“The play represents the coming together of art and life, of fixed form and reality…he exemplifies not only the problems of creating a play, but also the futility since the play is just one more of the illusions that man builds up to convince himself he can escape from the processes that shape his existence.”(Susan Basnet and Mcguire) In this sense, the play supports Freud’s concept of creative writers as he illustrates in “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming. Every piece of writing is the fulfillment of a wish, an unsatisfactory reality.
Six Characters in Search of an Author mainly represents the conflict between illusion and reality. The stage manager strives his maximum to make his characters appear true. This bears testimony to the fact that they are true. This is why we have the ‘real’ six characters arriving and mocking at them later. The director wants Madam Pace to utter some lines loudly that are meant for her and she hesitates to do so, also because it is not within the norms of propriety. However the stage manager insists that she must do so, else the audience cannot hear her. This again illustrates that the characters do not speak for themselves but for the audience to hear. And again, they are not ‘real’.
The director tampers with the original story as it should be presentable on the stage. The step-daughter wants him to be ‘presentable’ on the stage. The step-daughter wants him to present the scene where she was seduced by her step-father ‘as it was’ on the stage. The director hesitates: “This is the theater .We can only take so much of the truth here.” And this bears testimony to the “so-called facts.” In the theater they shy away from the real truth, and so do not act upon social realities directly. Another point the six characters put forward are that once the play terminates, the characters in the form of ‘characters’ die; but ‘they’ are meant to live forever. The attempt in section II of the actors to fake on the roles of the Father and Step-daughter illustrate the impossibility of art representing life. The confusion that follows the apparent death of the child, when actors and the Director fail to agree on the reality of what they have seen, testifies to the power of art. And towards the end, the impossibility of resolving the conflict,is summed up in the words of the director who curses all of them for wasting his time in vain.
Pirandello utilizes features of classical drama to create the division between the characters and the actors in the play. The real actors are the typical buffoons, the “alazones” who profess to know everything regarding theatre. They pose to be condescending throughout the play, in sharp contrast to the “pharmakos”, who as projected as scapegoats and sufferers throughout the play. The metaphor of the mask here is extended to amplify the reality that the dramatis personae are nothing but make-believe, or have a temporal existence. Again, the characters are real as they cannot escape the immutability of reality. There is conflict of life versus form, where characters are forms and the author imprisons them in the form, and it is involuntary for them to be what they are. The son tries to escape his form, but cannot leave. This holds a contrast to Pirandello’s previous work, Henry IV, where Henry at least can choose to remain in his role. And hence here each of the characters are forced to play their characters till the end.
IN the play, we find characters abandoned by their original author. In this case what is their existence, and to whom do they belong to? In such a situation, are they half-baked as they are not completely realized? Here the authors take a dig at the claim of authors who claim to produce ‘real’ characters. When the characters are in search for another author, what Pirandello is hinting at may be plagiarism. Again characters are objective as seen in the actors; when they are meant to be subjective like the characters. The dramatist bridges the gap between reality and illusion, when the story told by the characters becomes a fact and we are not sure whether it is really reality or illusion, and as in Henry IV we are forced to think “Am I or aren’t I” as some critics say. Butt it stands in contrast to Henry IV in which architectural reality has itself become a total theatre where ‘nothing is but what is not.’
The concept of fixity and immobility of art is stressed in this play as in Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:
“The characters should not appear as ghosts but as created realities, timeless creations of the imagination, and so more real and consistent than the changeable realities of the actors. The masks are designed to give the impression of figures constructed by art, each one fixed forever in its own fundamental emotion; that is ,Remorse for the FATHER, Revenge for the STEP- DAUGHTER, Scorn for the SON, Sorrow for the MOTHER…”
The characters have their ‘unindividualised individuality.” They are Ben Jonson’s types that have Shakespeare’s depth. They have an objective reality with respect to the ACTOR, but they have a sad subjective reality in the sense that they cannot change. A similar theme is echoed in the dramatist’s Puppets, where the puppets face is unchanging turning a deaf ear to the story’s demands; and especially when the commedia dell’arte had typically mercurial changes of attitude. There occurs reversal in the prompter’s duty to remind actor of their lines from the preset script, he now turns life into a written text.as he religiously takes down the actions of the ‘real’ characters. Also is presented in the play the problem of defining the limitations of theatre, and the distinction in between rehearsing a living scene. This leads to a clash of views in Section II.
Apart from this, the play has metafictional features in that the dramatist himself comes in the play and he is criticized by his own characters. The drama is a comment upon drama. It has a Chinese box structure of play- within–a-play and two stories within a story. The characters criticize themselves. In the dialogue of the characters itself there is comment upon the action, dialogue and make up. We are tempted to think-is Pirandello criticizing himself along with his counterparts in his dramatic paradox Six Characters in Search of an Author when he says:”A play doesn’t create people, people create a play.”
© Rukhaya MK 2010
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