Luigi Pirandello



  • (1867 - 1936) Italian dramatist, actor, critic, novelist,and short-story writer. With Strindberg, Ibsen, Chekhov, and Shawhe is considered one of the founders of the 20th-century theatricaltradition. His philosophy of the absurdity of human existence strucka chord with the disillusioned generation of the 1920s: "I thinkthat life is a very sad piece of buffoonery" he wrote, adding"My art is full of bitter compassion for all those who deceivethemselves..." In their reaction against realism Pirandello'sworks have had a major influence on French drama, particularly onthe Theatre of the Absurd that developed after World WarII.

    Born in Sicily, he attended universities in Palermo and Romeand received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Bonn.In 1894 marriage to the daughter of a wealthy sulphur merchant gavehim the security to write; this, however, proved shortlived as thefamily lost all their money in a mine disaster in 1903 and Pirandellowas obliged to take a lecturing post. Over the following years hiswife became mentally ill, developing a persecution mania and a franticjealousy of her husband. He cared for her at home for 15 years beforeshe was confined in a sanatorium.

    Although Pirandello's first play, L'epilogo, was producedin 1910, he did not find success on the stage until 1917, when RightYou Are (If You Think So), a dramatization of one of his shortstories, was performed. Like many of his later works, this proclaimedthe relativity of truth, undermining the whole notion of objectivereality.

    Pirandello's most famous work, Six Characters in Searchof an Author, had its premiere in Rome in 1921 and was producedthe following year in both London and New York. Its paradoxical explorationof the relationship between theater and reality was continued in twomore plays, Each in His Own Way (1924) and Tonight We Improvise(1929). In 1922 he wrote the powerful tragedy, Henry IV, whichexamines the concepts of sanity and madness; it was first seen inLondon in 1925 and in New York in 1947.

    In 1925 Pirandello established his own company at the TeatroOdescalchi, Rome, with Ruggero Ruggeri (1871 - 1953) and MartaAbba (1900 - 88) as its leading players. He produced and directedhis own plays at the theater and toured Europe and America with thecompany. In 1934 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.