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Six Characters in Search of an Author

Luigi Pirandello

Act II: Part Two

Act II: Part One

Act II: Part Two, page 2

page 1 of 2

Father asks the Actresses to hang their hats and mantles on the set's clothes pegs. By putting them on show, they will lure Madame Pace with the very articles of her trade. Pace appears from the rear. The Leading Lady denounces this "vulgar trick." Father wonders why the actors are so anxious to destroy the "magic of the stage itself," a true magic, in the name of a "vulgar, commonplace sense of truth."

Pace's scene with Step-Daughter begins before Father finishes. When the actors see that the two speak unintelligibly, their interest wanes. They urge them to speak more loudly. Turning from the "Sphinx-like smile" of Pace, Step- Daughter replies that they cannot discuss such matters loudly; if she once spoke loudly, it was to shame Father. The Manager protests that the audience will not hear them and they must pretend that they are in a backroom, unheard by anyone. The Step-Daughter disagrees and the Father waits behind the door and might overhear. Father moves into position, and the Manager stops him. They must observe the "conventions of the theater"—they must first have the scene between the two women. Dying to play her scene, Step-Daughter protests that Pace has only told her what they already know—that Mamma's work is badly done again, that she must be patient.

Pace comes forward, saying, "Yes indeed sir, I no wanta take advantage of her." The actors erupt in laughter. The Manager finds the comic relief of her accent in such a crude situation magnificent. Step-Daughter agrees, since "suggestions" made in such language seem almost a joke. Suddenly Mother leaps up, denouncing Pace. The Actors restrain her. Step-Daughter and Father insist that Mother be removed: she cannot be with Pace. Insisting that their rehearsal is but a rough sketch, the Manager leads Mother to her chair. Now Pace, however, furiously refuses to proceed with Mother present. Step-Daughter imperiously orders her away and, to the Manager's annoyance, calls for the scene.

Though initially perplexed, the Father becomes more natural as the "reality of the action" affects him. Father cautiously greets the young prostitute and gallantly takes her hat and offers her a new one. The Ingénue protests that those are theirs. The Mother is "on thorns," showing "varying expressions of sorrow, indignation, anxiety, and horror." Conquering her nausea, Step- Daughter protests that she cannot wear one as she is in mourning. The Manager interrupts, asks the Prompter to cut the last bit, and calls the Leading Man and Lady to play the same scene. Step-Daughter protests that the Lady is not wearing black and she replies that she will be and "much more effectively" that her. The Manager invites the Characters to watch and learn.

Though in no way giving a parody, the actors' scene is quite different. Father protests, and Step-Daughter bursts out laughing when upon the first "Good afternoon." The Manager orders them to stand aside so he can see the action. He makes a few interjections in the scene, adding gestures, and lines. To the actors' indignation, Step-Daughter bursts into laughter again. Father begs their pardon, as it produces such a "strange effect" to watch. While the Actors are admirable, they are not the Characters.


Whereas Act I stages the retelling of the Characters' drama, Act II stages its rather botched rehearsal. This rehearsal would consist of two scenes: a dialogue between the Step-Daughter and Madame Pace and then the encounter between Step- Daughter and Father. The strangest action of the rehearsal is undoubtedly the birth of Madame Pace through the medium of the actresses' coats and hats. An adherent to the standards of plausibility discussed earlier, the Leading Lady denounces the conjuring as a "vulgar trick": it breaks the verisimilitude of theatrical illusion. Or, even worse, such an expedient device betrays a weakness in playwriting. Though Pirandello describes Pace's birth as a duplication of her birth in his fantasy, the Father characterizes it rather as an exercise in the very magic of the stage. In a work concerned with reflecting on its own medium, Pace's birth evokes the mythic origins of theater—that of rite, ritual, and ceremony, the coats and mantles on show serving as the scene's talismans. As with the Characters, theater would enable crossings from the other world. Equipped with a pair of shears and "puffy oxygenated hair," Pace is almost a comic Fate.

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