Pace and the Step-Daughter's scene ensues irrespective of the Actors' protest, beginning "in a manner impossible for the stage." They speak inaudibly, with indifference to their increasingly bored spectators. Recall that, as the Father insists within the fiction of this play, the Characters would not play their parts as live them before their audience. Pace and the Step-Daughter's silent exchange, marked by Pace's enigmatically "Sphinx-like" smile, would represent the reality that falls outside the conventional theater. This reality is not that of life but that of the Characters' drama. If the Step-Daughter spoke loudly out of revenge, she now speaks of matter that demand restraint. The drama demands the betrayal of convention. Pirandello profits greatly from this contrast between the Actors and Manager concerned with the conventional success of the spectacle and the Characters bent on realizing their drama. This contrast underpins the comic effect of the stereotypically egoistic Leading Lady, for example, who insists, that she will wear black more effectively than the Step- Daughter, who wears it in mourning. Or take, for another example, the Manager's glee at the "comic relief" Pace's accent adds to the crudity of the situation in contrast to the Step-Daughter reflection that it makes a bitterly ironic joke out of the affair.

At the same time, the play cannot be reduced to a simple opposition between drama the Characters would live out and the spectacle and Actors would perform. Consider here how the drama's rehearsal complicates their relation. The Father, as if driven by the "reality of the action," begins the second scene. It seems to unfold naturally, enacting another myth of theater: here the Characters have come to life to live out their story. At the same time, this scene is itself a spectacle, a play within a play. Its spectacular nature is made clear through the figure of the watching Mother, a Mother who, in the drama, should not be able to see these events. Much as Pirandello does in his preface, the Father attributes the Mother with a "mental deafness." Likened to an animal making "mute appeals," she is defined by instinct and feeling alone. Within Pirandello's universe, she is nature without mind. Her function is to bear the effect in the Characters' drama: the pathos of her situation even moves the sardonic players. Before the spectacle, the martyred Mother almost assumes the role of a chorus. Her forms of spectatorship would cue the audience's responses at the level of effect. Thus, "on thorns," she shows "varying expressions of sorrow, indignation, anxiety, and horror."

In spite of the Mother, the Characters' spectacle is not watched properly. Instead, its spectators break the frame, first with the comic interjection of the Ingénue, who protests the use of her hat, and then with the Manager's call for the actors' rehearsal. This second rehearsal, an imitation of the first, then follows with the most explicit enactment of the "mirror theater" thus far. The Manager orders the Characters to stand aside, to stop interposing their spectacle with the one he is staging. Following the rehearsal of the Characters' drama, the scene can only suffer the inferior status of a "copy." For the Characters, the scene is "estranging"—it has, as the Step-Daughter remarks, a "strange effect." Thus, though not a parody, it can only elicit the Father's frustrated protest and the Step-Daughter's anxious laughter.

PLUS

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