LUIGI PIRANDELLO

 

Personal Life

-         born in 1867

-         in the ancient town of Agrigento, Sicily

-         studied in Rome and later at the University of Bonn

-         1891 received philosophy and philology degree Bonn

-         earned his doctorate in philosophy

-         1894, married (without meeting) Antonietta Portulano

-         settled in Rome

-         three children

-         from 1897 to 1922 he was professor of aesthetics and stylistics

o       at Real Instituto di Magistere Femminile at Rome

-         financial worries

-         wife's physical and mental health worries; she died in 1918

-         should have been institutionalized but Pirandello instead kept her at home for 17 years during which she insanely terrorized him and his three children

-         profound effect on Pirandello's writing

o        imposed madness, illusion, and isolation in many of his plays

-         in 1919, with financial success of his plays, able to send Antonietta to private sanitarium

-         sense of tragedy and disillusionment so prevalent in his works is primarily the result of a personal experience

-         met the actress Marta Abba, for whom he wrote most of his later plays

-         Pirandello died in 1936

-         Pirandello¹s death celebrated with state funeral in spite of instructions for his funeral

-         "When I am dead, do not clothe me. Wrap me naked in a sheet. No flowers on the bed and no lighted candle. A pauper's cart. Naked. And let no one accompany me, neither relatives nor friends. The cart, the horse, the coachmen, e basta. Burn me." 1

-         church opposed cremation and the Fascist Party refused to allow him a pauper¹s death, his wishes were ignored

-         plays live on after his death, influence extended to Beckett and Ionesco.

 

 

 

 

Professional Life

-         poet in youth

-         translated Goethe's Roman elegies as first creative effort

-         met Sicilian novelist Capuana, and then focused attention on naturalistic fiction

-          Pirandello's works include novels, hundreds of short stories, and c. 40 plays, some of which are written in Sicilian dialect

o       The Outcast (1893) first novel

§         contained the roots of things that would appear in his later writing

-         wrote novels and short stories for 30 years before becoming playwright

o       The Late Mattia Pascal in 1904

o       story of a man who shams death

o       tries in vain to begin life again under another name

-         turned short stories into one-act plays to become dramatist

o       Novelle per un Anno 

§         collected edition of 365 short stories, one for each day year

-         during World War I took dramatic writing seriously

-         Pirandello wrote nine plays in one year, including his first three plays

o       including Better Think Twice About It! and Liola (each written in less than a week)

o       and Right You Are! (If You Think So) (1916)

§         establishes the difficulty of knowing the truth and the need for kindness in human relations

§         two people hold contradictory notions about the identity of a third person

o       As Before, Better than Before (1920)

o       Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921)

§         a fantasy which comments on the limits of the conventional stage and the mystery of the human personality

§         sprang suddenly into fame

§         brought Pirandello to prominence

§         six characters that have been created by their author but left in an unfinished drama arrive at a rehearsal of a Pirandello play

§         they proceed to convince the director to allow them to perform their drama for him

§         in the process, Pirandello shows the difference between the characters and the real actors who try to imitate them

§         introduced in this play the design with which all his subsequent plays deal to a greater or lesser extent

§         the ambiguous relationship between reality and belief

§         Six Characters expounds theory

§         dramatizes artistic process of creation

§                     “analysis and dissolution of a unified self are carried to an extreme in Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921) [Six Characters in Search of An Author] where the stage itself, the symbol of appearance versus reality, becomes the setting of the play.”3

o       Henry IV (1922)

§         a seeming madman is encouraged to believe that he is a Holy Roman Emperor

§         largely influenced by his wife's illness

§         contains themes of madness, illusion and isolation

§         12  years later protagonist wakes out of his delusion, but continues to feign insanity when he realizes that he prefers the stability of his world to the vagaries of the real world

§         play ends with the death of lover, and Henry IV continues with the pretense of madness in order to escape punishment

§         imagination and reality are strangely confused

o       Each in His Own Way (1924)

o       As You Desire Me (1930)

§         concerning a lady whose identity is in doubt

o       Tonight We Improvise (1930)

-         1924 Pirandello became an important public figure, received Legion of Honor in Paris

-         1925 opened Art Theatre in Rome

-         supported by Mussolini

-         relationship to the dictator created controversy

-         openly known that Pirandello supported fascism

o       1923, Pirandello requested membership in the Fascist party

-         out of practicality? in order to advance his career?

-         known for statement, "I am a Fascist because I am an Italian."2

-         critics see play The Giants of the Mountain as start of his realization about anti-cultural aspects of fascism

-         on his last appearance in New York, Pirandello voluntarily issued a statement supporting Italy's annexation of Abyssinia

-         received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934

-         handed his Nobel medal over to the Italian government to be melted down for the Abyssinian campaign

-         attitudes expressed in L'Umorismo [Humour], an early essay (1908), are fundamental to all of Pirandello's plays

-         his characters attempt to fulfill their self-seeking roles and are defeated by life itself which, always changing, enables them to see their perversity

-         Pirandello's humour is an irony which arises from the contradictions inherent in life

 

 

Themes

-         investigated questions of reality, identity, intention, and sanity

-         said in different ways, that a human personality cannot and must not be violated, that its true nature cannot really be known

-         best-known play, Six Characters, turns upon the ineffective efforts of actors to interpret a difficult family tragedy

-         found both comic and tragic qualities in such problems

-         always preoccupied with the problem of identity

-         “self exists to Pirandello only in relation to others; it consists of changing facets that hide an inscrutable abyss”4

-         Pirandello shows how art or illusion mixes with reality and how people see things in very different way

-         reality is at the same time is true and false

-         tragic farces seen as forerunners for theatre of the absurd

o       "A man will die, a writer, the instrument of creation: but what he has created will never die! And to be able to live for ever you don't need to have extraordinary gifts or be able to do miracles. Who was Sancho Panza? Who was Prospero? But they will live for ever because - living seeds - they had the luck to find a fruitful soil, an imagination which knew how to grow them and feed them, so that they will live for ever." 5

-         also connection to theatre of the grotesque

-         Pirandello's influence can be seen on such European and American writers as Jean Anouilh, Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, Eugene O'Neill, and Edward Albee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Pirandello Biography. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/pirandel.htm. © 2000

Originally published in European Theories of the Drama. New York: Crown Publishers, 1947.

 

LUIGI PIRANDELLO (1867-1936): A biography of the Italian dramatist.

http://www.theatrehistory.com/italian/pirandello001.html. © 2002 TheatreHistory.com. This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort and Herbert S. Kates. New York. Grosset and Dunlap, 1935. p. 124

 

Biography of Luigi Pirandello: About Luigi Pirandello. http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/sixcharacters/ Smith, J. N. "ClassicNotes: Six Characters in Search of an Author." GradeSaver.com. 21 February 2000. GradeSaver. 21 March 2005 <http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/sixcharacters/>.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969 .

http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1934/pirandello-bio.html

 

ENDNOTES

 

1.      Biography of Luigi Pirandello: About Luigi Pirandello. http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/sixcharacters/ Smith, J. N. "ClassicNotes: Six Characters in Search of an Author." GradeSaver.com. 21 February 2000. GradeSaver. 21 March 2005 <http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/sixcharacters/>.

2.      IBID.

3.      http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1934/pirandello-bio.html. From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969 .This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures.

4.      IBID.

5.      Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/pirandel.htm