Article Title

Pirandello's Sei Personaggi and Expressive Form


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Comparisons between Luigi Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d' autore (Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921, 1925) and Greek tragedy are common, with Sei personaggi representing "modem" or "contemporary" tragedy, and, indeed, it would seem that the drama's world-view resembles that described by Rachel Bespaloff and George Dimock for Homeric epic upon which many of the Greek tragedies are based. Bespaloff's view of the Homeric gods as the cause of everything that happens and as taking no responsibility and the epic heroes as taking "total responsibility even for that which they have not caused" is certainly applicable to Pirandello's "characters" who, in trying to survive in a world not of their creation, take responsibility for those drives that make possible their survival.1 However, in so doing, rather than take on the world-view and values of a Zeus-centered cosmos, they take on the values of a world ruled by a Prime Mover who, in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, is dead and whose accredited dogmas in science and religion are, as David Hilbert and Matthew Arnold indicate, under assault. The shift from a vertical to a horizontal perspective, which in Renaissance humanism had prompted changes in design and unity and made possible modem tragedy, was again calling for revision. As Erich Auerbach notes of the earlier shift, the lessened significance of "the complex of [man's] Fall, of Christ's birth and passion, and of the Last Judgment" permitted artists to treat more "varied phenomena" and to conceive of a world which was "everywhere interdependent, so that every chord of human destiny arouse[d] a multitude of voices to parallel and ,contrary motion." They did so in works that had "a specific human action as [their] center" and "derive[d their] unity from that center," tending either inductively to set up multiple actions to mirror parallel or opposing motions or deductively "to accept antiquity as an absolute model" by which contemporary action might be controlled, ordered, and given a shape and a significance.2

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