it upon himself to direct Enrico IV, which premiered at the Teatro Argentina on 11 June. When Ruggeri’s collaboration with the Teatro d’Arte came to an end, Lamberto Picasso replaced him and, under Pirandello’s tutelage, masterfully realized the author-director’s ideal of humoristic acting. The fortune of Enrico IV was indeed remarkable even after Pirandello’s death, a fate that is perhaps best explained by the otherwise lacking presence of a truly tragic character in the history of Italian modern theater.
Beginning in 1921 with Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, and in 1922 with Enrico IV, and up to around 1928 (a period that also includes his debut as director of his theatrical company in 1925), Pirandello came to confront the theatrical experience in its complexity. From then onward, he experimented with a fuller use of space, and with Ciascuno a suo modo he not only reached a climactic and devastating removal of the fourth wall and the invasion of the orchestra but also expanded the action to the space outside the theater, itself, where the greatest narrative of all, History, continuously unfolds. Possibly written in late spring 1923 and published by Bemporad in 1924, the play was presented for the first time in Milan at the Teatro dei Filodrammatici on 22 May 1924.
The dramatic action of Ciascuno a suo modo, the second play of the trilogy, is constructed around the conflict between the Spectators, the Author, and the Actors. Such a conflict eventually interrupts the play, and the plot will never advance to the point of giving a true resolution to the dramatic action—indeed, the third act will never be performed. The fabula, however, is utterly completly and resolved, an aspect that Pirandello himself highlights in the famous preface to the collection of his theatrical works, Maschere nude. On the one hand, the play seems to be a perfectly “normal” tale of a traditional bourgeois love triangle between a woman and two men. But then, as the dramatic action unfolds, another action develops on and off the stage, and slowly but surely in a frantic mise-en-abîme (story within a story), it invades and lays siege to the orchestra as well as to the space outside the theater, the reign of “reality”—the very place where the spectators live but in which they are here forced to see themselves living in a perfectly humoristic construction.
Ciascuno a suo modo is thus the forum for the enactment of a double frustration, the director’s and the spectator’s. The director, who establishes himself as the metteur en scène (director) of the play, must confront the limitations of a traditional theatrical space from the opening stage directions, which indicate that the dramatic action ought to begin outside the theater, on the sidewalk where a special edition of the “Giornale della sera” (daily newspaper) is to be distributed. The spectators are deprived of their own personal identities as they see replicas of themselves onstage, reacting in their place to the dramatic action, and are thus also forced to see themselves “living” rather than simply experiencing a live action directly and reacting to it autonomously. The actors are also provided with a mirror reflection of their own characters in the “real” people who had been involved in the actual case as reported by the paper and are accordingly forced to confront their inadequacy, their fundamentally split condition. In Ciascuno a suo modo, the exchange and contamination between fiction and reality is programmatically stated. The fixed characters in the play onstage and the momentary ones crowding the foyer are examples of a simultaneous confronation, as in a mirror reflection, and thus they document the dissolution of Romantic irrationalism. The intention, as Pirandello asserts in the preface to Maschere nude, is to find a coherent artistic form that can better express the crisis of contemporary society in the most troubled years of modern history, the years of Fascism and Nazism.
The year after the completion of Ciascuno a suo modo, Pirandello abandoned the hypothesis that prompted the creation of the first two plays of the trilogy of the “theater in the theater” and wrote a one-act play, which was meant to be, as he stated in a letter, a peculiar work of a “total” nature: it must encapsulate the “synthesis” of a comprehensive vision of life and humanity, and its dramatic action is to invade the orchestra. Finding a source in his short story “Il Signore della Nave” (1916, The Lord of the Ship), Pirandello wrote the play Saga del Signore della Nave in the summer of 1924 (performed and published in 1925; translated as The Festival of Our Lord of the Ship,1964). Significantly, he opened his directorial career with his new company, the Teatro d’Arte, by staging both The Gods of the Mountain, a 1910 play written by the Irish playwright Lord Dunsany, and this one-act work at the Teatro Odescalchi in Rome on 2 April 1925.
The plot of the play is of only relative importance, as it revolves around a peasant festivity that takes place annually in honor of a miraculous crucifix sheltered in a small country church. Of greater importance are the stage directions and the innovative use of the theatrical space. The number of characters is also impressive and utterly anomalous for one of Pirandello’s plays. The set exposes the portal of the sanctuary and the space before it, which is progressively invaded by a crowd of believers, miraculously healed people, peasants, artisans, shopkeepers, thieves, and drunks, as well as innkeepers, musicians, and peddlers. Some enter the stage from the sides, but the vast majority come from the back of the theater, from behind the audience, and walk through the orchestra to reach the stage. As the flux of people reaches its climax, the portal of the church opens, and there exits a procession led by a ghastly priest who holds a macabre bloody crucifix. At first shaken by a feeling of terror, the crowd kneels but then follows the procession outside the theater as the church bells toll. What is peculiar in this work is the use of space prefigured by Pirandello in his stage directions and then particularly in his own staging in 1925. He chose a relatively small theater for the first mise-en-scène of the play: the Teatro Odescalchi held little more than two hundred spectators, and the staging became memorable for the creation of a total and enveloping atmosphere, characterized by a saturation of space, a compression of time, and a profusion of diversified sounds.
It is certainly noteworthy that Pirandello, after having throughly investigated on paper the innumerable conflicts of the theatrical event and explored its potential, decided to delve into the enigmatic world of the stage and began such an investigation with this particular play. He had hesitated before accepting the direction of the Teatro d’Arte and the proposition of renewing the Italian stage by presenting a fresh repertoire of new European playwrights’ texts. The Teatro d’Arte, also known as “Teatro degli Undici” or “Teatro dei Dodici,” was established in 1924 by Pirandello, his son Stefano, and a group of prominent intellectuals; the intention was to promote a “quality” theater and thus to oppose the dramatic production prevalent in Italian theaters of the time.
Between 1925 and 1928 Pirandello wrote several plays, among them Le giara (1925; translated as The Jar,1928), Diana e la Tuda, and L’amica delle mogli (performed and published in 1927; translated as The Wives’ Friend,1949) in 1926, as well as La nuova colonia (performed and published in 1928; translated as The New Colony,1958) and Lazzaro (performed and published in 1929; translated as Lazarus,1959) in early 1928, and Sogno (ma forse no) (performed in 1931, publishedin 1936; translated as Dream, But Perhaps Not,1930) and Questa sera si recita a soggetto in late 1928 and early 1929. Yet, after staging Sagra del Signore della Nave in 1925, Pirandello also left three plays unfinished–“Pari” (Even), “Commedia senza titolo” (Play Without Title), and “La moglie di prima” (The Wife of Before)–and this fact, certainly atypical in the author’s career, testifies to a certain impasse provoked in the Sicilian author by the exploration of the theatrical event in its complexity once he became director of the Teatro d’Arte.
In Sono (ma forse no), a one-act play that first showed in Lisbon on 22 September 1931, the author stages a dream sequence directly and without mediations in ways similar only to those found in some of his short stories. Pirandello wrote thirty-three one-act plays, only a few of which were inspired by short stories, and one of them is Sogna (ma forse no), the source of which is the novella “La realtà del sogno” (The Reality of Dream), published in 1914. What is interesting to note, in this respect, is that eventually the play was the source of another short story, “Effetti di un sogno interrotto” (Effects of an Interrupted Dream), published in 1936. Both texts, Sogno (ma forse no) and “Effetti di un sogno interrotto,” somewhat different in terms of plot, can be suitably compared, insofar as they both focus on the ambiguity between the imaginary and the real world and aim at constructing a threshold, a space of contamination between dream and reality, a space in which simulation becomes a true state of hallucination. In Sogno (ma forse no) the audience is not called to witness the truth of dreaming but the very discourse of dreaming, and in this sense this dramatic text seems a direct application of the ideas expressed by Pirandello in the 1899 essay “L’azione parlata.”
As the play opens, Pirandello stages an immediate hallucinatory state so that suddenly there seems to be a total coincidence between dream and mise-enscène. The play opens in a familiar bourgeois living room where a beautiful young lady is sleeping on a couch that suddenly transforms first into a bed and then back into a couch in a fluid and anthropomorphic movement generated by desire, fear, and memory while the sleeper is dreaming. In the beginning, Pirandello constructs a veritable mise-en-abîme between the visible and the invisible scene, and only in the end, with the invasion of the daily dimension when the servant knocks at the door, do the two become one. Yet, the servant does not utter a word, and in the end there is no unmasking of the ambiguity between the three levels of experience–the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic.
With the first play of the trilogy of “teatro dei miti,” La nuova colonia, Pirandello enters into a thoroughly new phase of his development as a playwright and as an artist. For the first time, he called a work of his a “myth.” Structurally, the play is extremely innovative as it deviates from previous works, beginning with its prologue, which prepares the dramatic action to come and in its anticipatory function acts similarly to the chorus in Greek theater. The prologue introduces a group of thieves, smugglers, former convicts, and a prostitute who decide to create a new life for themselves by founding their own society on a deserted island, which was once a penal colony but was abandoned because it was often shaken by earthquakes. From its opening, there are premonitory signs of the impending doom awaiting the protagonists. The play has often been interpreted as a political allegory, and yet it lends itself more legitimately to a metatheatrical reading, for the final sinking of the island where this group of misfits finds refuge in search of a new life seems to be more likened to the imminent dissolution of Pirandello’s own theatrical company in the same year that he wrote La nuova colonia.
The first myth was then followed by the second, Lazzaro, staged for the first time in English at the Royal Theatre in Huddersfield on 9 July 1929, and then in Turin by Marta Abba’s theatrical company on 7 December 1929. As can be evinced from the title itself, miracles abound in this play; to be precise, three miracles take place, two of which are true “resurrections.” Although the play is not a remarkable artistic achievement, it does propose an unconventional religious perspective, which is an essential condition for the rebirth of theatre itself, in the Sicilian author’s view.
The last and unfinished theatrical work left by Pirandello is I giganti della montagna, the third play of the “teatro dei miti.” His son Stefano wrote that, only two days prior to his death, Pirandello declared that he had found the central problem of the play:
Io seppi da Lui, quella mattina, soltanto questo, che aveva trovato un olivo saraceno. “C’è” mi disse sorridendo “un olivo saraceno, grande, in mezzo alla scena: con cui ho risolto tutto.” E poichè io non comprendevo bene, soggiunse: “per tirarvi i1 tendone.…” Così capii che Egli si occupava, forse da qualche giorno, a risolvere questo particolare di fatto. Era molto contento d’averlo trovato.
That morning he told me only this, that he had found a Saracen olive tree. “There is,” he told me with a smile, “a Saracen olive tree, big, in the middle of the set with which I resolved everything.” And since I did not seem to understand well, he added: “to draw the curtain…” Thus I understood that he had been preoccupied with solving this practical detail for a few days. He was very pleased to have found a solution.
Notwithstanding Stefano Pirandello’s reconstruction, the work is incomplete; furthermore, Pirandello did not supervise the first edition of the play and did not classify it as myth even though many details suggest that he would have done so if he had lived long enough. Pirandello openly defined two of his works as myths, La nuova colonia and Lazzaro, and certainly analogies can be drawn between these two works and I giganti della montaiza. Abba’s words appeared in the appendix to the play, published posthumously, and support this interpretation as she commented on the premiere of the play one year after Pirandello’s death:
Questo “Mito dell’Arte,” messo in scena dopo pochi mesi dalla morte di Luigi Pirandello al teatro all’aperto del Giardino dei Boboli di Firenze, nel maggio fiorentino del 1937, da Renato Simoni, ebbe un enorme successo, rappresentato come fu lasciato dall’Autore “incompiuto.”… Luigi Pirandello chiamò I giganti della montagna“Mito dell’Arte.”
This “Myth of Art,” staged only a few months after Luigi Pirandello’s death in the open air theater at the Giardino dei Boboli in Florence, within the program of the Florentine May in 1937, by Renato Simoni, was incredibly successful, represented as it was left by the Author, “unfinished.”…Luigi Pirandello called The Mountain Giants the “Myth of Art.”
Perhaps even more important is Pirandello’s commentary to the edition of I fantasmi (The Ghosts) when he wrote that the text, written in 1931, is incomplete insofar as it is part of I giganti della montagna (indeed its first and second segments), and that I giganti della montagna was to be the third of his modern myths. In his words, the first piece, Lazzaro, is a religious myth, while the second, La nuova colonia, is a social one, and the third was to be the myth of art. In an advanced stage of development, and almost in closure of his career, Pirandello felt compelled to resort to a mythical dimension of knowledge to restore the didactic function of the theater. Only with the retrieval of Greek mythology—religious, social, and artistic—can art regain its role of a public institution capable of regenerating the ethical dimension of the theater. Accordingly, the three “myths” must be interpreted as Pirandello’s attempt to retrieve the integrity and truthfulness of the theater, and to restore its original and intrinsic authenticity. The religious, the social, and the artistic are three aspects of the Greek culture that Pirandello believed ought to be reinstated in contemporary theater and society.
In I giganti della montagna, the dramatis personae are divided into four groups: the first is the theatrical company led by Countess Ilse; the second is the Scalognati (the Unfortunates), who live in the Villa; then, a third group is made up of “Fantocci, Apparizioni, l’Angelo Centuno” (Puppets, Apparitions, the Angel Centuno); and last but not least, there is Cotrone, referred to as “Il Mago” (The Magician), isolated from the others and central to the development of the dramatic action. For the first time in Pirandello’s theatrical production, there are supernatural characters; furthermore, the time and place are indeterminate—readers are told in the stage directions that the action is to unfold at the borders between “favola” (fairy tale) and reality. The location of the mise-en-scène is no longer the stage, as it is in Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore; it is not the reconstruction of an historical place, as it is in Enrico IV; nor is it a purely mental space, as in Sogno (ma forse no). The Villa degli Scalognati is a place of phantasmal apparitions and phantasmagoric audiovisual spectacles.
Cotrone, beginning with his first monologue, establishes the tone of the entire work: he controls the Scalognati, but perhaps most important, he immediately dismisses the material world in favor of the imaginary world. Cotrone totally distrusts rationality, and in the end of his first monologue he concludes by stating that their kingdom is the night and their existential condition is the reign of dream, not necessarily in a state of sleep but even while awake and partaking in the action. Cotrone has been expecting Ilse and her theatrical company, and thus from the beginning it is apparent that he exercises control over the others as well as over the space around them. The Villa looks like a mise-en-scène to Ilse and her company at their arrival, while the Scalognati think the Countess and her actors have been invited to entertain them. In any case, it is clear that the Villa and the space surrounding it become a stage on which the play I giganti della montagna will unfold. The setting plays a central role in the metatheatrical construction, since the actors see the Villa as a stage, and the Scalognati think the visitors are going to stage a play at the Villa itself, which instead will soon host a series of magical occurrences.
Ilse’s theatrical company had long searched for an audience for its production of La favola del figlio cambiato (published in 1933, performed in 1934; The Fairytale of the Changed Son), a play Pirandello adapted from his 1902 short story “Il figlio cambiato” (The Changed Son) and wrote between 1930 and 1932, after he had already initiated the writing of I giganti della montagna. The main difference between the short story, La favola del figlio cambiato and I giganti della montagna is that in the former two there is no trace of the supernatural characters, who are only evoked, whereas supernatural characters crowd the stage of the latter, since he believed that by its very nature, myth makes the impossible seem possible, credible, and thus “real.”
Ilse stages La favola del figlio cambiato during I giganti della montagna; indeed, she has spent most of her life staging this play for her lover. Throughout the play Ilse and her actors seem to be looking for an audience rather than for an author, and La favola del figlio cambiato is truly a case of “theater in the theater.” Its function is to unmask the border between “favola” and “mito,” a boundary that ultimately defines the limit between being and living. Ilse and her company, as well as Cotrone, as he eventually admits, all left civilization because of people’s inability to recognize true art. Within the unfolding of the dramatic action, the “favola” is consciously invented and false, while the occurrences at the Villa and in its surroundings, even though utterly incredible, are accepted as real because of the mythic space within which they take place.
In November 1934 Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Before going to Stockholm to receive it on 1 December 1934 he published an article in the Parisian Le Journal titled “Suis je un destructeur?” in which he attempted to give a response to those who had accused him of being a precursor of the Fascist regime. Yet, his position was indeed controversial since, while earlier he had condemned the critics who had so defined him, in that article he came to suggest that the times demanded Caesars and Octavianuses so that poets such as Virgil could exist, and in so doing compared himself to Virgil, and Mussolini to Caesar. Back in Rome, Pirandello found no celebration awaiting him, but on a cold and foggy morning simply his friend Massimo Bontempelli, accompanied by writer Paola Masino.
It seems apparent that at the closure of his long career, Pirandello overcame the impasse that he had reached in his investigation of the theatrical event by resorting to a personal understanding of the “mythic” dimension of Greek tragedy. He believed that the only way to move beyond the traditional limitations of the theater was by reinventing and thus reinvesting in its centuries-old mythical dimension, and thus restoring the truth of the theater, which the Greeks considered the supreme artistic expression. Pirandello died of heart failure on 10 December 1936 as he was working on the cinematic adaptation of his novel Il fu Mattia Pascal and the third act of I giganti della montagna.
Luigi Pirandello’s initial position toward the theater was fairly conservative as he preached the supremacy of the written text over the mise-en-scène. His first plays, perhaps even those up to Il giuoco delle parti, were closely tied to this traditional notion of the theater, and his energy was geared mostly toward his narrative and essayistic production. With the outbreak of World War I and the occurrence of specific personal tragedies, Pirandello felt the need for a medium of expression that could better illustrate the complexities of the “real,” and he thus moved decisively toward the theater. The great divide within his work is marked by Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, a play that initiates a thoroughly innovative and experimental period in his theatrical production. Pirandello’s work in the theater culminated with the “teatro dei miti,” the last segment in the author’s endless search for a form of artistic expression that could find and represent, if not an absolute truth, a coherent journey toward the acquisition of a new dimension of knowledge.
Pirandello—Martoglio: Carteggio inedito, edited by Sarah Zappulla Muscarà (Milan: Pan, 1979);
Carteggi inediti: con Ojetti, Albertini, Orvieto, Novara DeGubernatis, De Filippo, edited by Zappulla Muscarà (Rome: Bulzoni, 1980);
Lettere da Bonn 1889-1891, edited by Elio Providenti (Rome: Bulzoni, 1984);
Epistolario familiare giovanile (1886-1898), edited by Providenti (Florence: Le Monnier, 1986);
Carteggio Pirandello—Ruggeri: Appunti per uno studio del rappporto fra autore e interprete, edited by Leonardo Bragaglia (Fano: Biblioteca Comunale Federiciana, 1987);
Lettere giovanili da Palermo e da Roma 1886-1889, edited by Providenti (Rome: Bulzoni, 1993);
Amicizia mia: Lettere inedite al poeta Giuseppe Schirò, 18861887, edited by Angela Armati and Alfredo Barbina (Rome: Bulzoni, 1994);
Lettere di Luigi Pirandello alla fidanzata Antonietta Portulano, edited by Biagio Alessi (Agrigento: Edizioni Centro Culturale Pirandello, 1994);
Pirandello’s Love Letters to Marta Abba, edited and translated by Benito Ortolani (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); original Italian published as Lettere a Marta Abba (Milan: Mondadori, 1995);
Lettere della formazione, 1891-1898: Con appendice di lettere sparse 1899-1919, edited by Providenti (Rome: Bulzoni, 1996);
Luigi Pirandello intimo: Lettere e documenti inediti, edited by Renata Marsili Antonetti (Rome: Gangemi, 1998);
Lettere a Lietta, edited by Maria Luisa Aguirre D’Amico (Milan: Mondadori, 1999);
Il figlio prigioniero: Carteggio tra Luigi e Stefano Pirandello durante la guerra 1915-1918, edited by Andrea Pirandello (Milan: Mondadori, 2005).
Susan Bassnett, “Interview with Luigi Pirandello,” Year-book of the British Pirandello Society,4 (1984): 48-55.
Antonio Barbina, Bibliografia della critica pirandelliana(1889-1961) (Florence: Le Monnier, 1967);
Corrado Donati, Bibliografia della critica pirandelliana (1962-1981) (Florence: Edizioni La Ginestra, 1986);
Donati and A. T. Ossani, Pirandello nel linguaggio della scena. Materiali bibliografici dai quotidiani italiani (1962-1990) (Ravenna: Longo, 1993);
Paola Casella, Strumenti di filologia pirandelliana: Complemento all’edizione critica delle “Novelle per un anno “: Saggi e bibliografia critica (Ravenna: Longo, 1997).
Federico Vittore Nardelli, L’uomo segreto: Vita e croci di Luigi Pirandello (Verona: Mondadori, 1932); republished as Pirandello: L’uomo segreto, edited by Marta Abba (Milan: Bompiani, 1986);
Gaspare Giudice, Luigi Pirandello (Turin: UTET, 1963); abridged and translated by Alastair Hamilton as Pirandello: A Biography (London & New York: Oxford University Press, 1975);
Enzo Lauretta, Luigi Pirandello. Storia di un personaggio ’fuori di chiave” (Milan: Mursia, 1980);
Lauretta, Pirandello, o, La crisi (Milan: San Paolo, 1994).
Marta Abba, Caro maestro-: Lettere a Luigi Pirandello (1926-1936), edited by Pietro Frassica (Milan: Mursia, 1994);
Antonio Alessio and Giuliana Sanguinetti Katz, eds., Le fonti di Pirandello (Palermo: Palumbo, 1996);
Robert Alonge, Luigi Pirandello (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1997);
Alonge, Madri, Baldracche, Amanti: La figura femminile nel teatro di Pirandello (Milan: Costa & Nolan, 1997); Alonge, ed., Pirandello e il teatro (Palermo: Palumbo, 1985);
Franca Angelini, Serafino e la tigre: Pirandello tra scrittura teatro e cinema (Venice: Marsilio, 1990);
Angelini, Il teatro del Novecento da Pirandello a Fo (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1998);
Umberto Artioli, Pirandello allegorico: I fantasmi dell’immaginario cristiano (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 2001);
Renato Barilli, Introduzione a Luigi Pirandello: Opere (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1996);
Barilli, Pirandello: Una rivoluzione culturale (Milan: Mursia, 1986);
Clive Barker and Susan Bassnett, “Locating Pirandello in the European Theatre Context,” Yearbook of the British Pirandello Society,5 (1985): 1–19;
Marita Bartolazzi, “Pirandello e la caricatura,” Ariel, 1 (1997): 113–121;
Bianca Fergola Baruscotto, La teatralità dal senso alla rappresentazione: “Sei personaggi in cerca di autore” (Rome: Angeli, 1997);
Fiora A. Bassanese, Understanding Luigi Pirandello (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997);
Bassnett and Jennifer Lorch, eds., Luigi Pirandello in the Theatre (Chur, Switzerland & Philadelphia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993);
Eric Bentley, “The Pirandello Commentaries,” Pirandellian Studies,1 (Winter 1985):1-73;
Gian Paolo Biasin and Nicolas J. Perella, eds., Pirandello (Rome: Bulzoni, 1987);
Daniela Bini, Pirandello and His Muse: The Plays for Marta Abba (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998);
Giuseppe Bolognese, “I giganti industriali di Pirandello,” in Letteratura e industria, edited by Giorgio Barbieri Squarotti and Carlo Ossola (Florence: Olschki, 1997), pp. 637–649;
Nino Borsellino, Ritratto e immagini di Pirandello (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1991);
Luciano Bottoni, “Il saggio e la scienza: L’umorismo di Pirandello,” Intersezioni,1 (1985):155-171;
Sergio Bullegas, Pirandello e “Lazzaro “: Il mito sulla scena (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 1994);
Guy Callan, “Ways of Staging Pirandello’s Theatre,” Pirandello Studies: Journal of the Society for Pirandello Studies,6AA (2000): 20, 48–61;
Glauco Cambon, ed., Pirandello: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall, 1967);
Paolo Chiarini, “Brecht e Pirandello,” in Atti del convegno internazionale di studi pirandelliani. Venezia 2-5 ottobre 1961 (Venice: Marsilio,1967),
Michele Cometa, Il teatro di Pirandello in Germania (Palermo: Novecento, 1986);
Beatrice Corrigan, “Pirandello as a Director,” Theater Research,12 (1972): 155–163;
Graziella Corsinovi, Il corpo e la sua ombra: Studi pirandelliani (Foggia: Bastogi Editrice Italiana, 1997);
Geraldine Cousin, “Stanislavsky and Pirandello: From Text to Performance,” Yearbook of the British Pirandello Society,5 (1985): 43–59;
Cosmo Crifò, I volti di Pirandello,2 volumes (Palermo: Manfredi Editore, 1977, 1979)–comprises volume 1, Dalle origini a Il fu Mattia Pascal, and volume 2, Dalla “Vita nuda” alla Realtà del Mito;
Alessandro D’Amico and Alessandro Tinterri, eds., Pirandello capocomico: La compagnia del Teatro d’Arte di Roma: 1925-28 (Palermo: Sellerio,1987),
Julie Dashwood, ed., Luigi Pirandello: The Theatre of Paradox (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996);
Maurizio Del Ministro, Pirandello: Scena, personaggio e film (Rome: Bulzoni Editore, 1980);
Dante della Terza, Tradizione e innovazione: Studi su De Sanctis, Croce e Pirandello (Naples: Liguori, 1999);
John L. DiGaetani, ed., A Companion to Pirandello Studies (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1991);
Robert S. Dombroski, “Laudisi’s Laughter and the Social Dimension of Right You Are (If You Think So),” Modern Drama,16 (1973): 337–346;
Corrado Donati, Luigi Pirandello nella storia della critica (Fossombrone: Metauro, 1998);
Muriel Lazzarini Dossin, Pirandello e il teatro contemporaneo (Rome: Bulzoni, 1998);
Roberto Filippetti, Pirandello narratore e poeta: Ragione e mistero (Castel Bolognese: Ithaca Tools, 1997);
Daniela Sani Fink, “Pirandello a New York nei documenti della stampa americana,” Quaderni di teatro,10 (1980): 123–141;
Ilona Fried, “The Sagra del Signore della. Nave: A New Kind of Theatre?” Yearbook of the Society for Pirandello Studies,14 (1994): 61–68;
Gerard Genot, ed., Pirandello (1867-1967) (Paris: Lettres Modernes Minard,1968),
Nino Genovese and Sebastiano Gesù, eds., La musa inquietante di Pirandello: Il Cinema,2 volumes (Palermo: Bonanno Editore, 1990);
Manuela Gieri, “Character and Discourse from Pirandello to Fellini: Defining a Countertradition in an Italian Context,” Quaderni d italianistica, XII, 1 (1992): 43–55;
Gieri, Contemporary Italian Filmmaking: Strategies of Subversion: Pirandello, Fellini, Scola and the Directors of the New Generation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995);
Gieri and Gian Paolo Biasin, eds., Luigi Pirandello: Contemporary Perspectives (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999);
Elio Gioanola, Pirandello: La follia (Genoa: Il Melangolo, 1983);
Paola Daniela Giovanelli, ed., Pirandello poeta (Florence: Vallecchi, 1981);
Giovanelli, ed., Pirandello saggista (Palermo: Palumbo, 1982);
Robert S. C. Gordon, “Notes on the Foreign Legion: Relations between Cinema, Literature and The atre in Italy in the Silent Era,” Pirandello Studies: Journal of the Society for Pirandello Studies,6AA, 18 (1998): 5–24;
Maggie Gunsberg, “Hysteria as Theatre: Pirandello’s Hysterical Women,” Yearbook of the Society for Pirandello Studies,12 (1992): 32–52;
Gunsberg, Patriarchal Representations: Gender and Discourse in Pirandello’s Theatre (Oxford, Providence: Berg, 1994);
Susan C. Haedicke, “Theatre of the Grotesque: Meyerhold, Pirandello and Albee,” PSA: The Official Publication of the Pirandello Society of America,8 (1992):19-33;
Ann Caesar Hallamore, “Changing Costume, Changing Identity: Women in the Theatre of Pirandello, Bontempelli and Wedekind,” Romance Studies,20 (Summer 1992): 21–29;
Stephen Kolsky, “New Theatre for Old? Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore and Goldoni’s Il teatro comico,” Canadian Journal of Italian Studies,13 (1990): 52–68;
Enzo Lauretta, ed., I miti di Pirandello (Palermo: Palumbo, 1975);
Lauretta, ed., La persona nell’opera di Luigi Pirandello (Milan: Mursia, 1990);
Lauretta, ed., Pirandello e il teatro (Milan: Mursia, 1993);
Lauretta, ed., Pirandello e la sua opera (Palermo: Palumbo, 1997);
Lauretta, ed., Pirandello e le avanguardie (Agrigento: Centro Nazionale Studi Pirandelliani, 1999);
Lauretta, ed., Pirandello e l’Europa (Lecce: Manni, 2001);
Lauretta, ed., Pirandello e l’oltre (Milan: Mursia,1991),
Lauretta, ed., Pirandello: Teatro e musica (Palermo: Palumbo, 1995);
Lauretta, ed., La trilogia di Pirandello (Agrigento: Edizione del Centro Nazionale Studi Pirandelliani, 1977);
Gigi Livio, Il teatro in rivolta: Futurismo, grottesco, Pirandello e pirandellismo (Milan: Mursia, 1976);
Jennifer Lorch, “Pirandello, Commedia dell’arte, and Improvisation,” in The Commedia dell’arte from the Renaissance to Dario Fo, edited by Christopher Cairns (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989), pp. 297–313;
Lucio Lugnani, ed., Tutto Pirandello: Poesie, saggi, romanzi, movelle, teatro (Agrigento: Edizioni del Centro Nazionale di Studi Pirandelliani, 1986);
Romano Luperini, Introduzione a Pirandello (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1992);
Giovanni Macchia, Pirandello o la stanza della tortura (Milan: Mondadori, 1981);
Lucia Massi, “Pirandello’s Theory of Modern Myths,” Yearbook of the British Pirandello Society,6 (1986): 118;
Frederick May, “Dialogic Hilarity and Body-Madness: Italian Futurism and the Theatre,” in Altro Polo: Italian Studies in Memory of Frederick May, edited by Suzanne Kiernan (Sydney: Frederick May Foundation for Italian Studies, 1996), pp. 9–37;
Stefano Milioto, ed., Pirandello e il teatro del suo tempo (Agrigento: Sarcuto, 1983);
Milioto and Enzo Scrivano, eds., Pirandello e la cultura del suo tempo (Milan: Mursia, 1984);
Jorn Moestrup, The Structural Patterns of Pirandello’s Work (Odense: Odense University Press, 1972);
Sarah Zappulla Muscarà, ed., Pirandello dialettale (Palermo: Palumbo, 1983);
Lurana Donnels O’Malley, “Plays within Realistic Plays: Metadrama as Critique of Drama in Pirandello and Chekhov,” Theatre Studies,35 (1990): 40–49;
Roger Oliver, Dreams of Passion: The Beater fluigi Pirandello (New York: New York University Press, 1979);
Tullio Pagano, “Philosophy and Toothache: Pirandello Meets Montaigne,” Rivista di Studi Italiani,1 (1997): 75–87;
Anne Paolucci, Pirandello s Beater: The Recovery of the Modern Stage for Dramatic Art (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1974);
Nishan Parlakian, “A Director’s Reading of Pirandello’s Six Characters,” PSA: The Official Publication of the Pirandello Society of America,7 (1991): 45–50;
Parlakian, “A Director’s Thoughts on Henry IV,” PSA: The Official Publication of the Pirandello Society of America,5 (1989): 16–22;
Giorgio Patrizi, Pirandello e l’umorismo (Rome: Lithos, 1997);
Tony Pearson, “Evreinov and Pirandello: Two Theatricalists in Search of the Chief Thing,” Theatre Research International,17 (Spring 1992): 26–38;
Gilda Pennica, ed., Pirandello e la Germania (Palermo: Palumbo, 1984);
Alfonso Procaccini, “Pirandello and the Enigma of Non Sense,” Quaderni d italianistica,3 (1982): 51–62;
Olga Ragusa, Luigi Pirandello: An Approach to His Theatre (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1980);
John B. Rey, “A Case of Identity: The Source of Pirandello’s As you Desire Me,” Modern Drama,15 (1973): 433–439;
Leonardo Sciascia, ed., Omaggio a Pirandello (Milan: Bompiani, 1986);
Enzo Scrivano, La vocazione contesa: Xote su Pirandello e il teatro (Rome: Bulzoni, 1995);
Scrivano, ed., Pirandello e la drammaturgia fra le due guerre (Agrigento: Edizioni del Centro Nazionale Studi Pirandelliani, 1985);
Richard A. Sogliuzzo, Luigi Pirandello, Director: The Playwright in the Theatre (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1982);
Dorothea Stewens, “The Character as Director: from Leonora addio! to Questa sera si recita a soggetto,” Yearbook of the British Pirandello Society,2 (1982): 66–72;
Jennifer Stone, Pirandello ś Naked Prompt: The Structure of Repetition in Modernism (Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1989);
Claudio Vicentini, “Pirandello and the Problem of Theatre as an Impossible Art,” rarbook of the British Pirandello Society,4 (1984): 1-2 0;
Vicentini, Pirandello: il disagio del teatro (Venice: Marsilio, 1993);
Enzo Zappulla, Pirandello e il teatro sicilano (Catania: Maimone,1986).
The manuscripts of Luigi Pirandello are housed in archives at various libraries and museums in the United States and abroad. Pirandello’s papers can be found in the Enthoven Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In Italy, archives of Pirandello’s works may be found at the following institutions or organizations: Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Biblioteca Teatrale del Burcardo, and Istituto di Studi Pirandelliani, all located in Rome; Museo degli Attori in Genoa, in the Guido Salvini Collection; and at Mondadori Editore Press in Milan. In the United States, Pirandello collections are housed at Houghton Library, Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.; in the Theater Collection of the New York Public Library in New York City; and at Princeton University Library in Princeton, New Jersey, where Pirandello’s letters to Marta Abba are kept.