Monday, January 15, 2007

Six Characters in Search of an Author

[Director] I should like to know, however, when anyone ever saw a character get out of his part and set about expounding and explicating it, delivering lectures on it. Can you tell me? I have never seen anything like that.

[Father] You have never seen it, sir, because authors generally hide the travail of their creations. When characters are alive and turn up, living, before their author, all that author does is follow the words and gestures which they propose to him. He has to want them to be as they themselves want to be. Woe betide him if he doesn't! When a character is born, he at once acquires such an independence, even of his own author, that the whole world can imagine him in innumerable situations other than those the author thought to place him in. At times he acquires a meaning that the author never dreamt of giving him.

[Director] Certainly, I know that.

[Father] Then why all this astonishment at us? Imagine what a misfortune it is for a character such as I described to you--given life in the imagination of an author who then wished to deny him life--and tell me frankly: isn't such a character, given life and left without life, isn't he right to set about doing just what we are doing now as we stand here before you, after having done just the same--for a very long time, believe me--before him, trying to persuade him, trying to push him. . .


I picked up Six Characters in Search of an Author on the cheap a few years back, never having heard of it before (I liked the title). The introduction makes clear that the play--first performed in 1921-- did not have an auspicious opening night --Pirandello and his daughter had to run out a side door to escape an angry audience shouting "Manicomio!--Madhouse!" By the time I finished it last night I had a bit of sympathy for that original audience, who would have had no expectations that anything like this might take place on a stage.

It's hard to get the full effect of this one on the page, though, since some of the characters never speak, so I'll be checking out both video versions of Six Characters from the library this week.


  1. It was one of those plays I was aware of, and read a bit of, but never delved into. You inspire me, what a great segment. A writerly play.

  2. I read that play for a class and liked it quite a bit -- I'm curious what you will think of the film versions.

  3. Andy Griffith plays the father in the American version. He'll either be brilliant or very off-putting.

  4. I'm curious, too, to hear what you think of the film. I read Six Characters a long time ago, also for a class, and I've remembered the basic premise and some details for all these years. It's a fun play.


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