The mask put on by the personaggios or the anti-selves is indispensable for their becoming dominant and, at times, downright oppressive characters. In “Per Amica,” Yeats mentions a saint, St Francis of Assisi, and a politician, Cesare Borgia, to exemplify the importance of this kind of mask: they “made themselves over-mastering, creative persons by turning from the mirror to meditation upon a mask.” In Pirandello’s Six Characters and Yeats’s The Player Queen, the character able to assume the mask of its self is always a kind of stage manager. However, this stage manager-like character is never the one who has been given the name ‘Stage Manager’ in the dramatis personae. In both plays it is the personaggios that (implicitly) become stage managers, and what is more, they turn into relentless puppet-masters, thus oppressing the personas.
Such over-mastering puppet-masters are omnipresent in Pirandello’s as well as in Yeats’s plays. For instance, in Pirandello’s Henry IV, it is only by putting on the mask of the king of Germany that Henry can dominate his courtiers and play with them as if they were his puppets. In Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game, Leone Gala oppresses every persona by assuming the mask of indifference, while in Yeats’s Shadowy Waters, Forgael (who reaches his anti-self) manipulates his seafarers by playing his harp and using a spell.
However, Six Characters and Yeats’s The Player Queen are undoubtedly the most outstanding examples of the
personaggios’ transformation into puppet-masters. In Six Characters, for example, the six personaggios succeed in persuading the Manager to stage their tragic story instead of continuing the rehearsal of the original play. What is more, by the end of the play, the Manager tries to satisfy almost every single wish of the personaggios. In The Player Queen, every ordinary character depends on Decima’s, that is, the personaggio’s will. Both in Six Characters and in The Player Queen there is a character named ‘Stage Manager’ who tries to begin the rehearsal of a play with his actors and actresses. However, among those actors there is the personaggio who, as explained in detail in my previous post, is the most excellent actor due to its anti-self—this is why in both plays the personaggio characters can deprive the Stage Managers of their roles and become the real directors of the plays.
If you would like to know which character is cruel enough to oppress even the other personaggios in Pirandello’s Six Characters, read my following post for further details.