Six Characters in Search of an Author

Six Characters in Search of an Author Summary and Analysis of Act III

Act Three

The setting for the second act of the six character's drama is set in a garden outside the father's house. The manager is about to have them start but keeps trying to alter the scene. When the characters protest he is shocked to learn from the father that the characters have no reality outside of what they are performing for him. He then tells the manager that it is most unfortunate for them, because they were created and then denied life by having the author leave his work unfinished. The father then begs the manager not to alter them too much as he writes down the play, claiming that it would destroy them as characters.

The manager alters the plot enough so that it will fit into the garden scene, for example putting the young boy behind a tree instead of inside the house. The manager tries to get the boy to speak, but the step-daughter informs him that as long as the son in present, neither of the children will say anything. The son, happy to have the chance to leaves, tries to go and is forcibly stopped by the manager. The step-daughter laughs and tells the manager that the son cannot leave even if he wants to.

They then start to play the scene, and the step-daughter quickly puts the young girl near the fountain. The mother goes to the son and starts to talk to him, but the son, in order to avoid an argument, leaves her and goes into the garden. He sees the young girl, in the fountain, drowned. From behind the tree the young boy has pulled out his revolver and he shoots himself. The mother runs towards him screaming, and the manager, now unsure of what is real or not, orders the play to end. The curtain closes.


Pirandello deals here with the immutability of reality for the characters. There is a conflict of life versus form, where the characters are forms. These forms imprison them into the action they were imagined for, and it is involuntary for them to be what they are. Thus the son tries to escape his form, but cannot leave the stage. This contrasts with Pirandello's previous work, Henry IV, where Henry at least can choose to remain in his role. Here the Mother and Son struggle against their forms, but are unable to leave and must play their parts.

This final moment of drama is primarily an attempt to disintegrate the stage reality. The sense of illusion with respect to reality is challenged, and the manager and his actors are left unsure whether what they witnessed really happened or whether it was all acting. Of course, both interpretations are accurate, because for the characters it was real whereas for the actors it is a scene that can be played again. Pirandello is saying that the tradition of reality in the theater is false.