Pirandello, the Sacred, and the Death of Tragedy


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

When it is noticed at all, Pirandello's last, unfinished play I giganti della montagna (Mountain Giants) is described vaguely: as a culmination of his themes, or an existential manifesto, or a myth about the aesthetic imagination. While these generalizations may apply, they minimize an important set of ideas arising out of the dynamic relation between "inner" and "outer" dramas, that chief structural feature recurring in all of the theater plays. Quite predictably, many of these ideas subsume Pirandello's well known preoccupations with the existence of multiple realities, the theatricality of consciousness, and the creative process. They also, however, reflect a purpose more mystical than is implied by the loose term 'myth.' Clues to Pirandello's mystical bent at the time appear in biographical notes; in his strange essay about the sacred origins of Italian theater written as the Preface to a book on the subject;1 as well as in his other late plays on the theme of immortality. Even the submerged models I once identified for Pirandello's mage in this play - Shakespeare's Prospero and Nietzsche's Zarathustra - contribute to a sense of the play's mystical intentions, for I iganti is atypically and densely allusive to other works, including his own.2 To abbreviate lengthy explication here, let me propose that the play subscribes to the modern mode which Elinor Fuchs has called the "mysterium."3

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.