How do you explain the reaction of those who booed Pirandello and called him a "clown" after the first performance of Six Characters in search of an author?

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How do you explain the reaction of those who booed Pirandello and called him a "clown" after the first performance of

Six Characters in search of an author?

Pirandello was becoming a very successful and popular playwright during the years after the First World War, and the critics anticipated the first performance of Six Characters in Search of an Author (Six Characters). It was first performed in Rome in 1921. Pirandello was known for using very new techniques in the theatre so the audience was expecting a different and totally new type of play. However, they were obviously not fully prepared for Six Characters because after the performance the audience was so shocked that a riot was started. In this essay I intend to explain why the first performance of this play was not accepted, and why Pirandello was called a clown for writing it. I will be mainly concentrating on the audience, and what their reaction would have been, because they were obviously the ones who were first to judge the play and who gave it its first reviews, therefore giving it its initial bad name.

The first, most striking thing about Six Characters is that it is a play within a play, but at the same time so much more. This is a very difficult thing to try and explain because there are so many things that are meant by this. There is the fact that Six Characters is about a separate play that is literally being written before the audience’s eyes. Ignoring the beginning, before the characters enter, the whole play is being written there and then, and somehow Pirandello manages to act out both the script between the characters, director, actors and all stage hands, and at the same time enables the characters’ story to be told, written, made sense of, and acted out in front of the audience. This was a completely new concept that had never been tried before; it is possible, although it may seem strange to us, because we are, I will not say used to this style, but accustomed to it, that the audience in 1921 felt Pirandello had cheated them. For them it took away the whole thrill and reality of going to the theatre, after all people do not go to the theatre to watch the rehearsals of a play! It must have been very strange for the audience to have the making of a play acted out in front of them. They obviously did not like this style, they came to the theatre to be lost in a play that builds up from the beginning, in which each scene flows into the next and in the final moments everything is explained and the underlying message is spelt out to them. This is what Brecht called the "old theatre", Brecht preferred the alienation effect and Pirandello agreed with this. He wanted to break free from this boring and universal way of creating theatre, and in doing so created Six Characters, where the audience is made to face reality and the human being is put on trial ("Can you tell me who you are?" 54). The audience is so forced to question themselves and their own lives.

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The second meaning to it being a play within a play is the audiences reaction to all this. Pirandello uses the audience exactly as a conventional playwright would use his characters; he builds up their sense of shock and horror. At the scene change they are allowed to relax while the director and characters disappear to discuss the next act, to discuss how they can next shock the audience and achieve the desired effect. When the second act starts all the feelings that have been oppressed during the break come flowing back, and the audience is kept in shock ...

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