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Living Masks

Living Masks: The Achievement of Pirandello

  • Book Info
    Living Masks
    Book Description:

    Umberto Mariani presents a clear and comprehensive introduction of Pirandello's major plays for general readers, students, and scholars new to Pirandello.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8850-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: The ‘Pirandellian’ Character
    (pp. 3-12)

    In the structure of the most representative works of Pirandello, the major works of his maturity, a fundamental opposition recurs with increasing clarity between those characters who question or reject the values and conditions to which their society is determined to bind them – with its customs, its prejudices, its philistinism, its self-assurance, its claim to knowledge and superior wisdom – and the representatives and supporters of that society. This is the opposition through which the quintessential ‘Pirandellian’ character is revealed.

    ‘Pirandellian’ characters, thus, are those who, as silent victims or open rebels, are set in opposition to the bourgeois characters who...

  5. 2 Liolà: Beyond Naturalism
    (pp. 13-25)

    On first reading,Liolàmight easily be perceived as a play in which naturalistic elements are strong, a play in which Pirandello returns to his earlier stylistic sources. For a long time scholars have persisted in seeing it in this light.¹ Furthering this impression are the facts that it was first written in Sicilian dialect, in the years in which Nino Martoglio was continually urging Pirandello to write for a vernacular theatre that he and his associates were trying to revitalize, and that the actor who was to play Liolà was Angelo Musco, whose acting technique was unquestionably naturalistic. Accordingly,...

  6. 3 Right You Are, if You Think You Are: The Reality of Appearances
    (pp. 26-33)

    InLiolàthe problem of the opposition between appearances and reality inspired the creation of a vividly imagined character, whose personality ‘humoristically’ dramatizes the reconciliation of two apparently opposing elements, a lighthearted gaiety and a wise shrewdness. Presumably mutually exclusive, they are in fact, as we have seen, complementary and interdependent. This opposition, which is resolved within the character in a functional moral relativism, also manifests itself outwardly in Liolà’s clash with a world professing social norms based on moral absolutes but too often in conflict with them in daily practice, a conflict that causes social discord and a great...

  7. 4 Six Characters: The Tragic Difficulty of Human Communication
    (pp. 34-50)

    ApproachingSix Charactersby way of Pirandello’s earlier masterpieces makes its major themes easier to understand. There is, we even recognize, more than one Laudisi eager to help us interpret them. But it is clear from the outset that this is a far more complex play than the preceding ones, and far more original in form vis-à-vis the bourgeois theatre of the turn of the century. This is the first of a group of plays (includingEach in His Own Way,Tonight We Improvise, and, possibly,The Mountain Giants) in which Pirandello deals with the art of the theatre. The...

  8. 5 The ‘Powerful Logic’ of Henry IV
    (pp. 51-59)

    In his well-known and perceptive essay on ‘The Theatre of Luigi Pirandello,’ Adriano Tilgher concludes his discussion ofHenry IVwith the observation that ‘the structure of the tragedy is such that the stages of its development ... pass before our eyes in a swift and relentless succession of scenes, bound together by a profound and powerful logic.’¹ Tilgher’s thorough knowledge of Pirandello’s theatre and his keen insight are uncommon, however, and audiences as well as critics of this play have often failed to perceive the ‘profound and powerful logic’ of its development, its thematic richness, and its greatness as...

  9. 6 Each in His Own Way: Mutability and Permanence in Life and Art
    (pp. 60-72)

    Each in His Own Way, the second play of the ‘theatre trilogy,’ returns to and develops further some of the themes, situations, and innovative theatrical techniques first brought into play inSix Characters; it is at least equal in importance to the earlier work in the revolution Pirandello effected in the theatre of our time.

    InSix Charactersthe family melodrama served as an occasion for quite another drama, the drama of characters in search of their author, which is to say, of definitive artistic form, the most powerful form of communication, without which their life is impossible. InEach...

  10. 7 Opposing Aims of the Artist’s Vocation in The Mountain Giants
    (pp. 73-88)

    LikeSix Characters,Each in His Own Way, and Pirandello’s last major work,The Mountain Giants,Tonight We Improvisedeals with the problem of art, and of the theatre in particular, dramatizing the problem of the authorship of a dramatic work. A theatrical company rebels against the overwhelming domination of its director, refusing to be ‘puppets in his hands’ (I 215). They complain that his intrusions and impositions act as a sudden, unexpected cold shower on the warmth of their acting whenever they succeed in entering their character and in living and suffering his or her passions the way the...

  11. 8 Pirandello in Our Time
    (pp. 89-118)

    One of the most important writers of the twentieth century, Pirandello is one of the primary sources of its thought and its literature, and unquestionably the primary source of twentieth-century theatre. Without him there may well have been no experimental or avant-garde theatre during the thirties and forties, no Epic Theatre, no existentialist theatre, no Theatre of the Absurd,¹ no Living Theatre.² His work continues to influence playwrights, fiction writers, and film-makers to this day.

    There are at least two reasons for Pirandello’s profound influence, an influence far more enduring than that of his perhaps more sensational successors. To make...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 119-132)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 133-144)
  14. Index
    (pp. 145-150)