A Brief Summary:
A group of actors are preparing to rehearse for Othello by Shakespeare. While starting the rehearsal, they are interrupted by the arrival of six characters. The leader of the characters, the father, informs the manager that they are looking for an author. He explains that the author who created them did not finish their story, and that they therefore are unrealized characters who have not been fully brought to life. The assistant director tries to throw them out of the theater, but becomes more intrigued when they start to describe their story.
The father is an intellectual who married a peasant woman (the mother). Things went well until she fell in love with his male secretary. Having become bored with her over the years, the father encouraged her to leave with his secretary. She departs from him, leaving behind the eldest son who becomes bitter for having been abandoned.
The mother starts a new family with the other man and has three children. The father starts to miss her, and actively seeks out the other children in order to watch them grow up. The step-daughter recalls that he used to wait for her after school in order to give her presents. The other man eventually moves away from the city with the family and the father loses track of them.
After the other man dies, the mother and her children return to the city. She gets a job in Emilia Paz's dress shop, unaware that Paz is more interested in using her daughter as a prostitute. One day the father arrives and Paz sets him up with the daughter. He starts to seduce her but they are interrupted when the mother sees him and screams out. Embarrassed, he allows the step-daughter and the entire family to move in with him, causing his son to resent them for intruding in his life.
The assistant director agrees to become the author for them and has them start to play the scene where the father is in the dress shop meeting the step-daughter for the first time. She soon stops the plot and has her actors attempt to mimic it, but both the father and the step-daughter protest that it is terrible and not at all realistic. She finally stops the actors and allows the father and step-daughter to finish the scene.
The assistant director changes the setting for the second scene and forces the characters to perform it in the garden of the father's house. The mother approaches the son and tries to talk to him, but he refuses and leaves her. Entering the garden, he sees the youngest daughter drowned in the fountain and rushes over to pull her out. In the process, he spots the step-son with a revolver. The young boy shoots himself, causing the mother to scream out for him while running over to him.
The assistant director, watching this entire scene, is unable to tell if it is still acting or if it is reality. Fed up with the whole thing, she calls for the end of the rehearsal.
For more information, see:
Pirandello's preface to 1925 edition, Six Characters
Nobel Prize acceptance speech
Biography (from Nobel Foundation web site)
Read him in the original!
Notes from Classic Notes. For further information on Six Characters, see their web site.