Short summary - Six Characters in Search of an Author - Luigi Pirandello

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Six Characters in Search of an Author
Luigi Pirandello

Actors come to the theater to rehearse. The prime minister is late, as always. The prime minister is dissatisfied with the fact that he has to put on a chef's hat during the play. The director exclaims in his hearts: “... what do you want from me, if France has long ceased to supply us with good comedies and we are forced to stage the comedies of this Pirandello, who to understand - you need to eat a pound of salt and who, as if on purpose, does everything so that the actors, both critics and the audience spat? Suddenly, a theatrical porter appears in the hall, followed by six characters led by the Father, who explains that they came to the theater in search of the author. They offer the Theater Director to become his new play. Life is full of such absurdities that do not need credibility, because they are the truth, and to create the illusion of truth, as is customary in the theater, is pure madness. The author gave life to the characters, and then changed his mind or could not elevate them to the rank of art, but they want to live, they themselves are a drama and burn with the desire to present it as the passions raging in them prompt them.

Interrupting each other, the characters try to explain what the matter is. Father married Mother, but soon began to notice that she was not indifferent to his secretary. He gave them both money so they could leave his house and live together. He sent his son, who at that time was two years old, to the village, where he hired a nurse for him. But Father did not lose sight of his wife's new family until she left town. The Mother had three more children: a Stepdaughter, a Boy and a Girl, whom the legitimate Son despises because they are illegitimate. After the death of her roommate, Mother and children returned to their hometown and, in order to earn at least a little money, began to sew. But it turned out that the owner of the fashion shop, Madame Pace, gives her orders only in order to force the Stepdaughter into prostitution: she says that the Mother ruined the fabric and deducts from her salary, so the Stepdaughter, in order to cover the deductions, secretly sells herself from her mother. The stepdaughter blames the Son for everything, then the Father, they are justified. Mother suffers and wants to reconcile everyone. The father says that in each of the participants in the drama there is not one, but many appearances, each has the ability to be one with some, another with others, talking about the integrity of the individual is nonsense. The son, whom the Stepdaughter considers to be the culprit, says that he is a dramaturgically "unrealized" character, and asks to be left alone. The characters quarrel, and the Director believes that only the author can restore order. He is ready to advise them to turn to a certain playwright, but the Father suggests that the Director become an author himself - everything is so simple, the characters are already here, right in front of him.

The director agrees, and scenery is set up on the stage, depicting a room in Madame Pace's establishment. The director invites the characters to rehearse in order to show the actors how to act. But the characters want to speak to the public themselves, like that; what they are. The director explains to them that this is impossible, they will be played by actors on the stage: the Stepdaughter - the Premier, the Father - the Premier, etc. In the meantime, the characters will play out the drama in front of the actors who will be the audience. The director wants to see the first scene: the conversation between the Stepdaughter and Madame Pace. But Madame Pace is not among the characters who came to the theater. The father thinks that if the scene is properly prepared, Madame Pace might be attracted to it and she will appear. When hangers and hats are hung on the stage, Madame Pace really appears - a fat vixen in a fiery red wig with a fan in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The actors at the sight of her are horrified and run away, but the Father does not understand why in the name of "vulgar verisimilitude" it is necessary to kill this "miracle of reality, which is brought to life by the stage situation itself." Madame Pace, in a mixture of Italian and Spanish, explains to the Stepdaughter that her mother's work is no good, and if the Stepdaughter wants Madame Pace to continue to help their family, she needs to decide to sacrifice herself. Hearing this, the Mother rushes at Madame Pace with a cry, rips off her wig and throws it on the floor. With difficulty calming everyone, the Director asks the Father to play the continuation of this scene. The father enters, gets acquainted with the Stepdaughter, asks her how long she has been in Madame Pace's institution. He offers her a fancy hat as a gift. When Stepdaughter draws his attention to the fact that she is in mourning, he asks her to take off her dress as soon as possible. The Premier and the Premier try to repeat this scene. Father and Stepdaughter are completely unrecognizable in their performance, everything is much smoother, outwardly more beautiful, the whole scene goes to the accompaniment of the prompter's voice. The characters are laughed at by the acting. The director decides not to let the characters go to rehearsals in the future, but for now he asks them to perform the rest of the scenes. The director wants to remove the Father's remark, where he asks the Stepdaughter to take off her mourning dress as soon as possible: such cynicism will lead the audience into indignation. The stepdaughter objects that this is true, but the Director believes that in the theater the truth is good only up to a certain limit. The stepdaughter embraces the Father, but then suddenly the Mother bursts into the room, who tears the Stepdaughter away from the Father, crying: “Unfortunate, this is my daughter!” The actors and the Director are excited about the scene, the characters are sure that the main thing is that this is how it all happened in reality. The director believes that the first action will be a success.

There is a new decoration on the stage: a corner of the garden with a small pool. Actors sit on one side of the stage, characters on the other. The director announces the start of the second act. The stepdaughter tells that the whole family, contrary to the wishes of the Son, moved to the Father's house. The Mother explains that she tried with all her might to reconcile the Stepdaughter with her Son, but to no avail. The Father gets into an argument with the Director about illusion and reality. The skill of the actors is to create the illusion of reality, while the characters have their own, different reality, the character always has his own life, marked by characteristic features inherent in him alone, he is more real than an ordinary person, especially an actor, who can often be " nobody." The reality of people changes, and they themselves change, while the reality of the characters does not change and they themselves do not change. When a character is born, he immediately gains independence, even from the author, and sometimes he happens to acquire a meaning that the author never dreamed of! The father complains that the author's fantasy gave birth to them, and then denied them a place in the sun - so they are trying to fend for themselves. They asked the author many times to take up the pen, but to no avail, and they went to the theater themselves. The director continues to direct the scenery. The son is very disturbing to the stepdaughter. He is ready to leave the stage and tries to leave, but it does not work, as if some mysterious force keeps him on stage. Seeing this, the Stepdaughter begins to laugh uncontrollably. The son is forced to stay, but he does not want to take part in the action. The girl is playing by the pool. The boy hides behind the trees, clutching a revolver in his hand. Mother enters the Son's room, wants to talk to him, but he does not want to listen to her. The Father tries to force him to listen to the Mother, but the Son resists, a fight breaks out between the Son and the Father, the Mother tries to separate them, in the end the Son knocks the Father to the floor. The son does not want to disgrace himself in public. He says that by refusing to play, he is only fulfilling the will of the one who did not want to bring them on stage. The director asks Son to just tell him personally what happened. The son says that, passing through the garden, he saw a Girl in the pool, rushed to her, but suddenly stopped when he saw the Boy, who was looking at his drowned sister with crazy eyes. When the Son reaches this point in his story, a shot is heard from behind the trees where the Boy was hiding. The boy is carried backstage.

The actors return to the stage. Some say that the Boy really died, others are convinced that this is just a game. Father shouts: “What a game! Reality itself, gentlemen, reality itself!” The director loses his temper, sends everyone to hell and asks for light.

The stage and hall are lit up with bright light. The director is annoyed: the whole day is wasted in vain. It's too late to start rehearsal. The actors disperse until the evening. The director instructs the illuminator to turn off the light. The theater plunges into darkness, after which, in the depths of the stage, as if due to an oversight of the illuminator, a green backlight lights up. Huge shadows of characters appear, except for the Boy and the Girl. At the sight of them, the Director flees the stage in horror. Only the characters remain on the stage.