Henry IV (Pirandello)

masks in henry iv by pirandello

what are some of the meanings of the masks in the play henry iv by pirandello?

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THE MAIN IDEA behind most of Pirandello’s plays is that

life is fluid and indefinable and that man uses reason to give

life definition. But, because life is indefinable such concepts

are illusions. Man is sometimes aware of this illusionary

nature of his concepts, but “anything without structure fills

him with dread and uncertainty.” The drama that Pirandello

created from this idea is usually described with reference to

the face and the mask. The face represents the complex

suffering of the individual; the mask represents the external

form and social laws. For Pirandello, all social institutions and systems of thought—from

religion and law to philosophy and morality—are ways in which society creates a mask, fixing

the face of man by classifying him. As well as the mask being put on the face by the external

world, Pirandello believed that it could often be the construct of internal demands. The mask

can sometimes be literal, as in his play Six Characters in Search of an Author, or take the form

of costumes, make-up and props, as in Henry IV. It can also be a metaphorical concept.