Six Characters in
Search of an Author
(Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore)
A comedy in the making in three acts
Six Characters in
Search of an Author
PIRANDELLO'S PREFACE (1925)
IT SEEMS like yesterday but is
actually many years ago that a nimble little maidservant entered the service of
my art. However, she always comes fresh to the job.
She is called Fantasy.
A little puckish and malicious, if she
likes to dress in black no one will wish to deny that she is often positively
bizarre and no one will wish to believe that she always does everything in the
same way and in earnest. She sticks her hand in her pocket, pulls out a cap and
bells, sets it on her head, red as a cock's comb, and dashes away.
Here today, there tomorrow.
And she amuses herself by bringing to
my house - since I derive stories and novels and plays from them - the most
disgruntled tribe in the world, men, women, children, involved in strange
adventures which they can find no way out of; thwarted in their plans; cheated
in their hopes; with whom, in short, it is often torture to deal.
Well, this little maidservant of mine, Fantasy, several years ago, had the bad
inspiration or ill-omened caprice to bring a family into my house.
I wouldn't know where she fished them
up or how, but, according to her, I could find in them the subject for a
I found before me a man about fifty years old, in a dark jacket and light
trousers, with a frowning air and ill-natured mortified eyes; a poor woman in
widow's weeds leading by one hand a little girl of four and by the other a boy
of rather more than ten; a cheeky and "sexy" girl, also clad in black but with
an equivocal and brazen pomp, all atremble with a lively, biting contempt for
the mortified old man and for a young fellow of twenty who stood on one side
closed in on himself as if he despised them all. In short, the six characters
who are seen coming on stage at the beginning of the play. Now one of them and
now another - often beating down one another - embarked on the sad story of
their adventures, each shouting his own reasons, and projecting in my face his
disordered passions, more or less as they do in the play to the unhappy Manager.
What author will be able to say how and why a character was born in his fantasy?
The mystery of artistic creation is the same as that of birth. A woman who loves
may desire to become a mother; but the desire by itself, however intense, cannot
suffice. One fine day she will find herself a mother without having any precise
intimation when it began. In the same way an artist imbibes very many germs of
life and can never say how and why, at a certain moment, one of these vital
germs inserts itself into his fantasy, there to become a living creature on a
plane of life superior to the changeable existence of every day.
I can only say that, without having made any effort to seek them out, I found
before me, alive - you could touch them and even hear them breathe - the six
characters now seen on the stage. And they stayed there in my presence, each
with his secret torment and all bound together by the one common origin and
mutual entanglement of their affairs, while I had them enter the world of art,
constructing from their persons, their passions, and their adventures a novel, a
drama, or at least a story.
Born alive, they wished to live.
To me it was never enough to present a man or a woman and what is special and
characteristic about them simply for the pleasure of presenting them; to narrate
a particular affair, lively or sad, simply for the pleasure of narrating it; to
describe a landscape simply for the pleasure of describing it.
There are some writers (and not a few) who do feel this pleasure and, satisfied,
ask no more. They are, to speak more precisely, historical writers.
But there are others who, beyond such pleasure, feel a more profound spiritual
need on whose account they admit only figures, affairs, landscapes which have
been soaked, so to speak, in a particular sense of life and acquire from it a
universal value. These are, more precisely, philosophical writers.
I have the misfortune to belong to these last.
I hate symbolic art in which the presentation loses all spontaneous movement in
order to become a machine, an allegory - a vain and misconceived effort because
the very fact of giving an allegorical sense to a presentation clearly shows
that we have to do with a fable which by itself has no truth either fantastic or
direct; it was made for the demonstration of some moral truth. The spiritual
need I speak of cannot be satisfied-or seldom, and that to the end of a superior
irony, as for example in Ariosto - by such allegorical symbolism. This latter
starts from a concept, and from a concept which creates or tries to create for
itself an image. The former on the other hand seeks in the image - which must
remain alive and free throughout - a meaning to give it value.
Now, however much I sought, I did not succeed in uncovering this meaning in the
six characters. And I concluded therefore that it was no use making them live.
I thought to myself: "I have already afflicted my readers with hundreds and
hundreds of stories. Why should I afflict them now by narrating the sad
entanglements of these six unfortunates?"
And, thinking thus, I put them away from me. Or rather I did all I could to put
But one doesn't give life to a character for nothing.
Creatures of my spirit, these six were already living a life which was their own
and not mine any more, a life which it was not in my power any more to deny them.
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.
For a moment I let myself be won over. And this condescension of mine, thus
letting myself go for a while, was enough, because they drew from it a new
increment of life, a greater degree of clarity and addition, consequently a
greater degree of persuasive power over me. And thus as it became gradually
harder and harder for me to go back and free myself from them, it became easier
and easier for them to come back and tempt me. At a certain point I actually
became obsessed with them. Until, all of a sudden, a way out of the difficulty
flashed upon me.
"Why not," I said to myself, "present this highly strange fact of an author who
refuses to let some of his characters live though they have been born in his
fantasy, and the fact that these characters, having by now life in their veins,
do not resign themselves to remaining excluded from the world of art? They are
detached from me; live on their own; have acquired voice and movement; have by
themselves - in this struggle for existence that they have had to wage with me -
become dramatic characters, characters that can move and talk on their own
initiative; already see themselves as such; have learned to defend themselves
against me; will even know how to defend themselves against others. And so let
them go where dramatic characters do go to have life: on a stage. And let us see
what will happen."
That's what I did. And, naturally, the result was what it had to be: a mixture
of tragic and comic, fantastic and realistic, in a humorous situation that was
quite new and infinitely complex, a drama which is conveyed by means of the
characters, who carry it within them and suffer it, a drama, breathing, speaking,
self-propelled, which seeks at all costs to find the means of its own
presentation; and the comedy of the vain attempt at an improvised realization of
the drama on stage. First, the surprise of the poor actors in a theatrical
company rehearsing a play by day on a bare stage (no scenery, no flats).
Surprise and incredulity at the sight of the six characters announcing
themselves as such in search of an author. Then, immediately afterwards, through
that sudden fainting fit of the Mother veiled in black, their instinctive
interest in the drama of which they catch a glimpse in her and in the other
members of the strange family, an obscure, ambiguous drama, coming about so
unexpectedly on a stage that is empty and unprepared to receive it. And
gradually the growth of this interest to the bursting forth of the contrasting
passions of Father, of Step-Daughter, of Son, of that poor Mother, passions
seeking, as I said, to overwhelm each other with a tragic, lacerating fury.
And here is the universal meaning at first vainly sought in the six characters,
now that, going on stage of their own accord, they succeed in finding it within
themselves in the excitement of the desperate struggle which each wages against
the other and all wage against the Manager and the actors, who do not understand
Without wanting to, without knowing it, in the strife of their bedevilled souls,
each of them, defending himself against the accusations of the others, expresses
as his own living passion and torment the passion and torment which for so many
years have been the pangs of my spirit: the deceit of mutual understanding
irremediably founded on the empty abstraction of the words, the multiple
personality of everyone corresponding to the possibilities of being to be found
in each of us, and finally the inherent tragic conflict between life (which is
always moving and changing) and form (which fixes it, immutable).
Two above all among the six characters, the Father and the Step-Daughter, speak
of that outrageous unalterable fixity of their form in which he and she see
their essential nature expressed permanently and immutably, a nature that for
one means punishment and for the other revenge; and they defend it against the
factitious affectations and unaware volatility of the actors, and they try to
impose it on the vulgar Manager who would like to change it and adapt it to the
so-called exigencies of the theatre.
If the six characters don't all seem to exist on the same plane, it is not
because some are figures of first rank and others of the second, that is, some
are main characters and others minor ones - the elementary perspective necessary
to all scenic or narrative art - nor is it that any are not completely created -
for their purpose. 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. Except that the Father, the Step-Daughter, and also the Son are realized
as mind; the Mother as nature; the Boy as a presence watching and performing a
gesture and the Baby unaware of it all. This fact creates among them a
perspective of a new sort. Unconsciously I had had the impression that some of
them needed to he fully realized (artistically speaking), others less so, and
others merely sketched in as elements in a narrative or presentational sequence:
the most alive, the most completely created, are the Father and the
Step-Daughter who naturally stand out more and lead the way, dragging themselves
along beside the almost dead weight of the others - first, the Son, holding
back; second, the Mother, like a victim resigned to her fate, between the two
children who have hardly any substance beyond their appearance and who need to
be led by the hand.
And actually! actually they had each to appear in that stage of creation which
they had attained in the author's fantasy at the moment when he wished to drive
If I now think about these things, about having intuited that necessity, having
unconsciously found the way to resolve it by means of a new perspective, and
about the way in which I actually obtained it, they seem like miracles. The fact
is that the play was really conceived in one of those spontaneous illuminations
of the fantasy when by a miracle all the elements of the mind answer to each
other's call and work in divine accord. No human brain, working "in the cold,"
however stirred up it might be, could ever have succeeded in penetrating far
enough, could ever have been in a position to satisfy all the exigencies of the
play's form. Therefore the reasons which I will give to clarify the values of
the play must not be thought of as intentions that I conceived beforehand when I
prepared myself for the job and which I now undertake to defend, but only as
discoveries which I have been able to make afterwards in tranquillity.
I wanted to present six characters seeking an author. Their play does not manage
to get presented - precisely because the author whom they seek is missing.
Instead is presented the comedy of their vain attempt with all that it contains
of tragedy by virtue of the fact that the six characters have been rejected.
But can one present a character while rejecting him? Obviously, to present him
one needs, on the contrary, to receive him into one's fantasy before one can
express him. And I have actually accepted and realized the six characters: I
have, however, accepted and realized them as rejected: in search of another
What have I rejected of them? Not themselves, obviously, hut their drama, which
doubtless is what interests them above all but which did not interest me - for
the reasons already indicated.
And what is it, for a character - his drama?
Every creature of fantasy and art, in order to exist, must have his drama, that
is, a drama in which he may be a character and for which he is a character. This
drama is the character's raison d'être, his vital function, necessary for his
In these six, then, I have accepted the "being" without the reason for being. I
have taken the organism and entrusted to it, not its own proper function, but
another more complex function into which its own function entered, if at all,
only as a datum. A terrible and desperate situation especially for the two -
Father and Step-Daughter - who more than the others crave life and more than the
others feel themselves to be characters, that is, absolutely need a drama and
therefore their own drama-the only one which they can envisage for themselves
yet which meantime they see rejected: an "impossible" situation from which they
feel they must escape at whatever cost; it is a matter of life and death. True,
I have given them another raison d'être, another function: precisely that
"impossible" situation, the drama of being in search of an author and rejected.
But that this should be a raison d'être, that it should have become their real
function, that it should be necessary, that it should suffice, they can hardly
suppose; for they have a life of their own. If someone were to tell them, they
wouldn't believe him. It is not possible to believe that the sole reason for our
living should lie in a torment that seems to us unjust and inexplicable.
I cannot imagine, therefore, why the charge was brought against me that the
character of the Father was not what it should have been because it stepped out
of its quality and position as a character and invaded at times the author's
province and took it over. I who understand those who don't quite understand me
see that the charge derives from the fact that the character expresses and makes
his own a torment of spirit which is recognized as mine. Which is entirely
natural and of absolutely no significance. Aside from the fact that this torment
of spirit in the character of the Father derives from causes, and is suffered
and lived for reasons, that have nothing to do with the drama of my personal
experience, a fact which alone removes all substance from the criticism, I want
to make it clear that the inherent torment of my spirit is one thing, a torment
which I can legitimately - provided that it be organic - reflect in a character,
and that the activity of my spirit as revealed in the realized work, the
activity that succeeds in forming a drama out of the six characters in search of
an author is another thing. If the Father participated in this latter activity,
if he competed in forming the drama of the six characters without an author,
then and only then would it by all means be justified to say that he was at
times the author himself and therefore not the man he should be. But the Father
suffers and does not create his existence as a character in search of an author.
He suffers it as an inexplicable fatality and as a situation which he tries with
all his powers to rebel against, which he tries to remedy: hence it is that he
is a character in search of an author and nothing more, even if he expresses as
his own the torment of my spirit. If he, so to speak, assumed some of the
author's responsibilities, the fatality would be completely explained. He would,
that is to say, see himself accepted, if only as a rejected character, accepted
in the poet's heart of hearts, and he would no longer have any reason to suffer
the despair of not finding someone to construct and affirm his life as a
character. I mean that he would quite willingly accept the raison d'être which
the author gives him and without regrets would forego his own, throwing over the
Manager and the actors to whom in fact he runs as his only recourse.
There is one character, that of the Mother, who on the other hand does not care
about being alive (considering being alive as an end in itself). She hasn't the
least suspicion that she is not alive. It has never occurred to her to ask how
and why and in what manner she lives. In short, she is not aware of being a
character, inasmuch as she is never, even for a moment, detached from her role.
She doesn't know she has a role.
This makes her perfectly organic. Indeed, her role of Mother does not of itself,
in its natural essence, embrace mental activity. And she does not exist as a
mind. She lives in an endless continuum of feeling, and therefore she cannot
acquire awareness of her life - that is, of her existence as a character. But
with all this, even she, in her own way and for her own ends, seeks an author,
and at a certain stage seems happy to have been brought before the Manager.
Because she hopes to take life from him, perhaps? No: because she hopes the
Manager will have her present a scene with the Son in which she would put so
much of her own life. But it is a scene which does not exist, which never has
and never could take place. So unaware is she of being a character, that is, of
the life that is possible to her, all fixed and determined, moment by moment, in
every action, every phrase.
She appears on stage with the other characters but without understanding what
the others make her do. Obviously, she imagines that the itch for life with
which the husband and the daughter are afflicted and for which she herself is to
be found on stage is no more than one of the usual incomprehensible
extravagances of this man who is both tortured and torturer and - horrible, most
horrible - a new equivocal rebellion on the part of that poor erring girl. The
Mother is completely passive. The events of her own life and the values they
assume in her eyes, her very character, are all things which are "said" by the
others and which she only once contradicts, and that because the maternal
instinct rises up and rebels within her to make it clear that she didn't at all
wish to abandon either the son or the husband: the Son was taken from her and
the husband forced her to abandon him. She is only correcting data; she explains
and knows nothing. In short, she is nature. Nature fixed in the figure of a
mother. This character gave me a satisfaction of a new sort, not to be ignored.
Nearly all my critics, instead of defining her, after their habit, as "unhuman"
- which seems to be the peculiar and incorrigible characteristic of all my
creatures without exception - had the goodness to note "with real pleasure" that
at last a very human figure had emerged from my fantasy. I explain this praise
to myself in the following way: since my poor Mother is entirely limited to the
natural attitude of a Mother with no possibility of free mental activity, being,
that is, little more than a lump of flesh completely alive in all its functions
- procreation, lactation, caring for and loving its young - without any need
therefore of exercising her brain, she realizes in her person the true and
complete "human type." That must be how it is, since in a human organism nothing
seems more superfluous than the mind.
But the critics have tried to get rid of the Mother with this praise without
bothering to penetrate the nucleus of poetic values which the character in the
play represents. A very human figure, certainly, because mindless, that is,
unaware of being what she is or not caring to explain it to herself. But not
knowing that she is a character doesn't prevent her from being one. That is her
drama in my play. And the most living expression of it comes spurting out in her
cry to the Manager who wants her to think all these things have happened already
and therefore cannot now be a reason for renewed lamentations: "No, it's
happening now, it's happening always! My torture is not a pretence, signore! I
am alive and present, always, in every moment of my torture: it is renewed,
alive and present, always!" This she feels, without being conscious of it, and
feels it therefore as something inexplicable: but she feels it so terribly that
she doesn't think it can be something to explain either to herself or to others.
She feels it and that is that. She feels it as pain, and this pain is immediate;
she cries it out. Thus she reflects the growing fixity of life in a form - the
same thing, which in another way, tortures the Father and the Step-Daughter. In
them, mind. In her, nature. The mind rebels and, as best it may, seeks an
advantage; nature, if not aroused by sensory stimuli, weeps.
Conflict between life-in-movement and form is the inexorable condition not only
of the mental but also of the physical order, The life which in order to exist
has become fixed in our corporeal form little by little kills that form. The
tears of a nature thus fixed lament the irreparable, continuous aging of our
bodies. Hence the tears of the Mother are passive and perpetual. Revealed in
three faces, made significant in three distinct and simultaneous dramas, this
inherent conflict finds in the play its most complete expression. More: the
Mother declares also the particular value of artistic form - a form which does
not delimit or destroy its own life and which life does not consume - in her cry
to the Manager. If the Father and Step-Daughter began their scene a hundred
thousand times in succession, always, at the appointed moment, at the instant
when the life of the work of art must be expressed with that cry, it would
always be heard, unaltered and unalterable in its form, not as a mechanical
repetition, not as a return determined by external necessities, but on the
contrary, alive every time and as new, suddenly born thus forever! embalmed
alive in its incorruptible form. Hence, always, as we open the book, we shall
find Francesca alive and confessing to Dante her sweet sin, and if we turn to
the passage a hundred thousand times in succession, a hundred thousand times in
succession Francesca will speak her words, never repeating them mechanically,
but saying them as though each time were the first time with such living and
sudden passion that Dante every time will turn faint. All that lives, by the
fact of living, has a form, and by the same token must die - except the work of
art which lives forever in so far as it is form.
The birth of a creature of human fantasy, a birth which is a step across the
threshold between nothing and eternity, can also happen suddenly, occasioned by
some necessity. An imagined drama needs a character who does or says a certain
necessary thing; accordingly this character is born and is precisely what he had
to be. In this way Madame Pace is born among the six characters and seems a
miracle, even a trick, realistically portrayed on the stage. It is no trick. The
birth is real. 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. There is a break here, a sudden
change in the level of reality of the scene, because a character can be born in
this way only in the poet's fancy and not on the boards of a stage. Without
anyone's noticing it, I have all of a sudden changed the scene: I have gathered
it up again into my own fantasy without removing it from the spectator's eyes.
That is, I have shown them. instead of the stage, my own fantasy in the act of
creating - my own fantasy in the form of this same stage. The sudden and
uncontrollable changing of a visual phenomenon from one level of reality to
another is a miracle comparable to those of the saint who sets his own statue in
motion: it is neither wood nor stone at such a moment. But the miracle is not
arbitrary. The stage - a stage which accepts the fantastic reality of the six
characters - is no fixed, immutable datum. Nothing in this play exists as given
and preconceived. Everything is in the making, is in motion, is a sudden
experiment: even the place in which this unformed life, reaching after its own
form, changes and changes again contrives to shift position organically. The
level of reality changes. When I had the idea of bringing Madame Pace to birth
right there on the stage, I felt I could do it and I did it. Had I noticed that
this birth was unhinging and silently, unnoticed, in a second, giving another
shape, another reality to my scene, I certainly wouldn't have brought it about.
I would have been afraid of the apparent lack of logic. And I would have
committed an ill-omened assault on the beauty of my work. The fervor of my mind
saved me from doing so. For, despite appearances, with their specious logic,
this fantastic birth is sustained by a real necessity in mysterious, organic
relation with the whole life of the work.
That someone now tells me it hasn't all the value it could have because its
expression is not constructed but chaotic, because it smacks of romanticism,
makes me smile.
I understand why this observation was made to me: because in this work of mine
the presentation of the drama in which the six characters are involved appears
tumultuous and never proceeds in an orderly manner. There is no logical
development, no concatenation of the events. Very true. Had I hunted it with a
lamp I couldn't have found a more disordered, crazy, arbitrary, complicated, in
short, romantic way of presenting "the drama in which the six characters are
involved." Very true. But I have not presented that drama. I have presented
another - and I won't undertake to say again what! - in which, among the many
fine things that everyone, according to his tastes, can find, there is a
discreet satire on romantic procedures: in the six characters thus excited to
the point where they stifle themselves in the roles which each of them plays in
a certain drama while I present them as characters in another play which they
don't know and don't suspect the existence of, so that this inflammation of
their passions - which belongs to the realm of romantic procedures - is
humorously "placed," located in the void. And the drama of the six characters
presented not as it would have been organized by my fantasy had it been accepted
but in this way, as a rejected drama, could not exist in the work except as a
"situation," with some little development, and could not come out except in
indications, stormily, disorderedly, in violent foreshortenings, in a chaotic
interrupted, manner: continually sidetracked, contradicted (by one of its
characters), denied, and (by two others) not even seen.
There is a character indeed - he who denies the drama which makes him a
character, the Son - who draws all his importance and value from being a
character not of the comedy in the making - which as such hardly appears - but
from the presentation that I made of it. In short, he is the only one who lives
solely as "a character in search of an author" - inasmuch as the author he seeks
is not a dramatic author. Even this could not be otherwise. The character's
attitude is an organic product of my conception, and it is logical that in the
situation it should produce greater confusion and disorder and another element
of romantic contrast.
But I had precisely to present this organic and natural chaos. And to present a
chaos is not at all to present chaotically, that is, romantically. That my
presentation is the reverse of confused, that it is quite simple, clear, and
orderly, is proved by the clarity which the intrigue, the characters, the
fantastic and realistic, dramatic and comic levels of the work have had for
every public in the world and by the way in which, for those with more searching
vision, the unusual values enclosed within it come out.
Great is the confusion of tongues among men if criticisms thus made find words
for their expression. No less great than this confusion is the intimate law of
order which, obeyed in all points, makes this work of mine classical and typical
and at its catastrophic close forbids the use of words. Though the audience
eventually understands that one does not create life by artifice and that the
drama of the six characters cannot be presented without an author to give them
value with his spirit, the Manager remains vulgarly anxious to know how the
thing turned out, and the "ending" is remembered by the Son in its sequence of
actual moments, but without any sense and therefore not needing a human voice
for its expression. It happens stupidly, uselessly, with the going-off of a
mechanical weapon on stage. It breaks up and disperses the sterile experiment of
the characters and the actors, which has apparently been made without the
assistance of the poet.
The poet, unknown to them, as if looking on at a distance during the whole
period of the experiment, was at the same time busy creating - with it and of it
- his own play.
First published as
Come e perché ho scritto i "Sei personaggi in cerca
Comoedia, Jan. 1, 1925, p. 7.
Translated by Eric Bentley, 1950, in Naked Masks, New York: E. P. Dutton,
Pirandello in English - Index
Six Characters in
Search of an Author
Characters of the Comedy in the Making
(The last two do not speak)
Actors of the Company
Leading Lady, Leading Man, Second Lady
Other Actors and Actress
Daytime. The Stage of a Theatre.
The spectators will find the
curtain raised and the stage as it usually is during the day time. It will be half dark, and empty, so
that from the beginning the public may have the impression of an impromptu
performance. Prompter's box and a small table
and chair for the manager. Two other small tables and several
chairs scattered about as during rehearsals. The Actors and Actresses of the
company enter from the back of the stage: first one, then another, then two
together; nine or ten in all. They are about to rehearse a
Pirandello play: Mixing it Up. (Il giuoco delle parti): Some of the company move off
towards their dressing rooms. The Prompter who has the "book"
under his arm, is waiting for the manager in order to begin the rehearsal. The Actors and Actresses, some
standing, some sitting, chat and smoke. One perhaps reads a paper; another
cons his part. Finally, the Manager enters and
goes to the table prepared for him. His Secretary brings him his mail,
through which he glances. The Prompter takes his seat, turns
on a light, and opens the "book."
The Manager (throwing a
letter down on the table): I can't see
(To Property Man): Let's have a little light, please!
Property Man: Yes sir, yes, at once.
A light comes down on to the stage.
The Manager (clapping his hands): Come along! Come along! Second act
of "Mixing It Up."
The Actors and Actresses go from
the front of the stage to the wings, all except the three who are to begin the
The Prompter (reading the
"book"): "Leo Gala's house. A curious room serving as dining-room and
The Manager (to Property Man): Fix up the old red room.
Property Man (noting it down): Red set. All right!
The Prompter (continuing to read from the "book"): "Table already
laid and writing desk with books and papers.
Book-shelves. Exit rear to Leo's bedroom. Exit left to kitchen. Principal exit
The Manager (energetically): Well, you understand: The principal exit
over there; here, the kitchen.
(Turning to actor who is to play
the part of Socrates): You make your entrances and exits here.
(To Property Man): The baize
doors at the rear, and curtains.
Property Man (noting it down): Right!
Prompter (reading as before): "When the curtain rises, Leo Gala,
dressed in cook's cap and apron is busy beating an egg in a cup. Philip, also
dresesd as a cook, is beating another egg. Guido Venanzi is seated and
Leading Man (To Manager): Excuse me, but must I absolutely wear a
The Manager (annoyed): I imagine so. It says so there anyway. (Pointing
to the "book.")
Leading Man: But it's ridiculous!
The Manager (jumping up in a rage): Ridiculous? Ridiculous? Is it
my fault if France won't send us any snore good comedies, and we are reduced to
putting on Pirandello's works, where nobody understands anything, and where the
author plays the fool with us all?
(The Actors grin. The Manager goes to Leading Man and shouts): Yes sir,
you put on the cook's cap and beat eggs.
Do you suppose that with all this egg-beating business you are on an ordinary
stage? Get that out of your head. You
represent the shell of the eggs you are beating!
(Laughter and comments among the Actors): Silence! and listen to my
(To Leading Man): "The empty form of reason without the fullness of
instinct, which is blind." - You stand for reason, your wife is instinct. It's a
mixing up of the parts, according to which you who act your own part become the
puppet of yourself. Do you understand?
Leading Man: I'm hanged if I do.
The Manager: Neither do I. But let's get on with it. It's sure to be a
glorious failure anyway. (Confidentially):
But I say, please face three-quarters. Otherwise, what with the abstruseness of
the dialogue, and the public that won't be able to hear you, the whole thing
will go to hell. Come on! come on!
Prompter: Pardon sir, may I get into my box? There's a bit of a draught.
The Manager: Yes, yes, of course!
At this point, the Door-Keeper has entered from the stage door and advances
towards the manager's table, taking off his braided cap.
During this manoeuvre, the Six Characters enter, and stop by the door at back of
stage, so that when the Door-Keeper is about to announce their coming to the
Manager, they are already on the stage. A tenuous light surrounds them, almost as if irradiated by them - the faint
breath of their fantastic reality. This light will disappear when they come forward towards the actors.
They preserve, however, something of the dream lightness in which they seem
almost suspended; but this does not detract from the essential reality of their
forms and expressions.
He who is known as The Father is a man of about 50: hair, reddish in colour,
thin at the temples; he is not bald, however; thick moustaches, falling over his
still fresh mouth, which often opens in an empty and uncertain smile. He is fattish, pale; with an especially wide forehead. He has blue,
oval-shaped eyes, very clear and piercing. Wears light trousers and a dark jacket. He is alternatively mellifluous and
violent in his manner.
The Mother seems crushed and terrified as if by an intolerable weight of
shame and abasement. She is dressed in modest black and wears a thick widow's veil of crêpe. When she lifts this, she reveals a wax-like face. She always keeps her eyes
The Step-Daughter, is dashing, almost impudent, beautiful. She wears mourning
too, but with great elegance. She shows contempt for the timid half-frightened manner of the wretched boy
(14 years old, and also dressed in black); on the other hand, she displays a
lively tenderness for her little sister, The Child (about four), who is dressed
in white, with a black silk sash at the waist.
The Son (22) tall, severe in his attitude of contempt for The Father,
supercilious and indifferent to The Mother:
He looks as if he had come on the stage against his will.
Door-keeper (cap in hand): Excuse me, sir...
The Manager (rudely): Eh? What is it?
These people are asking for you, sir.
The Manager (furious): I am rehearsing, and you know perfectly
well no one's allowed to come in during rehearsals!
(Turning to the Characters): Who are you, please? What do you want?
The Father (coming forward a little, followed by the others who seem
embarrassed): As a matter of fact... we have come here in search of an
The Manager (half angry, half amazed): An author? What author?
The Father: Any author, sir.
The Manager: But there's no author here. We are not rehearsing a new
The Step-Daughter (vivaciously): So much the better, so much the
better! We can be your new piece.
An Actor (coming forward from the others): Oh, do you hear that?
The Father (to Step-Daughter): Yes, but if the author isn't
(To Manager): unless you
would be willing...
The Manager: You are trying to be funny.
The Father: No, for Heaven's sake, what are you saying? We bring you a
The Step-Daughter: We may be your fortune.
The Manager: Will you oblige me by going away? We haven't time to waste
with mad people.
The Father (mellifluously): Oh sir, you know well that life is
full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to
appear plausible, since they are true.
The Manager: What the devil is he talking about?
The Father: I say that to reverse the ordinary process may well be
considered a madness: that is, to create credible situations, in order that they
may appear true. But permit me to
observe that if this be madness, it is the sole raison d'être of your
The Actors look hurt and perplexed.
The Manager (getting up and looking at him): So our profession seems
to you one worthy of madmen then?
The Father: Well, to make seem true that which isn't true... without any
need... for a joke as it were... Isn't
that your mission, gentlemen: to give life to fantastic characters on the stage?
The Manager (interpreting the rising anger of the Company): But I
would beg you to believe, my dear sir, that the profession of the comedian is a
noble one. If today, as things go, the playwrights give us stupid comedies to
play and puppets to represent instead of men, remember we are proud to have
given life to immortal works here on these very boards!
The Actors, satisfied, applaud their Manager.
The Father (interrupting furiously): Exactly, perfectly, to living
beings more alive than those who breathe and wear clothes: beings less real
perhaps, but truer! I agree with you entirely.
The Actors look at one another in amazement.
The Manager: But what do you mean? Before, you said...
The Father: No, excuse me, I meant it for you, sir, who were crying out that
you had no time to lose with madmen, while no one better than yourself knows
that nature uses the instrument of human fantasy in order to pursue her high
The Manager: Very well, - but where does all this take us?
The Father: Nowhere! It is merely to show you that one is born to life in
many forms, in many shapes, as tree, or as stone, as water, as butterfly, or as
woman. So one may also be born a character in a play.
The Manager (with feigned comic dismay): So you and these other
friends of yours have been born characters?
The Father: Exactly, and alive as you see!
Manager and Actors burst out laughing.
The Father (hurt): I am sorry you laugh, because we carry in us a
drama, as you can guess from this woman here veiled in black.
The Manager (losing patience at last and almost indignant): Oh,
chuck it! Get away please! Clear out of here!
(To Property Man): For Heaven's sake, turn them out!
The Father (resisting): No, no, look here, we...
The Manager (roaring): We come here to work, you know.
Leading Actor: One cannot let oneself be made such a fool of.
The Father (determined, coming forward): I marvel at your
incredulity, gentlemen. Are you not
accustomed to see the characters created by an author spring to life in
yourselves and face each other? Just because there is no "book"
(Pointing to the Prompter's box): which contains us, you refuse to
The Step-Daughter (advances towards Manager,
smiling and coquettish): Believe me, we are really six most interesting
characters, sir; side-tracked however.
The Father: Yes, that is the word!
(To Manager all at once): In
the sense, that is, that the author who created us alive no longer wished, or
was no longer able, materially to put us into a work of art. And this was a real crime, sir;
because he who has had the luck to be born a character can laugh even at death.
He cannot die. The man, the writer, the instrument of the creation will die, but
his creation does not die. And to live for ever, it does not need
to have extraordinary gifts or to be able to work wonders. Who was Sancho Panza? Who was Don
Abbondio? Yet they live eternally because - live
germs as they were - they had the fortune to find a fecundating matrix, a
fantasy which could raise and nourish them: make them live for ever!
The Manager: That is quite all right. But what do you want here, all of
The Father: We want to live.
The Manager (ironically): For Eternity?
The Father: No, sir, only for a moment... in you.
An Actor: Just listen to him!
Leading Lady: They want to live, in us....
Juvenile Lead (pointing
to the Step-Daughter): I've no objection, as far as that one is concerned!
The Father: Look here! look here! The comedy has to be made.
(To the Manager): But if you and your actors are willing, we can soon
concert it among ourselves.
The Manager (annoyed): But what do you want to concert?
We don't go in for concerts here. Here we play dramas and comedies!
The Father: Exactly! That is just why we have come to you.
The Manager: And where is the "book"?
The Father: It is in us! (The Actors laugh): The drama is in us,
and we are the drama. We are impatient
to play it. Our inner passion drives us on to this.
The Step-Daughter (disdainful, alluring, treacherous, full of
impudence): My passion, sir! Ah, if you only knew!
My passion for him!
Points to the Father and makes a pretence of embracing him.
Then she breaks out into a loud laugh.
The Father (angrily): Behave yourself! And please don't laugh in that
The Step-Daughter: With your permission, gentlemen, I, who am a two months'
orphan, will show you how I can dance and sing.
Sings and then dances Prenez garde
Les chinois sont un peuple malin,
De Shangal à Pekin,
Ils ont mis des écriteaux partout:
Prenez garde à Tchou-Tchin-Tchou.
Actors and Actresses: Bravo!
Well done! Tip-top!
The Manager: Silence! This isn't a café concert, you know!
(Turning to the Fatherin
consternation): Is she mad?
The Father: Mad? No, she's worse than mad.
The Step-Daughter (to Manager): Worse? Worse? Listen! Stage this
drama for us at once! Then you will see that at a certain
moment I... when this little darling here...
(Takes the Child by the hand and
leads her to the Manager): Isn't she a dear?
(Takes her up and kisses her):
(Puts her down again and adds
feelingly): Well, when God suddenly takes this dear little child away from
that poor mother there; and this imbecile here.
(Seizing hold of the boy
roughly and pushing him forward): does the stupidest things, like the
fool he is, you will see me run away. Yes, gentlemen, I shall be off. But the
moment hasn't arrived yet. After what has taken place between him
(indicates the Father with a
horrible wink): I can't remain any longer in this society, to have to
witness the anguish of this mother here for that fool...
(indicates the Son): Look at
him! Look at him! See how indifferent, how frigid he is, because he is the
legitimate son. He despises me, despises him (Pointing
to the boy), despises this baby here; because... we are bastards.
(Goes to the Mother and embraces
her): And he doesn't want to recognize her as his mother - she who is the
common mother of us all. He looks down upon her as if she were only the mother
of us three bastards. Wretch!
She says all this very rapidly,
excitedly. At the word "bastards" she raises
her voice, and almost spits out the final "Wretch!"
The Mother (to the Manager, in anguish): In the name of these two
little children, I beg you...
(She grows faint and is about to fall): Oh God!
The Father (coming forward to support her as do some of the Actors):
Quick, a chair, a chair for this poor widow!
The Actors: Is it true? Has she really fainted?
The Manager: Quick, a chair! Here!
One of the Actors brings a chair, the others proffer assistance.
The Mother tries to prevent the Father from lifting the veil which covers her
The Father: Look at her! Look at her!
The Mother: No, no; stop it please!
The Father (raising her veil): Let them see you!
The Mother (rising and covering her face with her hands, in
desperation): I beg you, sir, to prevent this man from carrying out his plan
which is loathsorn.e to me.
The Manager (dumbfounded):
I don't understand at all. What is the situation?
(To the Father)Is this lady
The Father: Yes, gentlemen: my
The Manager: But how can she be
a widow if you are alive?
The Actors find relief for their astonishment in a loud laugh.
The Father: Don't laugh! Don't laugh like that, for Heaven's sake. Her drama lies just here in this: she
has had a lover, a man who ought to be here.
The Mother (with a cry): No! No!
The Step-Daughter: Fortunately for her, he is dead. Two months ago as I
said. We are in mourning, as you see.
The Father: He isn't here you
see, not because he is dead. He isn't here - look at her a moment
and you will understand - because her drama isn't a drama of the love of two men
for whom she was incapable of feeling anything except possibly a little
gratitude - gratitude not for me but for the other. She isn't a woman, she is a
mother, and her drama - powerful sir, I assure you - lies, as a matter of fact,
all in these four children she has had by two men.
The Mother: I had them? Have
you got the courage to say that I wanted them?
(To the Company): It was his doing. It was he who gave me that other man,
who forced me to go away with him.
The Step-Daughter: It isn't true.
The Mother (startled): Not true, isn't it?
The Step-Daughter: No, it isn't true, it just isn't true.
The Mother: And what can you know about it?
The Step-Daughter: It isn't
true. Don't believe it.
(To Manager): Do you know why
she says so? For that fellow there. (indicates the Son): She tortures
herself, destroys herself on account of the neglect of that son there; and she
wants him to believe that if she abandoned him when he was only two years old,
it was because he (indicates the Father) made her do so.
The Mother (vigorously):
He forced me to it, and I call God to witness it.
(To the Manager): Ask him (indicates Husband): if it isn't true.
Let him speak.
You are not in a position to know anything about it.
The Step-Daughter: I know you lived in peace and happiness with my father
while he lived. Can you deny it?
The Mother: No, I don't deny it...
The Step-Daughter: He was always full of affection and kindness for you.
(To the Boy, angrily): It's true, isn't it? Tell them! Why don't you
speak, you little fool?
The Mother: Leave the poor boy alone. Why do you want to make me appear
ungrateful, daughter? I don't want to offend your father. I have answered him
that I didn't abandon my house and my son through any fault of mine, nor from
any wilful passion.
The Father: It is true. It was my doing.
Leading Man (to the Company): What a spectacle!
Leading Lady: We are the audience this time.
Juvenile Lead: For once, in a way.
The Manager (beginning to get really interested): Let's hear them
The Son: Oh yes, you're going to hear a fine bit now. He will talk to you
of the Demon of Experiment.
The Father: You are a cynical imbecile. I've told you so already a hundred
(To the Manager): He
tries to make fun of me on account of this expression which I have found to
excuse myself with.
The Son (with disgust): Yes, phrases! phrases!
The Father: Phrases! Isn't everyone consoled when faced with a trouble or
fact he doesn't understand, by a word, some simple word, which tells us nothing
and yet calms us?
The Step-Daughter: Even in the case of remorse. In fact, especially then.
The Father: Remorse? No, that isn't true. I've done more than use words to
quieten the remorse in me.
The Step-Daughter: Yes, there
was a bit of money too. Yes, yes, a bit of money. There were the hundred lire he was
about to offer me in payment, gentlemen...
Sensation of horror among the
The Son (to the Step-Daughter):
This is vile.
The Step-Daughter: Vile? There they were in a pale blue envelope on a little
mahogany table in the back of Madame Pace's shop. You know Madame Pace - one of
those ladies who attract poor girls of good family into their ateliers, under
the pretext of their selling robes et manteaux.
The Son: And he thinks he has bought the right to tyrannize over us all with
those hundred lire he was going to pay; but which, fortunately - note this,
gentlemen - he had no chance of paying.
The Step-Daughter: It was a near thing, though, you know!
The Mother (protesting): Shame, my daughter, shame!
The Step-Daughter: Shame indeed! This is my revenge! I am dying to live that
scene... The room... I see it... Here is the window with the mantles
exposed, there the divan, the looking-glass, a screen, there in front of the
window the little mahogany table with the blue envelope containing one hundred
lire. I see it. I see it. I could take hold of it... But you,
gentlemen, you ought to turn your backs now: I am almost nude, you know. But I don't blush: I leave that to him
The Manager: I don't understand
this at all.
The Father: Naturally enough. I would ask you, sir, to exercise your
authority a little here, and let me speak before you believe all she is trying
to blame me with. Let me explain.
The Step-Daughter: Ah yes, explain it in your own way.
The Father: But don't you see that the whole trouble lies here. In words,
words. Each one of us has within him a
whole world of things, each man of us his own special world.
And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the
sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must
inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you
has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.
Look here! This woman (indicating the Mother) takes all my pity for her
as a specially ferocious form of cruelty.
The Mother: But you drove me away.
The Father: Do you hear her? I drove her away! She believes I really sent
The Mother: You know how to talk, and I don't; but, believe me, sir (To
Manager), after he had married me... who knows why?... I was a poor
The Father: But, good Heavens! it was just for your humility that I married
you. I loved this simplicity in you.
(He stops when he sees she makes signs to contradict him, opens his arms wide
in sign of desperation, seeing how hopeless it is to make himself understood):
You see she denies it. Her mental
deafness, believe me, is phenomenal, the limit (Touches his forehead):
deaf, deaf, mentally deaf! She has
plenty of feeling. Oh yes, a good heart for the children; but the brain - deaf,
to the point of desperation
The Step-Daughter: Yes, but ask him how his intelligence has helped us.
The Father: If we could see all the evil that may spring from good, what
should we do?
At this point the Leading Lady who is biting her lips with rage at seeing the
Leading Man flirting with the Step-Daughter, comes forward and says to the
Leading Lady: Excuse me, but are we going to rehearse today?
The Manager: Of course, of course; but let's hear them out.
Juvenile Lead: This is something quite new.
L'Ingénue: Most interesting!
Leading Lady: Yes, for the people who like that kind of thing.
Casts a glance at Leading Man.
The Manager (to Father): You must please explain yourself quite
The Father: Very well then: listen! I had in my service a poor man, a clerk,
a secretary of mine, full of devotion, who became friends with her.
(indicating the Mother): They understood one another, were kindred souls
in fact, without, however, the least suspicion of any evil existing. They were
incapable even of thinking of it.
The Step-Daughter: So he thought of it - for them!
The Father: That's not true. I meant to do good to them - and to myself,
I confess, at the same time. Things had
come to the point that I could not say a word to either of them without their
making a mute appeal, one to the other, with their eyes. I could see them
silently asking each other how I was to be kept in countenance, how I was to be
kept quiet. And this, believe me, was just about enough of itself to keep me in
a constant rage, to exasperate me beyond measure.
The Manager: And why didn't you send him away then - this secretary of
The Father: Precisely what I did, sir.
And then I had to watch this poor woman drifting forlornly about the house like
an animal without a master, like an animal one has taken in out of pity.
The Mother: Ah yes...
The Father (suddenly turning to the Mother): It's true about the
son anyway, isn't it?
The Mother: He took my son away from me first of all.
The Father: But not from cruelty. I did it so that he should grow up
healthy and strong by living in the country.
The Step-Daughter (pointing
to him ironically): As one can see.
The Father (quickly): Is
it my fault if he has grown up like this?
I sent him to a wet nurse in the country, a peasant, as she did not seem to me
strong enough, though she is of humble origin. That was, anyway, the reason I
married her. Unpleasant all this may be, but how can it be helped?
My mistake possibly, but there we are!
All my life I have had these confounded aspirations towards a certain moral
(At this point the Step-Daughter bursts into a noisy laugh): Oh, stop it!
Stop it! I can't stand it.
The Manager: Yes, please stop it, for Heaven's sake.
The Step-Daughter: But imagine moral sanity from him, if you please - the
client of certain ateliers like that of Madame Pace!
The Father: Fool! That is the proof that I am a man!
This seeming contradiction, gentlemen, is the strongest proof that I stand here
a live man before you. Why, it is just
for this very incongruity in my nature that I have had to suffer what I have.
I could not live by the side of that woman (indicating the Mother) any
longer; but not so much for the boredom she inspired me with as for the pity I
felt for her.
The Mother: And so he turned me out - -.
The Father: - well provided for! Yes, I sent her to that man,
gentlemen... to let her go free of me.
The Mother: And to free himself.
The Father: Yes, I admit it. It was also a liberation for me. But great
evil has come of it. I meant well when
I did it; and I did it more for her sake than mine. I swear it.
(Crosses his arms on his chest; then turns suddenly to the Mother): Did I
ever lose sight of you until that other man carried you off to another town,
like the angry fool he was? And on account of my pure interest in you... my pure
interest, I repeat, that had no base motive in it... I watched with the
tenderest concern the new family that grew up around her. She can bear witness
to this. (Points to the Step-Daughter)
The Step-Daughter: Oh yes, that's true enough. When I was a kiddie, so so
high, you know, with plaits over my shoulders and knickers longer than my
skirts, I used to see him waiting outside the school for me to come out.
He came to see how I was growing up.
The Father: This is infamous, shameful!
The Step-Daughter: No. Why?
The Father: Infamous! infamous!
(Then excitedly to Manager explaining): After she (indicating Mother)
went away, my house seemed suddenly empty.
She was my incubus, but she filled my house. I was like a dazed fly alone in the
empty rooms. This boy here (indicating
the Son) was educated away from home, and when he came back, he seemed to me
to be no more mine. With no mother to stand between him and me, he grew up
entirely for himself, on his own, apart, with no tie of intellect or affection
binding him to me. And then - strange
but true - I was driven, by curiosity at first and then by some tender
sentiment, towards her family, which had come into being through my will. The
thought of her began gradually to fill up the emptiness I felt all around me. I
wanted to know if she were happy in living out the simple daily duties of life.
I wanted to think of her as fortunate and happy because far away from the
complicated torments of my spirit. And
so, to have proof of this, I used to watch that child coming out of school.
The Step-Daughter: Yes, yes. True. He used to follow me in the street and
smiled at me, waved his hand, like this.
I would look at him with interest, wondering who he might be.
I told my mother, who guessed at once. (The Mother agrees with a nod)
Then she didn't want to send me to school for some days; and when I finally went
back, there he was again - looking so ridiculous - with a paper parcel in his
hands. He came close to me, caressed
me, and drew out a fine straw hat from the parcel, with a bouquet of flowers -
all for me!
The Manager: A bit discursive
this, you know!
The Son (contemptuously): Literature! Literature!
The Father: Literature indeed! This is life, this is passion!
The Manager: It may be, but it won't act.
The Father: I agree. This is only the part leading up. I don't suggest
this should be staged. She (Pointing
Step-Daughter), as you see, is no longer the flapper with plaits down her back -
The Step-Daughter: - and the knickers showing below the skirt!
The Father: The drama is coming now, sir; something new, complex, most
The Step-Daughter: As soon as my father died...
The Father: - there was absolute misery for them. They came back here,
unknown to me. Through her stupidity! (Pointing
to the Mother) It is true she can barely write her own name; but she could
anyhow have got her daughter to write to me that they were in need...
The Mother: And how was I to divine all this sentiment in him?
The Father: That is exactly your mistake, never to have guessed any of my
The Mother: After so many years apart, and all that had happened...
The Father: Was it my fault if that fellow carried you away?
It happened quite suddenly; for after he had obtained some job or other, I could
find no trace of them; and so, not unnaturally, my interest in them dwindled.
But the drama culminated unforeseen and violent on their return, when I was
impelled by my miserable flesh that still lives... Ah! what misery, what
wretchedness is that of the man who is alone and disdains debasing liaisons!
Not old enough to do without women, and not young enough to go and look for one
without shame. Misery? It's worse than
misery; it's a horror; for no woman can any longer give him love; and when a man
feels this... One ought to do without,
you say? Yes, yes. I know. Each of us
when he appears before his fellows is clothed in a certain dignity.
But every man knows what unconfessable things pass within the secrecy of his own
heart. One gives way to the temptation,
only to rise from it again, afterwards, with a great eagerness to re-establish
one's dignity, as if it were a tombstone to place on the grave of one's shame,
and a monument to hide and sign the memory of our weaknesses. Everybody's in the
same case. Some folks haven't the
courage to say certain things, that's all!
The Step-Daughter: All appear to have the courage to do them though.
The Father: Yes, but in secret.
Therefore, you want more courage to say these things.
Let a man but speak these things out, and folks at once label him a cynic. But
it isn't true. He is like all the
others, better indeed, because he isn't afraid to reveal with the light of the
intelligence the red shame of human bestiality on which most men close their
eyes so as not to see it. Woman - for example, look at her case!
She turns tantalizing inviting glances on you. You seize her.
No sooner does she feel herself in your grasp than she closes her eyes.
It is the sign of her mission, the sign by which she says to man: "Blind
yourself, for I am blind."
The Step-Daughter: Sometimes she can close them no more: when she no longer
feels the need of hiding her shame to herself, but dry-eyed and dispassionately,
sees only that of the man who has blinded himself without love.
Oh, all these intellectual complications make me sick, disgust me - all this
philosophy that uncovers the beast in man, and then seeks to save him, excuse
him... I can't stand it, sir. When a
man seeks to "simplify" life bestially, throwing aside every relic of humanity,
every chaste aspiration, every pure feeling, all sense of ideality, duty,
modesty, shame... then nothing is more revolting and nauseous than a certain
kind of remorse - crocodiles' tears, that's what it is.
The Manager: Let's come to the point. This is only discussion.
The Father: Very good, sir! But
a fact is like a sack which won't stand up when it is empty. In order that it may stand up, one has
to put into it the reason and sentiment which have caused it to exist. I
couldn't possibly know that after the death of that man, they had decided to
return here, that they were in misery, and that she (Pointing to the Mother)
had gone to work as a modiste, and at a shop of the type of that of Madame Pace.
The Step-Daughter: A real
high-class modiste, you must know, gentlemen.
In appearance, she works for the leaders of the best society; but she arranges
matters so that these elegant ladies serve her purpose... without prejudice to
other ladies who are... well... only so so.
The Mother: You will believe me, gentlemen, that it never entered my mind
that the old hag offered me work because she had her eye on my daughter.
The Step-Daughter: Poor mamma!
Do you know, sir, what that woman did when I brought her back the work my mother
had finished? She would point out to me
that I had torn one of my frocks, and she would give it back to my mother to
mend. It was I who paid for it, always
I; while this poor creature here believed she was sacrificing herself for me and
these two children here, sitting up at night sewing Madame Pace's robes.
The Manager: And one day you met there...
The Step-Daughter: Him, him. Yes sir, an old client. There's a scene for
you to play! Superb!
The Father: She, the Mother arrived just then...
The Step-Daughter (treacherously): Almost in time!
The Father (crying out): No, in time! in time! Fortunately I
recognized her... in time. And I took
them back home with me to my house. You
can imagine now her position and mine; she, as you see her; and I who cannot
look her in the face.
The Step-Daughter: Absurd! How
can I possibly be expected - after that - to be a modest young miss, a fit
person to go with his confounded aspirations for "a solid moral sanity"?
The Father: For the drama lies all in this - in the conscience that I have,
that each one of us has. We believe
this conscience to be a single thing, but it is many-sided.
There is one for this person, and another for that. Diverse consciences.
So we have this illusion of being one person for all, of having a personality
that is unique in all our acts. But it
isn't true. We perceive this when, tragically perhaps, in something we do, we
are as it were, suspended, caught up in the air on a kind of hook. Then we
perceive that all of us was not in that act, and that it would be an atrocious
injustice to judge us by that action alone, as if all our existence were summed
up in that one deed. Now do you
understand the perfidy of this girl? She surprised me in a place, where she
ought not to have known me, just as I could not exist for her; and she now seeks
to attach to me a reality such as I could never suppose I should have to assume
for her in a shameful and fleeting moment of my life.
I feel this above all else. And the drama, you will see, acquires a tremendous
value from this point. Then there is
the position of the others... his... (indicating the Son)
The Son (shrugging his shoulders scorn fully): Leave me alone! I
don't come into this.
The Father: What? You don't come into this?
The Son: I've got nothing to do with it, and don't want to have; because
you know well enough I wasn't made to be mixed up in all this with the rest of
The Step-Daughter: We are
only vulgar folk! He is the fine gentleman.
You may have noticed, Mr. Manager, that I fix him now and again with a look of
scorn while he lowers his eyes - for he knows the evil he has done me.
The Son (scarcely looking at her): I?
The Step-Daughter: You! you! I owe my life on the streets to you.
Did you or did you not deny us, with your behaviour, I won't say the intimacy of
home, but even that mere hospitality which makes guests feel at their ease? We
were intruders who had come to disturb the kingdom of your legitimacy. I should
like to have you witness, Mr. Manager, certain scenes between him and me.
He says I have tyrannized over everyone.
But it was just his behaviour which made me insist on the reason for which I had
come into the house, - this reason he calls "vile" - into his house, with my
mother who is his mother too. And I came as mistress of the house.
The Son: It's easy for them to put me always in the wrong.
But imagine, gentlemen, the position of a son, whose fate it is to see arrive
one day at his home a young woman of impudent bearing, a young woman who
inquires for his father, with whom who knows what business she has.
This young man has then to witness her return bolder than ever, accompanied by
that child there. He is obliged to
watch her treat his father in an equivocal and confidential manner.
She asks money of him in a way that lets one suppose he must give it her, must,
do you understand, because he has every obligation to do so.
The Father: But I have, as a matter of fact, this obligation. I owe it to
The Son: How should I know? When had I ever seen or heard of her?
One day there arrive with her (indicating Step-Daughter) that lad and
this baby here.
I am told: "This is your mother too, you know."
I divine from her manner (indicating Step-Daughter again) why it is they
have come home.
I had rather not say what I feel and think about it. I shouldn't even care to
confess to myself. No action can
therefore be hoped for from me in this affair.
Believe me, Mr. Manager, I am an "unrealized" character, dramatically speaking;
and I find myself not at all at ease in their company. Leave me out of it, I beg
The Father: What? It is just because you are so that...
The Son: How do you know what I am like? When did you ever bother your head
The Father: I admit it. I admit it. But isn't that a situation in itself?
This aloofness of yours which is so cruel to me and to your mother, who returns
home and sees you almost for the first time grown up, who doesn't recognize you
but knows you are her son... (Pointing out the Mother to the Manager):
See, she's crying!
The Step-Daughter (angrily, stamping her foot): Like a fool!
The Father (indicating
Step-Daughter): She can't stand him you know.
(Then referring again to the Son): He says he doesn't come into the
affair, whereas he is really the hinge of the whole action. Look at that lad who
is always clinging to his mother, frightened and humiliated.
It is on account of this fellow here. Possibly his situation is the most painful
of all. He feels himself a stranger
more than the others. The poor little
chap feels mortified, humiliated at being brought into a home out of charity as
(In confidence): He is the image of his father. Hardly talks at all.
Humble and quiet.
The Manager: Oh, we'll cut him out. You've no notion what a nuisance boys
are on the stage...
The Father: He disappears soon,
you know. And the baby too. She is the first to vanish from the scene. The drama consists finally in this:
when that mother re-enters my house, her family born outside of it, and shall we
say superimposed on the original, ends with the death of the little girl, the
tragedy of the boy and the flight of the elder daughter. It cannot go on,
because it is foreign to its surroundings. So after much torment, we three
remain: I, the mother, that son. Then, owing to the disappearance of
that extraneous family, we too find ourselves strange to one another. We find we are living in an atmosphere
of mortal desolation which is the revenge, as he (indicating
Son) scornfully said of the Demon of Experiment, that unfortunately hides in me. Thus, sir, you see when faith is
lacking, it becomes impossible to create certain states of happiness, for we
lack the necessary humility. Vaingloriously, we try to substitute ourselves for
this faith, creating thus for the rest of the world a reality which we believe
after their fashion, while, actually, it doesn't exist. For each one of us has his own reality
to be respected before God, even when it is harmful to one's very self.
The Manager: There is something
in what you say. I assure you all this interests me very much.
I begin to think there's the stuff for a drama in all this, and not a bad drama
The Step-Daughter (coming forward): When you've got a character like
The Father (shutting her up, all excited to learn the decision of the
Manager): You be quiet!
The Manager (reflecting, heedless of interruption): It's new...
The Father: Absolutely new!
The Manager: You've got a nerve though, I must say, to come here and
fling it at me like this...
The Father: You will understand, sir, born as we are for the stage...
The Manager: Are you amateur actors then?
The Father: No. I say born for the stage, because...
The Manager: Oh, nonsense. You're an old hand, you know.
The Father: No sir, no. We act that rôle for which we have been cast,
that rôle which we are given in life.
And in my own case, passion itself, as usually happens, becomes a trifle
theatrical when it is exalted.
The Manager: Well, well, that will do. But you see, without an author...
I could give you the address of an author if you like...
The Father: No, no. Look here! You must be the author.
The Manager: I? What are you talking about?
The Father: Yes, you, you! Why not?
The Manager: Because I have never been an author: that's why.
The Father: Then why not turn author now? Everybody does it. You don't
want any special qualities. Your task
is made much easier by the fact that we are all here alive before you...
The Manager: It won't do.
The Father: What? When you see us live our drama...
The Manager: Yes, that's all
right. But you want someone to write it.
The Father: No, no. Someone to take it down, possibly, while we play it,
scene by scene! It will be enough to
sketch it out at first, and then try it over.
The Manager: Well... I am almost tempted. It's a bit of an idea. One
might have a shot at it.
The Father: Of course. You'll see what scenes will come out of it. I can
give you one, at once...
The Manager: By Jove, it tempts me. I'd like to have a go at it. Let's
try it out. Come with me to my office.
(Turning to the
Actors): You are at liberty for a bit, but don't step out of the theatre for
long. In a quarter of an hour, twenty
minutes, all back here again!
(To the Father): We'll see what can be done. Who knows if we don't get
something really extraordinary out of it?
The Father: There's no doubt about it. They (indicating the Characters)
had better come with us too, hadn't they?
The Manager: Yes, yes. Come on!
(Moves away and then turning to the Actors): Be punctual, please!
Manager and the Six Characters cross the stage and go off.
The other Actors remain, looking at one another in astonishment.
Leading Man: Is he serious? What the devil does be want to do?
Juvenile Lead: This is rank madness.
Third Actor. Does he expect to knock up a drama in five minutes?
Juvenile Lead: Like the improvisers!
Leading Lady: If he thinks I'm going to take part in a joke like this...
Juvenile Lead: I'm out of it anyway.
Fourth Actor. I should like to know who they are... (Alludes to
Third Actor. What do you suppose? Madmen or rascals!
Juvenile Lead: And he takes them seriously!
L'Ingénue: Vanity! He fancies himself as an author now.
Leading Man: It's absolutely unheard of. If the stage has come to this...
Fifth Actor: It's rather a joke.
Third Actor: Well, we'll see what's going to happen next.
Thus talking, the Actors leave the stage;
some going out by the little door at the back; others retiring to their
dressing-rooms. The curtain
remains up. The action of the play is suspended for twenty minutes.
Pirandello in English - Index
Six Characters in
Search of an Author
The stage call-bells ring to warn the company that the play it about to begin
The Step-Daughter comes out
of the Manager's office along with the Child and the boy. As she comes out of the office, she
Nonsense! nonsense! Do it yourselves! I'm not going to mix myself up in this
(Turning to the
Child and coming quickly with her on to the stage): Come on, Rosetta, let's
The Boy follows them slowly, remaining a little behind and seeming perplexed.
The Step-Daughter (stops, bends over the Child and takes the latter's
face between her hands): My little darling!
You're frightened, aren't you? You don't know where we are, do you?
(Pretending to reply to a question of the Child): What is the stage?
It's a place, baby, you know, where people play at being serious, a place where
they act comedies. We've got to act a
comedy now, dead serious, you know; and you're in it also, little one.
(Embraces her, pressing the little head to her breast, and rocking the Child
for a moment): Oh darling, darling, what a horrid comedy you've got to play!
What a wretched part they've found for you!
A garden... a fountain... look... just suppose, kiddie, it's here. Where, you
say? Why, right here in the middle.
It's all pretence you know. That's the trouble, my pet: it's all make-belive
here. It's better to imagine it though,
because if they fix it up for you, it'll only be painted cardboard, painted
cardboard for the rockery, the water, the plants... Ah, but I think a baby like
this one would sooner have a make-believe fountain than a real one, so she could
play with it. What a joke it'll be for the others! But for you, alas! not quite
such a joke: you who are real, baby dear, and really play by a real fountain
that is big and green and beautiful, with ever so many bamboos around it that
are reflected in the water, and a whole lot of little ducks swimming about...
No, Rosetta, no, your mother doesn't bother about you on account of that wretch
of a son there. I'm in the devil of a
temper, and as for that lad...
boy by the arm to force him to take one of his hands out of his pockets):
What have you got there? What are you
(Pulls his hand out of his pocket, looks into it and catches the glint of a
revolver): Ah! where did you get this?
(The Boy, very pale in the face, looks at her, but does not answer):
Idiot! If I'd been in your place,
instead of killing myself, I'd have shot one of those two, or both of them:
father and son.
The Father enters from the office, all excited from his work.
The Manager follows him.
The Father: Come on, come on dear! Come here for a minute! We've arranged
everything. It's all fixed up.
The Manager (also excited): If you please, young lady, there are one
or two points to settle still. Will you
The Step-Daughter (following him towards the office): Ouff! what's
the good, if you've arranged everything.
The Father, Manager and Step-Daughter go back into the office again (off) for
a moment. At the same time, The Son followed by The Mother, comes out.
The Son (looking at the three entering office): Oh this is fine,
fine! And to think I can't even get away!
The Mother attempts to look at him, but lowers her eyes immediately when he
turns away from her. She then sits down. The Boy
and The Child approach her. She
casts a glance again at the Son, and speaks with humble tones, trying to draw
him into conversation.
The Mother: And isn't my punishment the worst of all?
(Then seeing from the Son's manner that he will not bother himself about her):
My God! Why are you so cruel? Isn't it
enough for one person to support all this torment? Must you then insist on
others seeing it also?
The Son (half to himself, meaning the Mother to hear, however): And
they want to put it on the stage! If there was at least a reason for it!
He thinks he has got at the meaning of it all. Just as if each one of us in every
circumstance of life couldn't find his own explanation of it!
(Pauses): He complains he was
discovered in a place where he ought not to have been seen, in a moment of his
life which ought to have remained hidden and kept out of the reach of that
convention which he has to maintain for other people. And what about my case? Haven't I had to reveal what no son
ought ever to reveal: how father and mother live and are man and wife for
themselves quite apart from that idea of father and mother which we give them? When this idea is revealed, our life
is then linked at one point only to that man and that woman; and as such it
should shame them, shouldn't it?
The Mother hides her face in her
hands. From the dressing-rooms and the
little door at the back of the stage the Actors and Stage Manager return,
followed by the Property Man, and the Prompter. At the same moment, The Manager
comes out of his office, accompanied by the Fatherand the Step-Daughter.
The Manager: Come on, come on,
ladies and gentlemen! Heh! you there, machinist!
Machinist. Yes sir?
The Manager: Fix up the white parlor with the floral decorations.
Two wings and a drop with a door will do. Hurry up!
The Machinist runs off at once to prepare the scene, and arranges it while
The Manager talks with the STAGE Manager, the Property Man, and the Prompter on
matters of detail.
The Manager (to Property Man): Just have a look, and see if there
isn't a sofa or divan in the wardrobe...
Property Man: There's the green one.
The Step-Daughter: No no! Green won't do.
It was yellow, ornamented with flowers - very large! arid most comfortable!
Property Man: There isn't one like that.
The Manager: It doesn't matter. Use the one we've got.
The Step-Daughter: Doesn't matter? it's most important!
The Manager: We're only trying it now. Please don't interfere.
(To Property Man): See if we've got a shop window - long and narrowish.
The Step-Daughter: And the little table! The little mahogany table for the
pale blue envelope!
Property Man (to Manager): There's that little gilt one.
The Manager: That'll do fine.
The Father: A mirror.
The Step-Daughter: And the screen! We must have a screen. Otherwise how
can I manage?
Property Man: That's all right, Miss. We've got any amount of them.
The Manager (to the Step-Daughter): We want some clothes pegs too,
The Step-Daughter: Yes, several, several!
The Manager: See how many we've got and bring them all.
Property Man: All right!
The Property Manhurries off to obey his orders.
While he is putting the things in their places, the Manager talks to the
Prompter and then with the Characters and the Actors.
The Manager (to Prompter): Take your seat. Look here: this is the
outline of the scenes, act by act.
(Hands him some sheets of paper): And now I'm going to ask you to do
something out of the ordinary.
Prompter: Take it down in shorthand?
The Manager (pleasantly
surprised): Exactly! Can you do shorthand?
Prompter: Yes, a little.
The Manager: Good!
to a Stage Hand): Go and get some paper from my office, plenty, as much as
you can find.
The Stage Hand goes off, and soon returns with a handful of paper which he
gives to the Prompter.
The Manager (to Prompter): You follow the scenes as we play them, and
try and get the points down, at any rate the most important ones.
(Then addressing the Actors): Clear the stage, ladies and gentlemen!
Come over here (Pointing to the left)
and listen attentively.
Leading Lady: But, excuse me, we...
The Manager (guessing her thought): Don't worry! You won't have to
Leading Man: What have we to do then?
The Manager: Nothing. For the moment you just watch and listen.
Everybody will get his part written out afterwards. At present we're going to
try the thing as best we can. They're
going to act now.
The Father (as if fallen from the clouds into the confusion of the
stage): We? What do you mean, if
you please, by a rehearsal?
The Manager: A rehearsal for them. (Points to the
The Father: But since we are the characters...
The Manager: All right: "characters" then, if you insist on calling
yourselves such. But here, my dear sir,
the characters don't act. Here the actors do the acting.
The characters are there, in the "book" (Pointing towards Prompter'S
box) - when there is a "book"!
The Father: I won't contradict you; but excuse me, the actors aren't the
characters. They want to be, they
pretend to be, don't they? Now if these
gentlemen here are fortunate enough to have us alive before them...
The Manager: Oh this is grand! You want to come before the public
The Father: As we are...
The Manager: I can assure you it would be a magnificent spectacle!
Leading Man: What's the use of us here anyway then?
The Manager: You're not going to pretend that you can act? It makes me
(The Actors laugh):
There, you see, they are laughing at the notion. But, by the way, I must cast
the parts. That won't be difficult.
They cast themselves.
(To the Second Lady Lead): You play the Mother.
(To the Father): We must find her a name.
The Father: Amalia, sir.
The Manager: But that is the real name of your wife. We don't want to call
her by her real name.
The Father: Why ever not, if it is her name?... Still, perhaps, if that lady
(Makes a slight motion of
the hand to indicate the
Second Lady Lead): I see this woman here (Means the Mother) as Amalia.
But do as you like.
(Gets more and more confused): I don't know what to say to you.
Already, I begin to hear my own words ring false, as if they had another
The Manager: Don't you worry about it. It'll be our job to find the right
tones. And as for her name, if you want
her Amalia, Amalia it shall be; and if you don't like it, we'll find another!
For the moment though, we'll call the characters in this way.
(To Juvenile Lead): You are the Son.
(To the Leading Lady): You naturally are the Step-Daughter...
The Step-Daughter (excitedly): What? what? I, that woman there? (Bursts
The Manager (angry): What is there to laugh at?
Leading Lady:(indignant): Nobody has ever dared to laugh at me.
I insist on being treated with respect; otherwise I go away.
The Step-Daughter: No, no, excuse me... I am not laughing at you...
The Manager (to Step-Daughter): You ought to feel honored to be
Leading Lady:(at once, contemptuously): "That woman there"...
The Step-Daughter: But I wasn't speaking of you, you know.
I was speaking of myself - whom I can't see at all in you! That is all. I don't
know... but... you... aren't in the least like me...
The Father: True. Here's the point. Look here, sir, our temperaments, our
The Manager: Temperament, soul, be hanged!
Do you suppose the spirit of the piece is in you? Nothing of the kind!
The Father: What, haven't we our own temperaments, our own souls?
The Manager: Not at all. Your soul or whatever you like to call it takes
shape here. The actors give body and
form to it, voice and gesture. And my
actors - I may tell you - have given expression to much more lofty material than
this little drama of yours, which may or may not hold up on the stage. But if it
does, the merit of it, believe me, will be due to my actors.
The Father: I don't dare contradict you, sir; but, believe me, it is a
terrible suffering for us who are as we are, with these bodies of ours, these
features to see...
The Manager (cutting him short and out of patience): Good heavens!
The make-up will remedy all that, man, the make-up...
The Father: Maybe. But the voice, the gestures...
The Manager: Now, look here! On the stage, you as yourself, cannot exist.
The actor here acts you, and that's an end to it!
The Father: I understand. And now I think I see why our author who
conceived us as we are, all alive, didn't want to put us on the stage after all.
I haven't the least desire to offend your actors. Far from it!
But when I think that I am to be acted by... I don't know by whom...
Leading Man (on his dignity):
By me, if you've no objection!
The Father (humbly, melliflously): Honored, I assure you, sir.
(Bows): Still, I must say that try as this gentleman may, with all his
good will and wonderful art, to absorb me into himself...
Leading Man: Oh chuck it! "Wonderful art!" Withdraw that, please!
The Father: The performance he will give, even doing his best with
make-up to look like me...
Leading Man: It will certainly be a bit difficult! (The
The Father: Exactly! It will be difficult to act me as I really am.
The effect will be rather - apart from the make-up - according as to how he
supposes I am, as he senses me - if he does sense me - and not as I inside of
myself feel myself to be. It seems to
me then that account should be taken of this by everyone whose duty it may
become to criticize us...
The Manager: Heavens! The man's starting to think about the critics now!
Let them say what they like. It's up to
us to put on the play if we can. (Looking around): Come on! come on! Is
the stage set?
(To the Actors and Characters): Stand back - stand back! Let me see, and
don't let's lose any more time!
(To the Step-Daughter): Is it all right as it is now?
The Step-Daughter: Well, to tell the truth, I don't recognize the scene.
The Manager: My dear lady, you can't possibly suppose that we can construct
that shop of Madame Pace piece by piece here?
(To the Father): You said a white room with flowered wall paper, didn't
The Father: Yes.
The Manager: Well then. We've got the furniture right more or less. Bring
that little table a bit further forward.
The Stage Hands obey the order.
The Manager (To Property Man): You go and find an envelope, if
possible, a pale blue one; and give it to that gentleman. (indicates Father)
Property Man: An ordinary envelope?
Manager and Father. Yes, yes, an ordinary envelope.
Property Man: At once, sir.
The Manager: Ready, everyone! First scene - the Young Lady.
(The Leading Lady comes forward): No, no, you must wait.
I meant her (indicating the Step-Daughter) You just watch -
The Step-Daughter (adding at once): How I shall play it, how I shall
(offended): I shall live it also, you may be sure, as soon as I begin!
The Manager (with his hands
to his head): Ladies and gentlemen, if you please! No more useless
discussions! Scene I: the young lady with Madame
(Looks around as if lost): And
this Madame Pace, where is she?
The Father: She isn't with us,
The Manager: Then what the devil's to be done?
The Father: But she is alive too.
The Manager: Yes, but where is she?
The Father: One minute. Let me speak!
(Turning to the Actresses): If these ladies would be so good as to give
me their hats for a moment...
The Actresses (half surprised, half laughing, in chorus): - What?
- Our hats?
- What does he say?
The Manager: What are you going to do with the ladies' hats?
The Actors laugh.
The Father: Oh nothing. I just
want to put them on these pegs for a moment. And one of the ladies will be so kind
as to take off her mantle...
The Actors: - Oh, what d'you
think of that?
- Only the mantle?
- He must be mad.
Some Actresses: - But why?
- Mantles as well?
The Father. To hang them up here for a moment. Please be so kind, will you?
The Actresses (taking off their hats, one or two also their cloaks, and
going to hang them on the racks):
- After all, why not?
- There you are!
- This is really funny.
- We've got to put them on
The Father: Exactly; just like that, on show.
The Manager: May we know why?
The Father: I'll tell you. Who knows if, by arranging the stage for her,
she does not come here herself, attracted by the very articles of her trade?
(Inviting the Actors to look towards the exit at back of stage): Look!
The door at the back of stage opens and Madame Pace enters and takes a few
steps forward. She is a fat, oldish woman with puffy oxygenated hair. She is rouged and powdered, dressed with a comical elegance in black silk.
Round her waist is a long silver chain from which hangs a pair of scissors.
The Step-Daughter runs over to her at once amid the stupor of the actors.
The Step-Daughter (turning towards her): There she is! There she is!
The Father (radiant): It's she! I said so, didn't I? There she is!
The Manager (conquering his surprise, and then becoming indignant):
What sort of a trick is this?
Leading Man (almost at the same time): What's going to happen
Juvenile Lead: Where does she come from?
L'Ingénue: They've been holding her in reserve, I guess.
Leading Lady: A vulgar trick!
The Father (dominating the protests): Excuse me, all of you!
Why are you so anxious to destroy in the name of a vulgar, commonplace sense of
truth, this reality which comes to birth attracted and formed by the magic of
the stage itself, which has indeed more right to live here than you, since it is
much truer than you - if you don't mind my saying so? Which is the actress among
you who is to play Madame Pace? Well,
here is Madame Pace herself. And you will allow, I fancy, that the actress who
acts her will be less true than this woman here, who is herself in person. You
see my daughter recognized her and went over to her at once.
Now you're going to witness the scene!
But the scene between the Step-Daughter and Madame Pace has already begun
despite the protest of the actors and the reply of The Father.
It has begun quietly, naturally, in a manner impossible for the stage. So when the actors, called to attention by The Father, turn round and see
Madame Pace, who has placed one hand under the Step-Daughter's chin to raise her
head, they observe her at first with great attention, but hearing her speak in
an unintelligible manner their interest begins to wane.
The Manager: Well? well?
Leading Man: What does she say?
Leading Lady: One can't hear a word.
Juvenile Lead: Louder! Louder please!
The Step-Daughter (leaving Madame Pace, who smiles a Sphinx-like
smile, and advancing towards the actors): Louder? Louder? What are you
talking about? These aren't matters which can be shouted at the top of one's
voice. If I have spoken them out loud,
it was to shame him and have my revenge.
(indicates Father): But for Madame it's quite a different matter.
The Manager: Indeed? indeed? But here, you know, people have got to make
themselves heard, my dear. Even we who
are on the stage can't hear you. What will it be when the public's in the
theatre? And anyway, you can very well
speak up now among yourselves, since we shan't be present to listen to you as we
are now. You've got to pretend to be alone in a room at the back of a shop where
no one can hear you.
The Step-Daughter coquettishly and with a touch of malice makes a sign of
disagreement two or three times with her finger.
The Manager: What do you mean by no?
The Step-Daughter (sotto voce, mysteriously): There's someone who
will hear us if she (indicating Madame Pace) speaks out loud.
The Manager (in consternation): What? Have you got someone else to
spring on us now?
The Actors burst out laughing.
The Father: No, no sir. She is alluding to me. I've got to be here - there behind
that door, in waiting; and Madame Pace knows it.
In fact, if you will allow me, I'll go
there at once, so I can be quite ready. (Moves away)
The Manager (stopping him): No! Wait! wait! We must observe the
conventions of the theatre. Before you are ready...
The Step-Daughter (interrupting him): No, get on with it at once!
I'm just dying, I tell you, to act this scene.
If he's ready, I'm more than ready.
The Manager (shouting): But, my dear young lady, first of all, we
must have the scene between you and this lady... (indicates Madame Pace)
Do you understand?...
The Step-Daughter: Good Heavens! She's been telling me what you know
already: that mamma's work is badly done again, that the material's ruined; and
that if I want her to continue to help us in our misery I must be patient...
Madame Pace (coming forward with an air of great importance): Yes
indeed, sir, I no wanta take advantage of her, I no wanta be hard...
Note. Madame Pace is supposed to talk in a jargon half Italian, half English.
The Manager (alarmed): What? What? She talks like that?
The Actors burst out laughing again.
The Step-Daughter (also laughing): Yes yes, that's the way she
talks, half English, half Italian! Most comical it is!
Madame Pace. Itta seem not verra polite gentlemen laugha atta me eef I trya
best speaka English.
The Manager: Diamine! Of course! Of course! Let her talk like that!
Just what we want. Talk just like that,
Madame, if you please! The effect will be certain.
Exactly what was wanted to put a little comic relief into the crudity of the
situation. Of course she talks like
The Step-Daughter: Magnificent? Certainly!
When certain suggestions are made to one in language of that kind, the effect is
certain, since it seems almost a joke.
One feels inclined to laugh when one hears her talk about an "old signore" "who
wanta talka nicely with you." Nice old
signore, eh, Madame?
Madame Pace. Not so old my dear, not so old! And even if you no lika him,
he won't make any scandal!
The Mother (jumping up amid the amazement and consternation of the
actors who had not been noticing her. They move to restrain her): You old
devil! You murderess!
The Step-Daughter (running over to calm her Mother): Calm yourself,
Mother, calm yourself! Please don't...
The Father (going to her also at the same time): Calm yourself! Don't
get excited! Sit down now!
The Mother: Well then, take that woman away out of my sight!
The Step-Daughter (to Manager): It is impossible for my mother to
The Father (to Manager): They can't be here together.
And for this reason, you see: that woman there was not with us when we came...
If they are on together, the whole thing is given away inevitably, as you see.
The Manager: It doesn't matter.
This is only a first rough sketch - just to get an idea of the various points of
the scene, even confusedly...
(Turning to the Mother and leading
her to her chair): Come along, my dear lady, sit down now, and let's get on
with the scene...
Meanwhile, the Step-Daughter,
coming forward again, turns to Madame Pace.
The Step-Daughter: Come on,
Madame, come on!
Madame Pace (offended): No, no, grazie. I not do anything witha your
The Step-Daughter: Nonsense! Introduce this "old signore" who wants to
talk nicely to me.
imperiously): We've got to do this scene one way or another, haven't we?
(To Madame Pace): You
Madame Pace. Ah yes! I go'way!
I go'way! Certainly!
The Step-Daughter (to the
Father): Now you make your entry. No, you needn't go over here. Come here.
Let's suppose you've already come in. Like that, yes! I'm here with bowed head,
modest like. Come on! Out with your
voice! Say "Good morning, Miss" in that peculiar tone, that special tone...
The Manager: Excuse me, but are you the Manager, or am I?
(To the Father, who looks undecided and perplexed): Get on with it, man!
Go down there to the back of the stage.
You needn't go off. Then come right forward here.
The Father does as he is told, looking troubled and perplexed at first. But as soon as he begins to move, the reality of the action affects him, and
he begins to smile and to be more natural.
The Actors watch intently.
The Manager (sotto voce, quickly to the Prompter in his box): Ready!
ready? Get ready to write now.
The Father (coming forward and speaking in a different tone): Good
The Step-Daughter (head bowed down slightly, with restrained disgust):
The Father (looks under her hat which partly covers her face.
Perceiving she is very young, he makes an exclamation, partly of surprise,
partly of fear lest he compromise himself in a risky adventure): Ah...
but... ah... I say... this is not the first time that you have come here, is it?
The Step-Daughter (modestly): No sir.
The Father: You've been here before, eh?
(Then seeing her nod agreement): More than once?
(Waits for her to answer, looks under her hat, smiles, and then says):
Well then, there's no need to be so shy, is there?
May I take off your hat?
The Step-Daughter (anticipating him and with veiled disgust): No
sir... I'll do it myself.
The Mother, who watches the progress of the scene with the Son and the other
two children who cling to her, is on thorns; and follows with varying
expressions of sorrow, indignation, anxiety, and horror the words and actions of
the other two. From time to time
she hides her face in her hands and sobs.
The Mother: Oh, my God, my God!
The Father (playing his part with a touch of gallantry): Give it to
me! I'll put it down.
from her hands): But a dear little head like yours ought to have a smarter
hat. Come and help me choose one from
the stock, won't you?
L'Ingénue (interrupting): I say... those are our hats you know.
The Manager (furious): Silence! silence! Don't try and be funny, if
you please... We're playing the scene
now I'd have you notice.
(To the Step-Daughter): Begin again, please!
The Step-Daughter (continuing): No thank you, sir.
The Father: Oh, come now. Don't talk like that. You must take it. I shall be
upset if you don't. There are some
lovely little hats here; and then - Madame will be pleased. She expects it,
anyway, you know.
The Step-Daughter: No, no! I couldn't wear it!
The Father: Oh, you're thinking about what they'd say at home if they saw
you come in with a new hat? My dear
girl, there's always a way round these little matters, you know.
The Step-Daughter (all keyed up): No, it's not that - I couldn't
wear it because I am... as you see... you might have noticed...
Showing her black dress.
The Father:... in mourning! Of course: I beg your pardon: I'm frightfully
The Step-Daughter (forcing herself to conquer her indignation and
nausea): Stop! Stop! It's I who must thank you.
There's no need for you to feel mortified or specially sorry. Don't think any
more of what I've said.
(Tries to smile): I must forget that I am dressed so...
The Manager (interrupting and turning to the Prompter): Stop a
minute! Stop! Don't write that down.
Cut out that last bit.
(Then to the
Father and Step-Daughter): Fine! it's going fine!
(To the Father only): And now you can go on as we arranged.
(To the Actors): Pretty good that scene, where he offers her the hat, eh?
The Step-Daughter: The best's coming now. Why can't we go on?
The Manager: Have a little patience!
(To the Actors): Of course, it must be treated rather lightly.
Leading Man: Still, with a bit of go in it!
Leading Lady: Of course! It's easy enough!
(To Leading Man): Shall you and I try it now?
Leading Man: Why, yes! I'll prepare my entrance.
Exit in order to make his entrance.
The Manager (to Leading Lady): See here! The scene between you and
Madame Pace is finished. I'll have it
written out properly after. You remain here... oh, where are you going?
Leading Lady: One minute. I want to put my hat on again. (Goes over to
hat-rack and puts her hat on her head):
The Manager: Good! You stay here with your head bowed down a bit.
The Step-Daughter: But she isn't dressed in black.
Leading Lady: But I shall be, and much more effectively than you.
The Manager (to Step-Daughter): Be quiet please, and watch! You'll
be able to learn something.
(Clapping his hands): Come on! come on! Entrance, please!
The door at rear of stage opens, and the Leading Man enters with the lively
manner of an old gallant. The
rendering of the scene by the Actors from the very first words is seen to be
quite a different thing, though it has not in any way the air of a parody. Naturally, the Step-Daughter and the Father, not being able to recognize
themselves in the Leading Lady and the Leading Man, who deliver their words in
different tones and with a different psychology, express, sometimes with smiles,
sometimes with gestures, the impression they receive.
Leading Man: Good afternoon, Miss...
The Father (at once unable to contain himself): No! no!
The Step-Daughter noticing the way
the Leading Man enters, bursts out laughing.
The Manager (furious): Silence! And you please just stop that
laughing. If we go on like this, we shall never finish.
The Step-Daughter: Forgive me, sir, but it's natural enough.
This lady (indicating Leading Lady) stands there still; but if she is
supposed to be me, I can assure you that if I heard anyone say "Good afternoon"
in that manner and in that tone, I should burst out laughing as I did.
The Father: Yes, yes, the manner, the tone...
The Manager: Nonsense! Rubbish!
Stand aside and let me see the action.
Leading Man: If I've got to represent an old fellow who's coming into a
house of an equivocal character...
The Manager: Don't listen to them, for Heaven's sake! Do it again! It
(Waiting for the Actors
to begin again): Well?
Leading Man: Good afternoon, Miss.
Leading Lady: Good afternoon.
Leading Man (imitating the gesture of the Fatherwhen he looked under
the hat, and then expressing quite clearly first satisfaction and then fear):
Ah, but... I say... this is not the first time that you have come here, is it?
The Manager: Good, but not quite so heavily. Like this.
(Acts himself): "This isn't the first time that you have come here"...
(To Leading Lady): And you say: "No, sir."
Leading Lady: No, sir.
Leading Man: You've been here before, more than once.
The Manager: No, no, stop! Let her nod "yes" first. "You've been here
The Leading Lady lifts up her head slightly and closes her eyes as though in
disgust. Then she inclines her head twice.
The Step-Daughter (unable to contain herself): Oh my God!
Puts a hand to her mouth to prevent herself from laughing.
The Manager (turning round): What's the matter?
The Step-Daughter: Nothing, nothing!
The Manager (to Leading Man): Go on!
Leading Man: You've been here before, eh? Well then, there's no need to be
so shy, is there? May I take off your hat?
The Leading Man says this last speech in such a tone and with such
gestures that the
Step-Daughter, though she has her hand to her mouth, cannot keep from
Leading Lady: (indignant): I'm not going to stop here to be made a
fool of by that woman there.
Leading Man: Neither am I! l'm through with it!
The Manager (shouting to Step-Daughter): Silence! for once and
all, I tell you!
The Step-Daughter: Forgive me! forgive me!
The Manager: You haven't any manners: that's what it is! You go too far.
The Father (endeavouring to intervene): Yes, it's true, but excuse
The Manager: Excuse what? It's absolutely disgusting.
The Father: Yes, sir, but believe me, it has such a strange effect
The Manager: Strange? Why strange? Where is it strange?
The Father: No, sir; I admire your actors - this gentleman here, this
lady; but they are certainly not us!
The Manager: I should hope not. Evidently they cannot be you, if they are
The Father: Just so: actors! Both of them act our parts exceedingly well.
But, believe me, it produces quite a different effect on us. They want to be us,
but they aren't, all the same.
The Manager: What is it then anyway?
The Father: Something that is... that is theirs - and no longer ours...
The Manager: But naturally, inevitably. I've told you so already.
The Father: Yes, I understand... I understand...
The Manager: Well then, let's have no more of it!
(Turning to the Actors): We'll have the rehearsals by ourselves,
afterwards, in the ordinary way. I
never could stand rehearsing with the author present. He's never satisfied!
(Turning to Fatherand Step-Daughter): Come on! Let's get on with it
again; and try and see if you can't keep from laughing.
The Step-Daughter: Oh, I shan't laugh any more. There's a nice little bit
coming for me now: you'll see.
The Manager: Well then: when she says "Don't think any more of what I've
said. I must forget, etc.," you (Addressing the Father): come in sharp
with "I understand, I understand"; and then you ask her...
The Step-Daughter (interrupting): What?
The Manager: Why she is in mourning.
The Step-Daughter: Not at all! See here: when I told him that it was
useless for me to be thinking about my wearing mourning, do you know how he
answered me? "Ah well," he said, "then let's take off this little frock."
The Manager: Great! Just what
we want, to make a riot in the theatre!
The Step-Daughter: But it's the truth!
The Manager: What does that matter? Acting is our business here. Truth up
to a certain point, but no further.
The Step-Daughter: What do you want to do then?
The Manager: You'll see, you'll see! Leave it to me.
The Step-Daughter: No sir! What you want to do is to piece together a
little romantic sentimental scene out of my disgust, out of all the reasons,
each more cruel and viler than the other, why I am what I am.
He is to ask me why I'm in mourning; and I'm to answer with tears in my eyes,
that it is just two months since papa died. No sir, no!
He's got to say to me; as he did say: "Well, let's take off this little dress at
once." And I; with my two months' mourning in my heart, went there behind that
screen, and with these fingers tingling with shame...
The Manager (running his hands through his hair): For Heaven's sake!
What are you saying?
The Step-Daughter (crying
out excitedly): The truth! The truth!
The Manager: It may be. I don't deny it, and I can understand all your
horror; but you must surely see that you can't have this kind of thing on the
stage. It won't go.
The Step-Daughter: Not possible, eh? Very well! I'm much obliged to you -
but I'm off!
The Manager: Now be reasonable! Don't lose your temper!
The Step-Daughter: I won't stop here! I won't! I can see you've fixed it
all up with him in your office. All
this talk about what is possible for the stage... I understand!
He wants to get at his complicated "cerebral drama," to have his famous remorses
and torments acted; but I want to act my part, my part!
The Manager (annoyed, shaking his shoulders): Ah! Just your part!
But, if you will pardon me, there are other parts than yours: His (indicating
the Father) and hers! (indicating the Mother)
On the stage you can have a character becoming too prominent and overshadowing
all the others. The thing is to pack
them all into a neat little framework and then act what is actable.
I am aware of the fact that everyone has his own interior life which he wants
very much to put forward. But the
difficulty lies in this fact: to set out just so much as is necessary for the
stage, taking the other characters into consideration, and at the same time hint
at the unrevealed interior life of each.
I am willing to admit, my dear young lady, that from your point of view it would
be a fine idea if each character could tell the public all his troubles in a
nice monologue or a regular one hour lecture.
(Good humoredly): You must restrain yourself, my dear, and in your own
interest, too; because this fury of yours, this exaggerated disgust you show,
may make a bad impression, you know.
After you have confessed to me that there were others before him at Madame
Pace's and more than once...
The Step-Daughter (bowing her head, impressed): It's true. But
remember those others mean him for me all the same.
The Manager (not understanding): What? The others? What do you
The Step-Daughter: For one who has gone wrong, sir, he who was
responsible for the first fault is responsible for all that follow. He is
responsible for my faults, was, even before I was born. Look at him, and see if
it isn't true!
The Manager: Well, well! And does the weight of so much responsibility
seem nothing to you? Give him a chance
to act it, to get it over!
The Step-Daughter: How? How can he act all his "noble remorses," all his
"moral torments," if you want to spare him the horror of being discovered one
day - after he had asked her what he did ask her - in the arms of her, that
already fallen woman, that child, sir, that child he used to watch come out of
She is moved.
The Mother at this point is overcome with emotion, and breaks out into a fit
All are touched.
A long pause.
The Step-Daughter (as soon as the Mothe rbecomes a little quieter, adds
resolutely and gravely): At present, we are unknown to the public. Tomorrow,
you will act us as you wish, treating us in your own manner.
But do you really want to see drama, do you want to see it flash out as it
The Manager: Of course! That's just what I do want, so I can use as much
of it as is possible.
The Step-Daughter: Well then, ask that Mother there to leave us.
The Mother (changing her low plaint into a sharp cry): No! No!
Don't permit it, sir, don't permit it!
The Manager: But it's only to try it.
The Mother: I can't bear it. I can't.
The Manager: But since it has happened already... I don't understand!
The Mother: It's taking place now. It happens all the time. My torment
isn't a pretended one. I live and feel
every minute of my torture. Those two children there - have you heard them
speak? They can't speak any more. They
cling to me to keep up my torment actual and vivid for me.
But for themselves, they do not exist, they aren't any more.
And she (indicating the Step-Daughter) has run away, she has left me, and
is lost. If I now see her here before
me, it is only to renew for me the tortures I have suffered for her too.
The Father: The eternal moment! She (indicating the Step-Daughter)
is here to catch me, fix me, and hold me eternally in the stocks for that one
fleeting and shameful moment of my life.
She can't give it up! And you sir, cannot either fairly spare me it.
The Manager: I never said I didn't want to act it.
It will form, as a matter of fact, the nucleus of the whoie first act right up
to her surprise. (indicates the Mother)
The Father: Just so! This is my punishment: the passion in all of us that
must culminate in her final cry.
The Step-Daughter: I can hear it still in my ears. It's driven me mad,
that cry! - You can put me on as you like; it doesn't matter. Fully dressed, if
you like - provided I have at least the arm bare; because, standing like this.
(She goes close to the Fathe rand leans her head on his breast): with my
head so, and my arms round his neck, I saw a vein pulsing in my arm here; and
then, as if that live vein had awakened disgust in me, I closed my eyes like
this, and let my head sink on his breast.
(Turning to the Mother): Cry out mother! Cry out!
(Buries head in Father's breast, and with her shoulders raised as if to
prevent her hearing the cry, adds in tones of intense emotion): Cry out as
you did then!
The Mother (coming forward to separate them): No! My daughter, my
(And after having pulled
her away from him): You brute! you brute! She is my daughter!
Don't you see she's my daughter?
The Manager (walking backwards towards footlights): Fine! fine!
Damned good! And then, of course - curtain!
The Father (going towards him excitedly): Yes, of course, because
that's the way it really happened.
The Manager (convinced and pleased): Oh, yes, no doubt about it.
Curtain here, curtain!
At the reiterated cry of The Manager, The Machinist lets the curtain down,
leaving The Manager and The Father in front of it before the footlights.
The Manager: The darned idiot! I said "curtain" to show the act should
end there, and he goes and lets it down in earnest.
(To the Father, while he pulls the curtain back to go on to the stage again):
Yes, yes, it.'s all right. Effect certain!
That's the right ending. I'll guarantee the first act at any rate.
Pirandello in English - Index
Six Characters in
Search of an Author
When the curtain goes up again, it is seen that the stage hands have shifted
the bit of scenery used in the last part, and have rigged up instead at the back
of the stage a drop, with some trees, and one or two wings.
A portion of a fountain basin is visible. The Mother is sitting on the right with the two children by her side. The Son is on the same side, but away from the others. He seems bored, angry, and full of shame. The Father and the Step-Daughter are also seated towards the right front. On the other side (left) are the Actors, much in the positions they occupied
before the curtain was lowered. Only the Manager is standing up in the middle of the stage, with his hand
closed over his mouth in the act of meditating.
The Manager (shaking
his shoulders after a brief pause): Ah yes: the second act!
Leave it to me, leave it all to me as we arranged, and you'll see! It'll go
The Step-Daughter: Our entry into his house (indicates
Father): in spite of him... (indicates the
The Manager (out of patience): Leave it to me, I tell you!
The Step-Daughter: Do let it be clear, at any rate, that it is in spite of
The Mother (from her corner, shaking her head): For all the good
that's come of it...
The Step-Daughter (turning towards her quickly): It doesn't
matter. The more harm done us, the more
remorse for him.
The Manager (impatiently): I understand! Good Heavens! I
understand! I'm taking it into account.
The Mother (supplicatingly): I beg you, sir, to let it appear
quite plain that for conscience' sake I did try in every way...
The Step-Daughter (interrupting indignantly and continuing for the
Mother):... to pacify me, to dissuade me from spiting him.
(To Manager): Do as she wants: satisfy her, because it is true!
I enjoy it immensely.Any how, as you can see, the meeker she is, the more she
tries to get at his heart, the more distant and aloof does he become.
The Manager: Are we going to begin this second act or not?
The Step-Daughter: I'm not going to talk any more now- But I must tell you
this: you can't have the whole action take place in the garden, as you suggest.
It isn't possible!
The Manager:. Why not?
The Step-Daughter: Because he (indicates the Son again)
is always shut up alone in his room.
And then there's all the part of that poor dazed-looking boy there which takes
The Manager: Maybe! On the other hand, you will understand - we can't
change scenes three or four times in one act.
The Leading Man. They used to once.
The Manager: Yes, when the public was up to the level of that child
The Leading Lady. It makes the illusion easier.
The Father (irritated):
The illusion! For Heaven's sake, don't say illusion. Please don't use that word, which is
particularly painful for us..
The Manager (astounded): And why, if you please?
The Father: It's painful, cruel, really cruel; and you ought to
The Manager: But why? What ought we to say then?
The illusion, I tell you, sir, which we've got to create for the audience...
The Leading Man. With our acting.
The Manager: The illusion of a reality.
The Father: I understand; but you, perhaps, do not understand us. Forgive
me! You see... here for you and your
actors, the thing is only - and rightly so... a kind of game...
The Leading Lady (interrupting indignantly): A game! We're not
children here, if you please! We are serious actors.
The Father: I don't deny it. What I mean is the game, or play, of
your art, which has to give, as the gentleman says, a perfect illusion of
The Manager: Precisely - !
The Father: Now, if you consider the fact that we (indicates himself
and the other five Characters), as we are, have no other reality outside of
The Manager (astonished, looking at his Actors, who are also amazed):
And what does that mean?
The Father (after watching them for a moment with a wan smile): As
I say, sir, that which is a game of art for you is our sole reality.
He goes a step
or two nearer the Manager and adds: But not only for us, you know, by the
way. Just you think it over well. (Looks
him in the eyes): Can you tell me who you are?
The Manager (perplexed, half smiling): What? Who am I? I am myself.
The Father: And if I were to tell you that that isn't true, because you
The Manager: I should say you were mad - ! (The
The Father: You're quite right to laugh: because we are all making
(To Manager): And
you can therefore object that it's only for a joke that that gentleman there (indicates
the Leading Man), who naturally is himself, has to be me, who am on the
contrary myself - this thing you see here.
You see I've caught you in a trap! (The Actors laugh):
The Manager (annoyed): But we've had all this over once before. Do
you want to begin again?
The Father: No, no! That wasn't
my meaning! In fact, I should like to request you
to abandon this game of art (looking at the Leading Lady as if anticipating
her) which you are accustomed to play here with your actors, and to ask you
seriously once again: who are you?
The Manager (astonished and irritated, turning to his Actors): If
this fellow here hasn't got a nerve! A
man who calls himself a character comes and asks me who I am!
The Father (with dignity, but not offended): A character, sir, may
always ask a man who he is. Because a
character has really a life of his own, marked with his especial
characteristics; for which reason he is always "somebody." But a man - I'm not
speaking of you now - may very well be "nobody."
The Manager: Yes, but you are asking these questions of me, the boss, the
manager! Do you understand?
The Father: But only in order
to know if you, as you really are now, see yourself as you once were with all
the illusions that were yours then, with all the things both inside and outside
of you as they seemed to you - as they were then indeed for you. Well, sir, if you think of all those
illusions that mean nothing to you now, of all those things which don't even
seem to you to exist any more, while once they were for you, don't you feel that
- I won't say these boards - but the very earth under your feet is sinking away
from you when you reflect that in the same way this you as you feel it today -
all this present reality of yours - is fated to seem a mere illusion to you
The Manager (without having
understood much, but astonished by the specious argument): Well, well!
And where does all this take us anyway?
The Father: Oh, nowhere! It's only to show you that if we (indicating
the Characters): have no other reality beyond the illusion, you too must not
count overmuch on your reality as you feel it today, since, like that of
yesterday, it may prove an illusion for you tomorrow.
The Manager (determining to make fun of him): Ah. excellent! Then
you'll be saying next that you, with this comedy of yours that you brought here
to act, are truer and more real than I am.
The Father (with the greatest seriousness): But of course; without
The Manager: Ah, really?
The Father: Why, I thought
you'd understand that from the beginning.
The Manager: More real than I?
The Father: If your reality can
change from one day to another...
The Manager: But everyone knows it can change. It is always changing, the
same as anyone else's.
The Father (with a cry): No, sir, not ours! Look here! That is the
very difference! Our reality doesn't
change: it can't change! It can't be other than what it is, because it is
already fixed for ever. It's terrible.
Ours is an immutable reality which should make you shudder when you approach us
if you are really conscious of the fact that your reality is a mere transitory
and fleeting illusion, taking this form today and that tomorrow, according to
the conditions, according to your will, your sentiments, which in turn are
controlled by an intellect that shows them to you today in one manner and
tomorrow... who knows how?... Illusions
of reality represented in this fatuous comedy of life that never ends, nor can
ever end! Because if tomorrow it were
to end... then why, all would be finished.
The Manager: Oh for God's sake, will you at least finish with this
philosophizing and let us try and shape this comedy which you yourself have
brought me here? You argue and
philosophize a bit too much, my dear sir... You know you seem to me almost,
(Stops and looks him over
from head to foot): Ah, by the way, I think you introduced yourself to me as
a - what shall... we say - a "character," created by an author who did not
afterward care to make a drama of his own creations.
The Father: It is the simple truth, sir.
The Manager: Nonsense! Cut that out, please!
None of us believes it, because it isn't a thing, as you must recognize
yourself, which one can believe seriously.
If you want to know, it seems to me you are trying to imitate the manner of a
certain author whom I heartily detest - I warn you - although I have
unfortunately bound myself to put on one of his works.
As a matter of fact, I was just starting to rehearse it, when you arrived.
(Turning to the Actors): And this is what we've gained - out of the
frying-pan into the fire!
The Father: I don't know to what author you may be alluding, but believe
me I feel what I think; and I seem to be philosophizing only for those who do
not think what they feel, because they blind themselves with their own
sentiment. I know that for many people this self-blinding seems much more
"human"; but the contrary is really true.
For man never reasons so much and becomes so introspective as when he suffers;
since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings, to learn who has
produced them, and whether it is just or unjust that he should have to bear
them. On the other hand, when he is happy, he takes his happiness as it comes
and doesn't analyze it, just as if happiness were his right.
The animals suffer without reasoning about their sufferings.
But take the case of a man who suffers and begins to reason about it.
Oh no! it can't be allowed! Let him suffer like an animal, and then - ah yet, he
The Manager: Look here! Look here! You're off again, philosophizing worse
The Father:. Because I suffer, sir! I'm not philosophizing: I'm crying aloud
the reason of my sufferings.
The Manager (makes brusque movement as he is taken with a new idea):
I should like to know if anyone has ever heard of a character who gets right out
of his part and perorates and speechifies as you do. Have you ever heard of a
case? I haven't.
The Father: You have never met such a case, sir, because authors, as a
rule, hide the labour of their creations.
When the characters are really alive before their author, the latter does
nothing but follow them in their action, in their words, in the situations which
they suggest to him; and he has to will them the way they will themselves - for
there's trouble if he doesn't. When a character is born, he acquires at once
such an independence, even of his own author, that he can be imagined by
everybody even in many other situations where the author never dreamed of
placing him; and so he acquires for himself a meaning which the author never
thought of giving him..
The Manager: Yes, yes, I know this.
The Father: What is there then to marvel at in us?
Imagine such a misfortune for characters as I have described to you: to be born
of an author's fantasy, and be denied life by him; and then answer me if these
characters left alive, and yet without life, weren't right in doing what they
did do and are doing now, after they have attempted everything in their power to
persuade him to give them their stage life. We've all tried him in turn, I, she
(indicating the Step-Daughter) and she. (indicating the Mother)
The Step-Daughter: It's true. I too have sought to tempt him, many, many
times, when he has been sitting at his writing table, feeling a bit melancholy,
at the twilight hour. He would sit in his armchair too lazy to switch on the
light, and all the shadows that crept into his room were full of our presence
coming to tempt him.
(As if she saw
herself still there by the writing table, and was annoyed by the presence of the
Actors): Oh, if you would only go away, go away and leave us alone - mother
here with that son of hers - I with that Child - that Boy there always alone -
and then I with him (just hints at the Father) - and then I alone,
alone... in those shadows!
sudden movement as if in the vision she has of herself illuminating those
shadows she wanted to seize hold of herself): Ah! my life! my life! Oh, what
scenes we proposed to him - and I tempted him more than any of the others!
The Father: Maybe. But perhaps
it was your fault that he refused to give us life: because you were too
insistent, too troublesome.
The Step-Daughter: . Nonsense! Didn't he make me so himself?
(Goes close to the Manager to tell him. as if in confidence): In my
opinion he abandoned us in a fit of depression, of disgust for the ordinary
theatre as the public knows it and likes it.
The Son: Exactly what it was, sir; exactly that!
The Father: Not at all! Don't believe it for a minute. Listen to me!
You'll be doing quite right to modify, as you suggest, the excesses both of this
girl here, who wants to do too much, and of this young man, who won't do
anything at all.
The Son: No, nothing!
The Manager: You too get over the mark occasionally, my dear sir, if I
may say so.
The Father: I? When? Where?
The Manager: Always! Continuously!
Then there's this insistence of yours in trying to make us believe you are a
character. And then too, you must
really argue and philosophize less, you know, much less.
The Father: Well, if you want to take away from me the possibility of
representing the torment of my spirit which never gives me peace, you will be
suppressing me: that's all. Every true man, sir, who is a little
above the level of the beasts and plants does not live for the sake of living,
without knowing how to live; but he lives so as to give a meaning and a value of
his own to life. For me this is everything.
I cannot give up this, just to represent a mere fact as she (indicating the
Step-Daughter) wants. It's all very
well for her, since her "vendetta" lies in the "fact." I'm not going to do it.
It destroys my raison d'être.
The Manager: Your
raison d'être! Oh, we're going ahead fine! First she starts off, and then
you jump in. At this rate, we'll never
The Father: Now, don't be offended! Have it your own way - provided,
however, that within the limits of the parts you assign us each one's sacrifice
isn't too great.
The Manager: You've got to
understand that you can't go on arguing at your own pleasure. Drama is action, sir, action and not
The Father: All right.
I'll do just as much arguing and philosophizing as everybody does when he is
considering his own torments.
The Manager: If the drama permits! But for Heaven's sake, man, let's get
along and come to the scene.
The Step-Daughter: It seems to me we've got too much action with our
coming into his house.
Father): You said, before, you couldn't change the scene every five minutes.
The Manager: Of course not. What
we've got to do is to combine and group up all the facts in one simultaneous,
close-knit, action. We can't have it as
you want, with your little brother wandering like a ghost from room to room,
hiding behind doors and meditating a project which - what did you say it did to
The Step-Daughter: Consumes him, sir, wastes him away!
The Manager: Well, it may be. And then at the same time, you want the
little girl there to be playing in the garden... one in the house, and the other
in the garden: isn't that it?
The Step-Daughter: Yes, in the
sun, in the sun! That is my only pleasure: to see her happy and careless in the
garden after the misery and squalor of the horrible room where we all four slept
together. And I had to sleep with her - I, do
you understand? - with my vile contaminated body next to hers; with her folding
me fast in her loving little arms. In the garden, whenever she spied me, she
would run to take me by the hand. She didn't care for the big flowers,
only the little ones; and she loved to show me them and pet me.
The Manager: Well then, we'll have it in the garden.
Everything shall happen in the garden; and we'll group the other scenes there.
(Calls a Stage Hand): Here, a backcloth with trees and something to do as
a fountain basin.
(Turning round to
look at the back of the stage): Ah, you've fixed it up. Good!
(To Step-Daughter): This is just to give an idea, of course.
The Boy, instead of hiding behind the doors, will wander about here in the
garden, hiding behind the trees... But
it's going to be rather difficult to find a child to do that scene with you
where she shows you the flowers.
to the Boy): Come forward a little, will you please? Let's try it now! Come
along! come along!
(Then seeing him come shyly forward, full of fear and looking lost): It's
a nice business, this lad here. What's
the matter with him? We'll have to give him a word or two to say.
(Goes close to him, puts a hand on his shoulders, and leads him behind one of
the trees): Come on! come on! Let me see you a little! Hide here... yes,
like that. Try and show your head just a little as if you were looking for
(Goes back to observe the
effect, when the boy at once goes through the action): Excellent!
(Turning to Step-Daughter):
Suppose the little girl there were to surprise him as he looks round, and run
over to him, so we could give him a word or two to say?
The Step-Daughter: It's useless to hope he will speak, as long as that
fellow there is here...
the Son): You must send him away first.
The Son (jumping up): Delighted! Delighted! I don't ask for anything
Begins to move away.
The Manager (at once stopping him): No! No! Where are you going? Wait
The Mother gets up alarmed and terrified at the thought that he is really
about to go away. Instinctively
she lifts her arms to prevent him, without, however, leaving her seat.
The Son (to Manager who stops him): I've got nothing to do with this
affair. Let me go please! Let me go!
The Manager: What do you mean by saying you've got nothing to do with this?
The Step-Daughter (calmly, with irony): Don't bother to stop him: he
won't go away.
The Father: He has to act the terrible scene in the garden with his
The Son (suddenly resolute and with dignity): I shall act nothing
at all. I've said so from the very beginning.
(To the Manager): Let me go!
The Step-Daughter (going over to the
Manager): Allow me?
(Puts down the
Manager's arm which is restraining the Son): Well, go away then, if you want
(The Son looks at her with
contempt and hatred. She laughs and says): You see, he can't, he can't go
away! He is obliged to stay here,
indissolubly bound to the chain. If I,
who fly off when that happens which has to happen, because I can't bear him - if
I am still here and support that face and expression of his, you can well
imagine that he is unable to move. He has to remain here, has to stop with that
nice father of his, and that mother whose only son he is.
(Turning to the Mother): Come on, mother, come along!
(Turning to Manager to indicate her): You see, she was getting up to keep
(To the Mother, beckoning
her with her hand): Come on! come on!
(Then to Manager): You can imagine how little she wants to show these
actors of yours what she really feels; but so eager is she to get near him
that... There, you see? She is willing to act her part.
And in fact, the Mother approaches him; and as soon as the Step-Daughter has
finished speaking, opens her arms to signify that she consents.
The Son (suddenly): No! no! If I can't go away, then I'll stop here;
but I repeat: I act nothing!
The Father (to Manager excitedly): You can force him, sir.
The Son: Nobody can force me.
The Father: I can.
The Step-Daughter: Wait a minute, wait... First of all, the baby has to
go to the fountain...
Runs to take
the Child and leads her to the fountain.
The Manager: Yes, yes of course; that's it. Both at the same time.
The second Lady Lead and the Juvenile Lead at this point separate themselves
from the group of Actors.
watches the Motherattentively; the other moves about studying the movements and
manner of the Son whom he will have to act.
The Son (to Manager): What do you mean by both at the same time? It
isn't right. There was no scene between
me and her. (indicates the Mother) Ask her how it was!
The Mother: Yes, it's true. I had come into his room...
The Son: Into my room, do you understand? Nothing to do with the garden.
The Manager: It doesn't matter. Haven't I told you we've got to group the
The Son (observing the
studying him): What do you want?
The Juvenile Lead: Nothing! I was just looking at you.
The Son (turning towards the second Lady Lead): Ah! she's at it
too: to re-act her part! (indicating the Mother)
The Manager: Exactly! And it seems to me that you ought to be grateful to
them for their interest.
The Son: Yes, but haven't you yet perceived that it isn't possible to live
in front of a mirror which not only freezes us with the image of ourselves, but
throws our likeness back at us with a horrible grimace?
The Father: That is true, absolutely true. You must see that.
The Manager (to second Lady Lead and Juvenile Lead): He's right! Move
away from them!
The Son: Do as you like. I'm out of this!
The Manager: Be quiet, you, will you? And let me hear your mother!
(To Mother): You were saying you had entered...
The Mother: Yes, into his room, because I couldn't stand it any longer.
I went to empty my heart to him of all the anguish that tortures me... But as
soon as he saw me come in...
The Son: Nothing happened! There was no scene. I went away, that's all! I
don't care for scenes!
The Mother: It's true, true. That's how it was.
The Manager: Well now, we've got to do this bit between you and him. It's
The Mother: I'm ready... when you are ready.
If you could only find a chance for me to tell him what I feel here in my heart.
The Father (going to Son in
a great rage): You'll do this for your mother, for your mother, do you
The Son (quite determined):
I do nothing!
The Father (taking hold of him and shaking him): For God's sake,
do as I tell you! Don't you hear your
mother asking you for a favor? Haven't you even got the guts to be a son?
The Son (taking hold of the Father): No! No! And for God's sake
stop it, or else...
General agitation. The
Mother, frightened, tries to separate them.
The Mother (pleading): Please! please!
The Father (not leaving hold of the Son): You've got to obey, do you
The Son (almost crying from rage): What does it mean, this madness
Have you no decency, that you insist on showing everyone our shame? I won't do
it! I won't! And I stand for the will
of our author in this. He didn't want to put us on the stage, after all!
The Manager: Man alive! You came here . .
The Son (indicating Father): He did! I didn't!
The Manager: Arent't you here now?
The Son: It was his wish, and he dragged us along with him.
He's told you not only the things that did happen, but also things that have
never happened at all.
The Manager: Well, tell me then what did happen. You went out of your
room without saying a word?
The Son: Without a word, so as to avoid a scene!
The Manager: And then what did you do?
The Son: Nothing... walking in the garden... (Hesitates for a moment
with expression of gloom):
The Manager (coming closer to him, interested by his extraordinary
reserve): Well, well... walking in the garden...
The Son (exasperated): Why on earth do you insist? It's horrible!
The Mother trembles, sobs, and looks towards the fountain.
The Manager (slowly observing the glance and turning towards the Son
with increasing apprehension): The baby?
The Son: There in the fountain...
The Father (pointing with tender pity to the Mother): She was
following him at the moment...
The Manager (to the Son anxiously): And then you...
The Son: I ran over to her; I was jumping in to drag her out when I saw
something that froze my blood... the boy standing stock still, with eyes like a
madman's, watching his little drowned sister, in the fountain!
The Step-Daughter bends over the
fountain to hide the Child. She sobs.
The Son: Then...
A revolver shot rings out behind
the trees where the boy is hidden.
The Mother (with a cry of terror runs over in that direction together
with several of the Actors amid general confusion): My son! My son!
(Then amid the cries and exclamations one hears her voice): Help! Help!
The Manager (pushing the Actors aside while They lift up the boy and
carry him off): Is he really wounded?
Some Actors. He's dead! dead!
Other Actors: No, no, it's only make believe, it's only pretence!
The Father (with a terrible cry): Pretence? Reality, sir, reality!
The Manager: Pretence? Reality? To hell with it all! Never in my life has
such a thing happened to me. I 've lost
a whole day over these people, a whole day!
Pirandello in English - Index
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