"A Hole in the Paper Sky": Psycho-Scenographic Rifts in Pirandello's Henry IV

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2005


While I am generally reserved about the critical usefulness of diagnosing [End Page 55] fictional characters, the desire of so many critics to locate Henry's "crisis of modern consciousness"1 in actual mental disorders attests to what seems like a striking kinship between suspensions of disbelief on and off the stage. That is not to say that Pirandello fully captured what "it is really like" to be crazy, as Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths was said to capture what it was really like to be a poor bohemian Russian. That may be true as well, but what I mean is that Pirandello's understanding of madness is both the vehicle and real world corollary to his inquiry into the ontology of theatrical illusion. What exists in reality as the troubled encounter between consciousness and the world unfolds on Pirandello's stage as a complex interaction between the psychological realism of acting techniques and the "authentic" detail of scenic illusion.




University of Toronto Press

Publication Information

Modern Drama