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No Country for Old Men

The Search for Value (1920-1930) Pirandello, Six Characters Luigi Pirandello, appropriately enough, was born in Kaos, Sicily. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. He was a playwright who was highly innovative. And one of his most famous plays, his Six Characters in Search of an Author, it was written in 1921, the same year as Wittgenstein's Tractatus. When it was premiered at Rome, there was a riot. People did not recognize it as a play. It moved to Milan, where it was a great success. There are a number of themes in Pirandello's writing, not only in this play but in his others. One is disappointment; not only after the first World War, but really at, in some sense, the human condition itself. The bankruptcy of social norms. We all live by norms that are general for our society and then imposed on us by our particular social role. There isn't much behind those, he thinks. And his works have to do with their collapse. There's a hopeless emptiness. His characters often express this sense that there really isn't anything behind life, anything that gives it meaning. He sees reality as irrational. It has no order, it has no structure. It is really contradictory and ultimately unknowable. For that reason, there is no such thing as objectivity. There is not even predictability in the world. He's denying here some of the most important theses of the Enlightenment. Truth, the idea that there is objective truth. And knowledge, that we're capable of knowing it. He says there is no objective truth. And if there were, we couldn't know it. He turns this attitude as well to the self. There is no clear identity to the self. In fact, I really am a kind of construct, a kind of mask or set of masks that the conscious mind constructs. There's a mysterious multiplicity to me and to all of us. And in fact, the self is really highly plastic. It adapts to circumstance. I play different roles. I change myself. I change the mask I wear depending upon the role I'm playing. What am I truly underneath? Perhaps nothing. Whatever it is, is pretty well unknowable. We do get glimpses of it, he says, but we can't bear to look for very long. We get a variety of perspectives as we adopt various roles, as we adopt various masks. And so there isn't much unity to the self at all. Pirandello himself talks about what's going on in Pirandello's works. "I think that life is a very sad piece of buffoonery; because we have in ourselves, without being able to know why, wherefore, or whence, the need to deceive ourselves constantly by creating a reality, one for each and never the same for all, which from time to time is discovered to be vain and illusory. My art is full of bitter compassion for all

those who deceive themselves. But this compassion cannot fail to be followed by the ferocious derision of destiny which condemns man to deception." His plays then are full of ferocious derision. He makes fun of characters. They're very funny plays. They're full of bitter compassion, though. He cares about the characters. And really, they are in positions that we all too easily could be in. We are all in the same boat. He's giving us a version of a two-level theory. The conscious mind here is a set of masks that we construct as appearances. They hide an intolerable subconscious reality. That image suggests Freud. And indeed, he's borrowing some ideas from Freud here. The conscious mind is really a construct into which the subconscious periodically bubbles very disruptively. On the other hand, he differs from Freud in a number of ways. Freud thinks he can give you a theory of what's happening at the subconscious level. Pirandello says, no, there's nothing really that counts as objective truth, and what's going on there is highly irrational. No one can give a theory of it. Another important difference is that it's not just one conscious mind that is trying to act on the basis of a reality principle, as in Freud. The conscious mind is really a set of masks. We construct them. They're appearances that we project onto ourselves. But, and here's the third difference, sometimes they slip. Sometimes we see through to the underlying reality. And when we do that, we're shocked and we cover it up again. For Freud, something like that can only go on in dreaming. But for Pirandello, it happens in what later authors will call absurd experiences where we suddenly see the reality underneath things and we're shocked and we withdraw. Another important theme here is that we are authors of our own realities, of our own meanings. There is no meaning to life that's simply given by life or by the world. Meaning is something we project onto the world. We are the authors of our own lives, of our own realities. As I've said, sometimes these masks that constitute us slip. When that happens, he says, we have to confront the truth. We can bear to confront it but only briefly and only up to a point. So the masks are important not only for the rest of the world but for ourselves. Let's look at the beginning of the play. It nicely illustrates the interplay between absurdity and self-reference that goes on in Pirandello. The leading man says to the manager, "excuse me, but must I absolutely wear a cook's cap?" The manager, annoyed, says, "well, I imagine so. It says so there anyway." And he points to the book, to the script. The leading man says, "but it's ridiculous." The manager jumps up in a rage. "Ridiculous, ridiculous! Is it my fault if France won't send us any more good comedies? We're reduced to putting on Pirandello's works where nobody understands anything and where the author plays the fool with us all." Well, the actors grin. The manager goes to the leading man, and he shouts, "yes, sir! You put on that cook's cap. You beat eggs! Do you suppose that with all this egg-beating business, you're on an ordinary stage?

precepts without concepts are blind. at this point. become the puppet of yourself. You represent the shell of the eggs you're beating. the intolerable reality. But there's actually a serious philosophical point being made here. And so indeed we are something like the shell of the eggs. it's funny. there's no knowledge that can come from that. "will you oblige me by going away? We haven't time to waste with mad people. once these characters have come in and asked to put on their own play on the stage. Your wife is instinct." Well. reason. Another important theme is absurdity. "well. It's sure to be a glorious failure anyway. We have to bring our concepts together with our perceptions of the world. "the empty form of reason without the fullness of instinct. Emotion all by itself without reason is blind. please. for a joke. according to which you. which is to create credible situations in order that they may appear true." The actors look hurt and perplexed. And so we've got to bring the two together. There's a phrase from Kant." The idea is that the conceptual apparatus we use for understanding the world. "I say that to reverse the ordinary process may well be considered a madness. "So our profession seems to you unworthy of mad men. "Silence. He says. All of our characters. neither do I. We're giving life to ." says the manager." The manager says. And so we indeed are just like eggs where we've crafted our own shells. That's what each of us is doing. gentlemen. he says. we have to bring reason and instinct and emotion together. But let's get on with it." Again. "oh. sir. But there's a serious philosophical point being made underneath. if you will. all of our personalities are constructed by these masks that really are there to hide the goo inside. together with experience. Do you understand?" Leading man says. But permit me to observe that if this be madness. strangely enough.Get that out of your head. there's nothing we can gain from that either. You stand for reason. The manager gets up and looks at him. And so the manager here is saying. and then our actual perceptions of the world. as it were. that is our mission. what the devil is he talking about?" The father says. And yet. who act your own part. it's the sole raison d'etre of your profession. without emotion. If we have simply sensations. The manager at one point says. "well. "I'm hanged if I do. "Listen to my explanations. the actors laugh. our experience of the world. There's another explanation or analogy that emerges here. You represent the shell of the eggs you're beating. if we just look at concepts. It's a mixing up the parts. to actually obtain knowledge. Reason is empty without passion. without instinct. then?" And the father says." And the father among these characters says. They're empty. you know well that life is full of infinite absurdities which. to give life to a fantastic character." The manager says. "well." To the leading man. have to come together to produce knowledge. which is blind. isn't that your mission. "concepts without precepts are empty. gentlemen? To give life to fantastic characters on the stage?" In a sense. to make seem true that which isn't true without any need. do not even need to appear plausible since they're true.

Basically. really. as he. "each of us when he appears before his fellows is clothed in a certain dignity. The father says. I'm not really like that. All of us behave differently when we're around different people and playing different roles. but it's many-sided. in the conscience that I have. Diverse consciences. and we think that's all that's going on. There can be many other dimensions. And we're hiding from ourselves and from everyone else the truth underneath. that each one of us has. That's just one dimension of them. it doesn't exist. and mortal. creating thus for the rest of the world a reality which we believe after their fashion. that's not fair. we catch only glimpses of them. because we realize this is a deadly serious matter. each of us has multiple consciences. sir. "we too find ourselves strange to one another." Within our own hearts. in other words. to hide them from ourselves." There is a demon. We think we have a unique personality. We believe this conscience to be a single thing." At some point. for one particular thing. all of their lives are summed up in one particular action. for we lack the necessary humility. And so we construct these masks to hide those things from others." indicating the son. things we would never want to talk to someone else about. I may behave in different ways. actually. We have this illusion of being one person. But every man knows what unconfessable things pass within the secrecy of his own heart. he says. Vain gloriously. it becomes impossible to create certain states of happiness. "For the drama lies all in this. But sometimes things happen. I project a different part of my personality. The father says. Pirandello leaves us in a condition of mortal desolation. But none of that is true. And indeed. Pirandello says. sometimes we perceive that not all of us was in that particular act. Sometimes things startle us and make us realize. there are unconfessable things. we try to substitute ourselves for the faith. And sometimes we see this. Well. plays different roles." It's not just that each of us has a distinct conscience. figures from popular culture. really is a tool we use to hide our true natures from ourselves. a variety of people whose deeds-. of a variety of kinds. All of their deeds. We're acting our own part. The father continues. Desolation. as if all our existence were summed up in that one deed. in every one of us. that it's expressed in what we do. because we recognize that we can't face our true selves. .who are known. There's a variety of historical figures who come to mind. Actually. hey. the characters begin demanding that the manager let them put on the play and that the manager actually act as author. "scornfully said of the demon of experiment that unfortunately hides in me. Ordinarily. There is one for this person and another for that. For each one of us has his own reality to be respected before God. I am someone who wears different masks. And so conscience arises. this is who I am. even when it's harmful to one's very self. Pirandello shares the loss of faith that we've described as affecting many of the post-World War I authors. What are those truths? Well. There are secrets of the heart. And in fact. We're acting our own lives. And so our condition is one of mortal desolation. we just think. which is the revenge.ourselves as a character. The father says. And that it would be an atrocious injustice to judge us by that action alone. um. We find we are living in an atmosphere of mortal desolation. "Doth. there are secrets. you see that when faith is lacking. wait a minute.

Why not?" "Because I've never been an author. "then why not turn author now? Everybody does it. We can accept truth up to a certain point but no further. We are all authoring our lives throughout by constructing those masks that constitute our personalities."look here. We are the authors of our own lives. P.) CHARACTERS of the Comedy in the Making THE FATHER THE MOTHER . 1. Six Characters 2. you." Indeed. 1922. LUIGI PIRANDELLO English version by Edward Storer Six Characters in Search of an Author A COMEDY IN THE MAKING (Source: New York: E. but no further. you must be the author. and we realize that there are unconfessable and horrible things underneath them. "but it's the truth. "yes. "what does that matter? Acting is our business here. No Country for Old Men The Search for Value (1920-1930) Pirandello. Truth up to a certain point. Dutton." And the manager responds. But sometimes the masks slip. The stepdaughter at one point says." Again." The father says. in response to a discussion. you. but we cannot tolerate it. Your task is made much easier by the fact that we're all here alive before you." The manager. We construct the masks that make up our personalities that we project to the world and to ourselves. what might seem to be a joke is making a deep point. Please read the following material. So we glimpse that truth. Readings are required and you may be tested on them. we see it. "I? What are you talking about?" The father says. We can accept truth up to a certain point but no further. we are all the authors of our own lives. You don't want any special qualities. on Pirandello's view. that's why.

The performance is interrupted once. The Comedy is without acts or scenes. the stage hands let the curtain down. Two other small tables and several chairs scattered about as during rehearsals. . without the curtain being lowered.THE STEP-DAUGHTER THE BOY THE CHILD (The last two do not speak) THE SON MADAME PACE ACTORS of the Company THE MANAGER LEADING LADY LEADING MAN SECOND LADY L'INGÉNUE JUVENILE LEAD OTHER ACTORS AND ACTRESSES PROPERTY MAN PROMPTER MACHINIST MANAGER'S SECRETARY DOOR-KEEPER SCENE-SHIFTERS Daytime. The Stage of a Theatre N. when The Manager and the chief characters withdraw to arrange the scenario. It will be half dark. B. ACT I The spectators will find the curtain raised and the stage as it usually is during the day time. A second interruption of the action takes place when. Prompter's box and a small table and chair for The Manager. by mistake. so that from the beginning the public may have the impression of an impromptu performance. and empty.

] The baize doors at the rear. Principal exit to right. They are about to rehearse a Pirandello play: Mixing it Up. and opens the "book. The PROMPTER who has the "book" under his arm. Exit rear to Leo's bedroom. and curtains. Yes sir. Finally. is waiting for The Manager in order to begin the rehearsal. [Il giuoco delle parti. All right! The Prompter [continuing to read from the "book"]. Book-shelves. [Turning to actor who is to play the part of SOCRATES. nine or ten in all. [To PROPERTY MAN. yes. all except the three who are to begin the rehearsal. then another.] The Manager [clapping his hands]. "Leo Gala's house.] The Prompter [reading the "book"]. some sitting. some standing. . please! Property Man.] Let's have a little light." The Manager [to PROPERTY MAN].] Some of the company move off towards their dressing rooms. another cons his part. you understand: The principal exit over there.] [The ACTORS and ACTRESSES go from the front of the stage to the wings. through which he glances. A curious room serving as dining-room and study." The Manager [throwing a letter down on the table]. His SECRETARY brings him his mail. The PROMPTER takes his seat. I can't see [To PROPERTY MAN. Exit left to kitchen. Come along! Come along! Second act of "Mixing It Up." The Manager [energetically]. One perhaps reads a paper.The ACTORS and ACTRESSES of the company enter from the back of the stage: first one. here. Property Man [noting it down]. [A light comes down on to the stage. chat and smoke. at once. Red set. Well. turns on a light." [Sits down.] You make your entrances and exits here. The ACTORS and ACTRESSES. the MANAGER enters and goes to the table prepared for him. Fix up the old red room. "Table already laid and writing desk with books and papers. the kitchen. then two together.

You stand for reason. is beating another egg. may I get into my box? There's a bit of a draught. also dresesd as a cook. your wife is instinct. I'm hanged if I do. The Manager. It's sure to be a glorious failure anyway. Right! Prompter [reading as before]. according to which you who act your own part become the puppet of yourself. Yes. It says so there anyway. yes." Leading Man [To MANAGER].] Yes sir. "When the curtain rises. Excuse me. Guido Venanzi is seated and listening. please! [To LEADING MAN. Pardon sir. and the public that won't be able to hear you. of course! . Do you suppose that with all this egg-beating business you are on an ordinary stage? Get that out of your head. please face three-quarters. and where the author plays the fool with us all? [The ACTORS grin. Ridiculous? Ridiculous? Is it my fault if France won't send us any snore good comedies. It's a mixing up of the parts. The Manager. you put on the cook's cap and beat eggs."] Leading Man. Come on! come on! Prompter. Philip.] Silence! and listen to my explanations.] But I say. which is blind. But let's get on with it. You represent the shell of the eggs you are beating! [Laughter and comments among the ACTORS.] "The empty form of reason without the fullness of instinct.Property Man [noting it down]. what with the abstruseness of the dialogue. I imagine so. But it's ridiculous! The Manager [jumping up in a rage]. [Confidentially. Do you understand? Leading Man. dressed in cook's cap and apron is busy beating an egg in a cup. Otherwise. Leo Gala. where nobody understands anything." -. and we are reduced to putting on Pirandello's works. Neither do I. the whole thing will go to hell. THE MANAGER goes to LEADING MAN and shouts. but must I absolutely wear a cook's cap? The Manager [annoyed]. [Pointing to the "book.

At this point. the DOOR-KEEPER has entered from the stage door and advances towards THE MANAGER's table. oval-shaped eyes. Excuse me. very clear and piercing. THE STEP-DAUGHTER. During this manoeuvre. He who is known as THE FATHER is a man of about 50: hair. falling over his still fresh mouth. so that when the DOOR-KEEPER is about to announce their coming to THE MANAGER. with a black silk sash at the waist. She shows contempt for the timid halffrightened manner of the wretched BOY (14 years old. Wears light trousers and a dark jacket. A tenuous light surrounds them. When she lifts this. THE MOTHER seems crushed and terrified as if by an intolerable weight of shame and abasement. something of the dream lightness in which they seem almost suspended. He is alternatively mellifluous and violent in his manner. severe in his attitude of contempt for THE FATHER. She is dressed in modest black and wears a thick widow's veil of crêpe. Eh? What is it? . almost as if irradiated by them -. They preserve. . however. taking off his braided cap. she reveals a wax-like face. almost impudent. He looks as if he had come on the stage against his will. but this does not detract from the essential reality of their forms and expressions. however.the faint breath of their fantastic reality. he is not bald. This light will disappear when they come forward towards the actors. the Six CHARACTERS enter. with an especially wide forehead. The Manager [rudely]. she displays a lively tenderness for her little sister. thin at the temples. they are already on the stage. THE CHILD (about four). She always keeps her eyes downcast. beautiful. and stop by the door at back of stage. Door-keeper [cap in hand]. which often opens in an empty and uncertain smile. and also dressed in black). She wears mourning too. supercilious and indifferent to THE MOTHER. He has blue. . sir . is dashing. He is fattish. but with great elegance. who is dressed in white. reddish in colour. on the other hand. THE SON (22) tall. thick moustaches. pale.

These people are asking for you. An author? What author? The Father. The Manager. half amazed]. We may be your fortune. . . Oh. The Manager. please? What do you want? The Father [coming forward a little. you know well that life is full of infinite absurdities. do you hear that? The Father [to STEP-DAUGHTER]. But there's no author here. The Manager. for Heaven's sake. So much the better. . . so much the better! We can be your new piece. Any author. but if the author isn't here . which. sir. An Actor [coming forward from the others]. we have come here in search of an author . Oh sir. The Step-Daughter [vivaciously].] Who are you. The Step-Daughter.Door-keeper [timidly]. . sir. As a matter of fact . . Will you oblige me by going away? We haven't time to waste with mad people. The Manager [half angry. The Manager [furious]. . . You are trying to be funny. No. I am rehearsing. followed by the others who seem embarrassed]. sir. [To MANAGER. since they are true. .] unless you would be willing . strangely enough. The Father. Yes. what are you saying? We bring you a drama. The Father [mellifluously]. We are not rehearsing a new piece. do not even need to appear plausible. and you know perfectly well no one's allowed to come in during rehearsals! [Turning to the CHARACTERS.

without any need . who were crying out that you had no time to lose with madmen. gentlemen: to give life to fantastic characters on the stage? The Manager [interpreting the rising anger of the COMPANY].] The Manager. So our profession seems to you one worthy of madmen then? The Father. you said . to living beings more alive than those who breathe and wear clothes: beings less real perhaps. while no one better than yourself knows that nature uses the instrument of human fantasy in order to pursue her high creative purpose. No. but truer! I agree with you entirely. as tree. . or as woman. I meant it for you. the playwrights give us stupid comedies to play and puppets to represent instead of men. If today. So one may also be born a character in a play. satisfied. Isn't that your mission. my dear sir.] The Father [interrupting furiously]. in order that they may appear true.] The Manager [getting up and looking at him]. . that the profession of the comedian is a noble one. as butterfly. perfectly. What the devil is he talking about? The Father. Exactly.but where does all this take us? The Father. The Father. Well. in many shapes. [The ACTORS look hurt and perplexed. . it is the sole raison d'être of your profession. excuse me. I say that to reverse the ordinary process may well be considered a madness: that is. to make seem true that which isn't true .The Manager. . The Manager. But what do you mean? Before. gentlemen. But I would beg you to believe. as things go. Nowhere! It is merely to show you that one is born to life in many forms. . as water. sir. remember we are proud to have given life to immortal works here on these very boards! [The ACTORS. -. for a joke as it were . . or as stone. Very well. . to create credible situations. But permit me to observe that if this be madness. . . applaud their MANAGER. [The ACTORS look at one another in amazement.

look here. that the author who created us alive no longer wished. . but his creation does not germs as they were -they had the fortune to find a fecundating matrix.] For Heaven's sake. the instrument of the creation will die. as you can guess from this woman here veiled in black. And to live for ever. the writer. that is the word! [To MANAGER all at once. Believe me. it does not need to have extraordinary gifts or to be able to work wonders. gentlemen. Are you not accustomed to see the characters created by an author spring to life in yourselves and face each other? Just because there is no "book" [Pointing to the PROMPTER'S box. you know. we . Oh. side-tracked however. Who was Sancho Panza? Who was Don Abbondio? Yet they live eternally because -. sir.] which contains us. or was no longer able. And this was a real crime. The Step-Daughter [advances towards MANAGER. The Father. . because we carry in us a drama. . I marvel at your incredulity. Leading Actor. Yes. a fantasy which could raise and nourish them: make them live for ever! . coming forward]. I am sorry you laugh. chuck it! Get away please! Clear out of here! [To PROPERTY MAN. The Manager [losing patience at last and almost indignant]. because he who has had the luck to be born a character can laugh even at death. that is. sir. and alive as you see! [MANAGER and ACTORS burst out laughing. Exactly. The man. We come here to work. One cannot let oneself be made such a fool of. materially to put us into a work of art. So you and these other friends of yours have been born characters? The Father.] The Father [hurt]. turn them out! The Father [resisting]. The Father [determined.] In the sense. He cannot die.The Manager [with feigned comic dismay]. smiling and coquettish]. The Manager [roaring]. we are really six most interesting characters. . no. you refuse to believe . No.

Our inner passion drives us on to this. and we are the drama. There is one for this person.] The drama is in us. The Manager [annoyed]. I've no objection. Exactly! That is just why we have come to you. . And where is the "book"? The Father. We believe this conscience to be a single thing. No. of having a personality that is unique in all our acts. in something we do. Look here! look here! The comedy has to be made. Then we perceive that all of us was not .The Manager. suspended. Just listen to him! Leading Lady. tragically perhaps. So we have this illusion of being one person for all. we can soon concert it among ourselves. But what do you want to concert? We don't go in for concerts here. sir. The Manager [ironically]. in you. . Here we play dramas and comedies! The Father. caught up in the air on a kind of hook. It is in us! [The ACTORS laugh. For Eternity? The Father. . We perceive this when. but it is many-sided. and another for that. We are impatient to play it. that each one of us has. *** The Father. We want to live.. An Actor.] But if you and your actors are willing. . That is quite all right. They want to live. in us . But it isn't true. all of you? The Father. [To THE MANAGER. Diverse consciences. Juvenile Lead [pointing to the STEP-DAUGHTER]. The Manager. only for a moment . For the drama lies all in this the conscience that I have. as far as that one is concerned! The Father. we are as it were. But what do you want here.

for we lack the necessary humility. the tragedy of the boy and the flight of the elder daughter. while. He disappears soon. I begin to think there's the stuff for a drama in all this. that act. You be quiet! . we three remain: I. For each one of us has his own reality to be respected before God. we try to substitute ourselves for this faith. The drama consists finally in this: when that mother re-enters my house. I feel this above all else. creating thus for the rest of the world a reality which we believe after their fashion. you know. We find we are living in an atmosphere of mortal desolation which is the revenge. I assure you all this interests me very much. and not a bad drama either. Then. ends with the death of the little girl. just as I could not exist for her. and shall we say superimposed on the original. as he [Indicating SON. The Step-Daughter [coming forward]. his . that unfortunately hides in me. . it becomes impossible to create certain states of happiness. where she ought not to have known me. the mother. [Indicating the SON. her family born outside of it.] scornfully said of the Demon of Experiment. sir. It cannot go on. . you see when faith is lacking. and that it would be an atrocious injustice to judge us by that action alone. that son. and she now seeks to attach to me a reality such as I could never suppose I should have to assume for her in a shameful and fleeting moment of my life. There is something in what you say. you will see. because it is foreign to its surroundings.] *** The Father. So after much torment. Vaingloriously. When you've got a character like me. even when it is harmful to one's very self. She is the first to vanish from the scene. The Father [shutting her up. Then there is the position of the others . The Manager. acquires a tremendous value from this point. . owing to the disappearance of that extraneous family. Thus. And the baby too. Now do you understand the perfidy of this girl? She surprised me in a place. it doesn't exist. . all excited to learn the decision of THE MANAGER]. And the drama. as if all our existence were summed up in that one deed. we too find ourselves strange to one another.

to come here and fling it at me like this . You will understand. . You're an old hand. Are you amateur actors then? The Father. The Manager. that will do. I? What are you talking about? The Father. The Father. Look here! You must be the author. The Father. . because . . becomes a trifle theatrical when it is exalted. . . But you see. Yes. . The Father. Absolutely new! The Manager. . without an author . . The Manager. The Manager. . passion itself. . No. The Father. . born as we are for the stage . No sir. The Father. sir. It's new . What? When you see us live our drama . . heedless of interruption]. . We act that rôle for which we have been cast. The Manager. . you. yes . . I must say. . you know. that rôle which we are given in life. You've got a nerve though. I say born for the stage. nonsense. Because I have never been an author: that's why. Oh. No.. as usually happens. Then why not turn author now? Everybody does it. Your task is made much easier by the fact that we are all here alive before you . . . well. You don't want any special qualities. I could give you the address of an author if you like . . no. Well.The Manager [reflecting. And in my own case. you! Why not? The Manager. . The Manager. no. The Father. It won't do. hem .

The Manager. if you insist on calling yourselves such. in the "book" [Pointing towards PROMPTER'S box. One might have a shot at it. By Jove. But here. I can give you one. .] The Father. my dear sir. We? What do you mean. if you please. and then try it over.when there is a "book"! . In a quarter of an hour. possibly. The Father. the characters don't act. scene by scene! It will be enough to sketch it out at first.] We'll see what can be done. by a rehearsal? The Manager. I am almost tempted.] You are at liberty for a bit. Yes. no. Well .] -. [Points to the ACTORS. at once . But since we are the characters . . All right: "characters" then. You'll see what scenes will come out of it. The characters are there. I'd like to have a go at it. It's a bit of an idea. but don't step out of the theatre for long. while we play it. . No. twenty minutes. *** The Father [as if fallen from the clouds into the confusion of the stage]. The Manager. But you want someone to write it. The Manager.The Manager. Who knows if we don't get something really extraordinary out of it? *** ACT II The stage call-bells ring to warn the company that the play it about to begin again. Here the actors do the acting. . The Father. Someone to take it down. A rehearsal for them. it tempts me. all back here again! [To the FATHER. Of course. . that's all right. Let's try it out. [Turning to the ACTORS. . Come with me to my office.

as if they had another sound . sir. Still. The Manager. .] I don't know what to say to you. Why ever not.] You play the Mother. Oh this is grand! You want to come before the public yourselves then? The Father. The Manager. don't they? Now if these gentlemen here are fortunate enough to have us alive before them .] You naturally are the Step-Daughter . .] as Amalia. [Makes a slight motion of the hand to indicate the SECOND LADY LEAD. The Father. we'll find another! For the moment though. . . Amalia. Amalia it shall be. We don't want to call her by her real name. we'll call the characters in this way: [To JUVENILE LEAD. you see. . they are laughing at the notion. But do as you like. As we are . [To the SECOND LADY LEAD.] . and if you don't like it.] We must find her a name. I begin to hear my own words ring false. That won't be difficult. . that woman there? [Bursts out laughing. . . What? what? I. The Manager.] I see this woman here [Means the MOTHER. The Father.The Father. by the way. [Gets more and more confused. I won't contradict you. It'll be our job to find the right tones. Already. but excuse me. if it is her name? . [To the FATHER. I can assure you it would be a magnificent spectacle! Leading Man. You're not going to pretend that you can act? It makes me laugh! [The ACTORS laugh. What's the use of us here anyway then? The Manager. And as for her name. . . But. the actors aren't the characters. They cast themselves. Don't you worry about it. if that lady must . I must cast the parts. if you want her Amalia. But that is the real name of your wife. . perhaps.] There. The Step-Daughter [excitedly].] You are the Son. they pretend to be. The Manager. They want to be. . [To the LEADING LADY.

The Father. . .[indignant]. Not at all. . .whom I can't see at all in you! That is all. . the gestures . . . Your soul or whatever you like to call it takes shape here. Leading Lady. I am not laughing at you . sir. . which may or may not hold up on the stage. but. Maybe. will be due to my actors. . The Father. . contemptuously]. . True. No.have given expression to much more lofty material than this little drama of yours.. with these bodies of ours. . The Father. Temperament. otherwise I go away. The Step-Daughter. . . The Manager [cutting him short and out of patience]. be hanged! Do you suppose the spirit of the piece is in you? Nothing of the kind! The Father. I insist on being treated with respect. . Look here.I may tell you -. But if it does. . . Good heavens! The make-up will remedy all that. . sir. soul. no. . you . our own souls? The Manager. . our souls . these features to see . And my actors -. voice and gesture. I was speaking of myself -. But the voice. But I wasn't speaking of you. . Here's the point. I don't dare contradict you. the merit of it.[at once. aren't in the least like me . believe me. it is a terrible suffering for us who are as we are. haven't we our own temperaments. The Manager. but . believe me.The Manager [angry]. You ought to feel honored to be played by . I don't know . our temperaments. excuse me . What. The Step-Daughter. you know. . Nobody has ever dared to laugh at me. man.. The actors give body and form to it. What is there to laugh at? Leading Lady. "That woman there" . . The Manager [to STEP-DAUGHTER]. the make-up .

Exactly! It will be difficult to act me as I really am. [Bows. . The actor here acts you. . you as yourself. . . and full of shame. I don't know by whom . It seems to me then that account should be taken of this by everyone whose duty it may become to criticize us .according as to how he supposes I am. I haven't the least desire to offend your actors. It will certainly be a bit difficult! [The ACTORS laugh. The performance he will give. Leading Man. and one or two wings. The effect will be rather -.and not as I inside of myself feel myself to be. sir. The MOTHER is sitting on the right with the two children by her side. Leading Man [on his dignity]. much in the . . to absorb me into himself . melliflously]. it is seen that the stage hands have shifted the bit of scenery used in the last part. Now. By me. but away from the others.] The Father. *** ACT III When the curtain goes up again. please! The Father. . Far from it! But when I think that I am to be acted by . with some trees. as he senses me -. He seems bored. even doing his best with make-up to look like me . and have rigged up instead at the back of the stage a drop.] Still. Leading Man. The SON is on the same side. I must say that try as this gentleman may. And now I think I see why our author who conceived us as we are. all alive. I assure you. with all his good will and wonderful art. Honored. and that's an end to it! The Father. On the other side (left) are the ACTORS. angry. . didn't want to put us on the stage after all. A portion of a fountain basin is visible.The Manager. .apart from the make-up -. .if he does sense me -. The FATHER and the STEP-DAUGHTER are also seated towards the right front. I understand. look here! On the stage. cannot exist. if you've no objection! The Father [humbly. . Oh chuck it! "Wonderful art!" Withdraw that.

to dissuade me from spiting him. The Manager [shaking his shoulders after a brief pause]. Our entry into his house [Indicates FATHER. I understand! Good Heavens! I understand! I'm taking it into account. the more distant and aloof does he become. to pacify me. . Only THE MANAGER is standing up in the middle of the stage. . [Indicates the SON. . The Mother [supplicatingly]. . . I tell you! The Step-Daughter. The Manager. at any rate. leave it all to me as we arranged. sir. It doesn't matter. because it is true! I enjoy it immensely. . the more she tries to get at his heart. The more harm done us. The Mother [from her corner. Any how. Are we going to begin this second act or not? . The Step-Daughter [interrupting indignantly and continuing for the MOTHER]. The Step-Daughter [turning towards her quickly]. Leave it to me. to let it appear quite plain that for conscience' sake I did try in every way . .positions they occupied before the curtain was lowered. For all the good that's come of it . . and you'll see! It'll go fine! The Step-Daughter. Ah yes: the second act! Leave it to me. [To MANAGER. Do let it be clear. shaking her head]. . The Manager [impatiently]. that it is in spite of my wishes. I beg you. the more remorse for him.] Do as she wants: satisfy her. with his hand closed over his mouth in the act of meditating.] The Manager [out of patience].] in spite of him . as you can see. the meeker she is.

. And then there's all the part of that poor dazed-looking boy there which takes place indoors.we can't change scenes three or four times in one act. and you ought to understand that. Because he [Indicates the SON again. It makes the illusion easier. But why? What ought we to say then? The illusion. here for you and your actors. Please don't use that word.. The Manager. perhaps. I tell you. which is particularly painful for us. Yes. The Leading Man. And why. It isn't possible! The Manager. don't say illusion. Maybe! On the other hand.The Step-Daughter. but you. sir. The Manager. . The Manager. I understand.But I must tell you this: you can't have the whole action take place in the garden. The Father. They used to once. With our acting. do not understand us. The Manager [astounded]. which we've got to create for the audience . . you will understand -. The illusion! For Heaven's sake. Why not? The Step-Daughter. It's painful. . The Leading Lady.] is always shut up alone in his room. The Father [irritated]. as you suggest. a kind of game . The Manager. cruel. . . really cruel. I'm not going to talk any more now.and rightly so . The illusion of a reality... if you please? The Father. the thing is only -. Forgive me! You see . when the public was up to the level of that child there. . . The Leading Man.

What I mean is the game. Now. because you and I . I should say you were mad -. . as we are. by the way. who am on the contrary myself -. or play.] Can you tell me who you are? The Manager [perplexed. which has to give.! The Father. sir. Just you think it over well. I don't deny it. [To MANAGER. The Manager. that which is a game of art for you is our sole reality. You see I've caught you in a trap! [The ACTORS laugh. . looking at his ACTORS. Do you want to begin again? The Father.]. you know.this thing you see here. [Brief pause.] But not only for us. [Looks him in the eyes. As I say. No. a perfect illusion of reality. The Father. has to be me.]. half smiling]. He goes a step or two nearer THE MANAGER and adds.] The Father. have no other reality outside of this illusion . The Manager [astonished.] The Manager [annoyed]. And what does that mean? The Father [after watching them for a moment with a wan smile]. of your art.The Leading Lady [interrupting indignantly]. no! That wasn't my meaning! In fact. . And if I were to tell you that that isn't true. if you consider the fact that we [Indicates himself and the other five CHARACTERS. But we've had all this over once before. if you please! We are serious actors. The Manager. The Father. as the gentleman says. You're quite right to laugh: because we are all making believe here.] And you can therefore object that it's only for a joke that that gentleman there [Indicates the LEADING MAN. A game! We're not children here. What? Who am I? I am myself.! [The ACTORS laugh. who are also amazed]. who naturally is himself. . Precisely -. I should like to request you to abandon this game of art [Looking at the LEADING LADY as if .

Well. of all those things which don't even seem to you .I'm not speaking of you now -. If this fellow here hasn't got a nerve! A man who calls himself a character comes and asks me who I am! The Father [with they were then indeed for you. as you really are now. but you are asking these questions of me.] which you are accustomed to play here with your actors. see yourself as you once were with all the illusions that were yours then.may very well be "nobody. A character." The Manager. may always ask a man who he is. for which reason he is always "somebody. marked with his especial characteristics. the Manager! Do you understand? The Father. the boss. Yes. sir. Because a character has really a life of his own. if you think of all those illusions that mean nothing to you now. turning to his ACTORS]. and to ask you seriously once again: who are you? The Manager [astonished and irritated. But only in order to know if you.anticipating her. with all the things both inside and outside of you as they seemed to you -." But a man . but not offended]. sir.

because it is already fixed for ever. which in turn are controlled by an intellect that shows them to you today in one manner and tomorrow . not ours! Look here! That is the very difference! Our reality doesn't change: it can't change! It can't be other than what it is. It is always changing. Ah. it may prove an illusion for you tomorrow. It's terrible. Illusions of reality represented in this fatuous comedy of life . More real than I? The Father. No. you too must not count overmuch on your reality as you feel it today. taking this form today and that tomorrow. fated to seem a mere illusion to you tomorrow? The Manager [without having understood much. The Manager[determining to make fun of him]. well! And where does all this take us anyway? The Father. are truer and more real than I am. sir. If your reality can change from one day to another . But everyone knows it can change. . but astonished by the specious argument].all this present reality of yours -. excellent! Then you'll be saying next that exist any more. The Manager. But of course. I thought you'd understand that from the beginning. .] have no other reality beyond the illusion. . . your sentiments. since. . Oh.but the very earth under your feet is sinking away from you when you reflect that in the same way this you as you feel it today -. with this comedy of yours that you brought here to act.I won't say these boards -. like that of yesterday. without doubt! The Manager. don't you feel that -. The Father [with a cry]. The Manager. The Father[with the greatest seriousness]. really? The Father. Ours is an immutable reality which should make you shudder when you approach us if you are really conscious of the fact that your reality is a mere transitory and fleeting illusion. while once they were for you. according to your will. Well. who knows how? . nowhere! It's only to show you that if we [Indicating the CHARACTERS. Ah. according to the conditions. the same as anyone else's. .

The animals suffer without reasoning about their sufferings. but believe me I feel what I think. since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings.I warn you -. . I don't know to what author you may be alluding. which one can believe seriously. as you must recognize yourself. [Stops and looks him over from head to foot. because they blind themselves with their own sentiment. But take the case of a man who suffers and begins to reason about it.what shall . . then why. [Turning to the ACTORS. Oh no! it can't be allowed! Let him suffer like an animal. will you at least finish with this philosophizing and let us try and shape this comedy which you yourself have brought me here? You argue and philosophize a bit too much. but the contrary is really true. . just as if happiness were his right.a "character.ah yet. I think you introduced yourself to me as a -. all would be finished. If you want to know.] And this is what we've gained -. when you arrived. because it isn't a thing.. sir. As a matter of fact. For man never reasons so much and becomes so introspective as when he suffers. I know that for many people this self-blinding seems much more "human". You know you seem to me almost. Oh for God's sake. it seems to me you are trying to imitate the manner of a certain author whom I heartily detest -. . he takes his happiness as it comes and doesn't analyze it. to learn who has produced them.that never ends.] Ah. Nonsense! Cut that out. when he is happy. . we say -. The Manager. he is "human"! The Manager. It is the simple truth. I was just starting to rehearse it. by the way. and then -. The Father. nor can ever end! Because if tomorrow it were to end . and I seem to be philosophizing only for those who do not think what they feel. The Manager." created by an author who did not afterward care to make a drama of his own creations. please! None of us believes it. Look here! Look here! You're off again. and whether it is just or unjust that he should have to bear them. my dear sir. philosophizing worse than ever.out of the frying-pan into the fire! The Father.although I have unfortunately bound myself to put on one of his works. . On the other hand. . almost .

*** .