Six Characters in Search of an Author (_Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore_) is the most famous and celebrated play by the Italian writer Luigi Pirandello. Pirandello, in the preface to the play, says that whenever a reader opens Dante’s _Inferno_, Francesca will drift down from the dark wind in her circle of Hell and tell the Pilgrim her story; and it will always be for the first time – just as the Mother in Pirandello’s play at one point makes an agonizing cry, always for the first time. Each character sees events and the other characters differently. Their readings of reality do not match up. No one character is more correct than the other. There are as many versions of the story as there are characters in the play. Each character is in fact many characters; each has a sense of who he or she is, but each also is what the others believe he or she is. The play suggests that we are more victims of forces we cannot control than captains of our own fate and demonstrates Pirandello’s conception that in place of a continuous ego, self or “I” are states of mind, masks or personae; the temporary result of forces brought to bear on us at that moment. The self becomes an anthology of such roles or masks. Theatricalists thought life was more like theater than vice versa. As in theater, we put on and take off masks, try out various roles, and make up our lives as we go along.
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