Pirandello was a complex and bizarre man when it came to penning down personality narrations. His works on theatrical post-modern genres are not only mesmerizing but quite baffling at times.
Henry IV is an engrossing masquerade about an actor/protagonist of a play who goes crazy after being knocked off his horse. The actor then wanders in a deluded world owing to the persona of Henry IV (a character he used to play before the ill-fated mishap) spanning over twelve years after the fall. Thus he then prefers to reside in his castle with his private counselors similar to the Henry IV of Germany. The entirety of the play consists of other characters trying to unmask the assumed persona to reveal the reality of a calamity.
**Actors in session**
Who are we? Why are we afraid of madmen? (To be noted that the term “madmen” restricts to exposing the genuineness of a character and not those preposterous junkies who play Nostradamus on street corners). When do authenticity of an individual halts and a façade is established which we perceive as reality? These questions are synonymous with Pirandello and his idea of existential artistry. Henry IV screams that he is not mad and argues as to why the world is afraid of “madmen”? Madness speaks the truth, exposes veracity that a conscious mind veils under the folds of obligatory societal façade; so asserts Pirandello. I do not know how legitimate the actor portraying Henry IV is in his actions, nevertheless I agree with Pirandello. As rational folks we premeditate our measures meticulously supervising our words and actions limiting inadvertent buffoonery. The slightest example would be people calling me a crazy bitch when my guttermouth precedes my mannerism. And that happens a lot. So am I a mad woman or is just that my courteous mask decides to shove up where it hurts the most. Am I reading way too much into this book? An interim story recounted by Henry about a priest justifies my quandary.
An Irish priest who fell asleep in the sun one day on a park bench. He was dreaming, and when a young boy walked by and brushed his cheeks with a flower, the priest woke up, but still looked happy and forgetful around him. Suddenly he straightened up and the look of seriousness returned to his face.
The priest who for couple of minutes had forgotten his “mask” dreamed blissfully until his conscious self took charge and resumed his duly disposition.
At first, the book was pretty puzzling before I got the gist of the camouflaged dramatics, as his previous work Six Characters in Search of an Author and Other Plays relayed the same sentiments of illusionary realism of theatre but later contradicted on the notion of immutability of characters. Here, Pirandello tries to let the audience understand the fact that stage “reality” can be more authentic in real world. Whereas in ‘Six Characters…. ‘he talks about the illusion of emotive reality for its validity is corrupted by monotonous rehearsals. Nonetheless, both of them confront the essence of reality encumbered by metaphoric chimeras giving madness a therapeutic denotation.