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Thus it is that while I persisted in desiring to drive them out of my spirit, they, as if completely detached from every narrative support, characters from a novel miraculously emerging from the pages of the book that contained them, went on living on their own, choosing certain moments of the day to reappear before me in the solitude of my study and coming-now one, now the other, now two together-to tempt me, to propose that I present or describe this scene or that, to explain the effects that could be secured with them, the new interest which a certain unusual situation could provide and so forth".
Week 11: "Six Characters In Search of an Author"
Six Characters in Search of An Author is a play which develops inside the souls of his characters and manifest through the series of arguments within the play between various characters. Luigi Pirandello explores characterisation and its significance within the role of the dramatic creative process, which in turn also emphasises the reflexive element and his own writing practise in the play-evident through a series of concepts including the above passage.
Pirandello (and indeed six characters) focuses on a fantasy founded on the notion that characters indeed are not created by the author, but are preternatural people who seek out an author in order to write about them and their background/life stories (in this case "family dramas"). Pirandello explores the concept of mimesis through his play SCISOAA, and takes the play to be no longer an imitation, claiming that all people in their own rights are essentially "actors". For example, for a mere reader everything is accepted. However for an audience and particularly the characters, it is more than this in the sense that they have experienced something that no-one else will experience the same way emotionally.
Pirandello goes on to say that "Every creature of fantasy and art must have his or her drama, that is, a drama in which he or she may be a character and for which he or she is a character" (Pirandello, L. Preface) This drama is the characters raison'd etra can be seen as the vital function and purpose which in turn, necessarily justifies his or her existence. The role of the character in Pirandello's dramatic process contrasts against most play writes as Pirandello essentially creates new spiritual environment on stage where characters are not just created, but already exist. Characters are IN the scrip, actors are on the stage this suggests that the actors are essential in bringing the characters to life. The Father character is seen constantly arguing that fictional characters are more "real" than living ones, since they are fixed eternally, while a living person is constantly changing and subject to time. The characters are a temporal and seemingly caught within a perpetual loophole which lacks authenticity other than in their own world. Each character sees events and the other characters differently. They are all contrasting and are seemingly desperate for their story to be told. Their readings of reality do not match up. No one character is more correct than the other as there are as many versions of the story as there are characters in the play.
Two of those characters in particular, the Father and the Daughter, recur again and again to their unchangeable form. Both see the essence of their imprisonment in their own way through punishment (the father) and vengeance (the daughter). They defend the family and their characters against jests from the actors, trying to make the director accept it, while he of course is intent on changing their story and adapting it to the so-called requirements of the theatre.
For example, the father quotes "While the Character is somebody, man is nobody. Man is nobody because he is subject to time: his reality is fleeting and always ready to reveal itself as illusion, whereas the Character's reality remains fixed for eternity as art-what the Actors would call mere illusion (Pirandello, L. Preface). Put otherwise, "time enables an opposition between reality and illusion for man. Over time, man comes to identify realities as illusion, whereas the Character exists in the timeless reality of art."(Bentley, Eric p 58)
In some regard, the oldest boy can be seen as a crucial character. His role as a character lies in his ashamed refusal to participate in the household and the Characters' spectacle, a spectacle to which he regardless of what happens (i.e. when he tries to walk away) remains bound. The Son's position as an unrealized character appears most clearly in the scene he would refuse to play with his Mother in Act III, a scene that is actually a non-scene. The Mother enters his bedroom, and the Son, in his aversion to scenes, flees to the garden to witness his step-siblings' deaths. They are all six at the same point of artistic realization and on the same level of reality, which is the fantastic level of the whole play. Pirandello allows for the audience to question the characters agency and whether or not the six characters are indeed dependant people or independent and are beings on their own accord.
Pirandello introduces Madame Pace among the six characters rather randomly, and appears to be a trick, realistically portrayed on the stage. He claims that "The new character is alive not because she was alive already but because she is now happily born as is required by the fact of her being a character she is obliged to be as she is" (Pirandello, L. Preface). There is an obvious break here, a sudden change in the level of reality of the scene on stage, because a character can be born in this way only in the poet's fancy and not on the boards of a stage
Pirandello's involvement in early theatricalism or anti-illusionism rejected realist drama and substituted the expressive, and the symbolic. The play demonstrates these ideas in several ways. The focus of the play is on the interactions of the six characters with the real actors in the theatre. This suggests that human beings cannot distinguish between the real and the apparent - the distinction itself is illusory. "Reality" is merely what one happens to believe in at the moment. These philosophical concepts that are presented to the audience and questioned by the characters allude to Pirandello's intellectual and academic background which has been weaved into the play.
Pirandello's new technique created an ironic parallel between the relationship of the six characters to the stage manager and actors on the one hand, and the relationship of the performance of Six Characters to the actual audience on the other. When the characters argue that they are more real than the stage manager because their lives are fixed and unchanging in the roles that they eternally relive, they are actually challenging the audience's belief in the stable reality of their own personalities. Pirandello uses his innovative staging techniques specifically to symbolize, within the confines of the theatre, the blending of the theatre and real life. In Six Characters in Search of an Author Pirandello illustrates the point that in art there is no one reality, only perceptions. He writes dialogue that would be more commonly used in everyday conversations. Rejecting the conventional framework of a typical play, Pirandello brings realism to his play by running his play without acts, scenes, or intermissions. Instead the play is broken up, when the characters without an author, accompanied by the manager, adjourn off stage for twenty minutes to discuss and begin writing the character's story, while the curtain remains up. Later another natural delay of action takes place when a stagehand lets the curtain fall accidentally. This rebellion against a traditional format again illustrates Pirandello's intention to bring realism to his play, to bring real life to his play (Bassnett, J.).
Pirandello was closely associated with the Theatre of the Grotesque, a dramatic school that stressed the paradoxes and contradictions of life, and was also deeply concerned with making literature a more truthful and effective means for conveying human experience. Pirandello described his dramatic works as a "theatre of mirrors" in which the members of the audience see what passes on stage as a reflection of their own lives: when his characters doubt their own perceptions of themselves, audience members experience a simultaneous crisis of self-perception. Others, noting the compassion Pirandello conveys toward his characters, contend that the playwright is not preaching a definable ideology, but is simply expressing his acute consciousness of the absurdities and paradoxes of human life.