The observer Laudisi derides the townspeople for their insistence on knowing the secrets of Mrs. Frola and her married daughter: Why does Mrs. Frola live alone and not with her daughter? Why do the two never visit each other? The answers to these questions lie at the heart of this play and at the center of Pirandello's artistic vision. Presented in an excellent new English translation, this inexpensive edition will delight students and lovers of modern drama.
About the Author
Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) was a prolific author of modernist plays, fiction, and poetry. In 1934 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his "bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art."
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Right You Are If You Think You Are
By LUIGI PIRANDELLO, STANLEY APPELBAUM
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Living room in the home of Councilman Agazzi. Principal door in the back; side doors at right and left.
Amalia, Dina, Laudisi.
As the curtain rises, Lamberto Laudisi is pacing the room in a state of annoyance. About forty years old, slender and brisk, well dressed without affectation, he is wearing a violet jacket with black lapels and black piping.
Laudisi: So he's gone to see the Governor about it?
Amalia (about forty-five, gray hair; her manner clearly shows the feeling of self-importance she derives from her husband's rank in society. But she also indicates that, if it were up to her, she could play the part herself and would then often behave quite differently): Would you believe it, Lamberto, all on account of a man who's his subordinate!
Laudisi: A subordinate when your husband sits on the Governor's council–but not at home!
Dina (nineteen; behaves as though convinced she is much wiser than her mother and even than her father; but this trait is softened by her lively, youthful grace): Even though he moved his mother-in-law in right next to us, on the same floor?
Laudisi: Didn't he have a right to? It was a vacant apartment and he leased it for his mother-in-law. Or is a mother-in-law perhaps obliged to come and call on (exaggeratedly, purposely drawing out the words) the wife and daughter of one of her son-in-law's superiors?
Amalia: Who says she's obliged? As I remember it, we, Dina and I, were the ones who went on our own to call on that lady, and we weren't received.
Laudisi: And why has your husband now gone to the Governor? To put official pressure on her to observe etiquette toward you?
Amalia: To make proper amends to us, if you want to call it that! Because you just don't leave two ladies that way, standing in front of your door like a couple of statues!
Laudisi: That's going too far! Aren't people allowed to stay home and mind their own business?
Amalia: But you totally disregard the fact that we were the ones who took it on ourselves to be polite — to a stranger!
Dina: Uncle, calm down, please! If you want, we'll be honest: there! we admit that our politeness was out of curiosity. But, tell me, don't you find that natural?
Laudisi: Natural, yes: because the two of you are totally idle.
Dina: Come now, Uncle! Let's say you are sitting there, paying no attention to what anyone else is doing around you. Fine. I come along. And here, right on this end table that's standing in front of you, with no expression on my face — no, let's say with an expression like a criminal's, like that man's — I plunk down — what should I say? — a pair of the cook's shoes!
Laudisi (in an outburst): What have the cook's shoes got to do with anything?
Dina (immediately): There, you see? You're surprised! You think it's bizarre, and you immediately ask me why.
Laudisi (surprised, with a cold smile, but quickly recovering): Darling! You're very clever; but, remember, you're talking to me. You've just put the cook's shoes down on this table for no other reason than to arouse my curiosity; and surely — since you did it on purpose — you can't blame me for asking you: "Darling, what are the cook's shoes doing here?" Now you need to prove to me that this Mr. Ponza — a boorish scoundrel, as your father calls him — was also doing it on purpose when he moved his mother-in-law in next to us!
Dina: All right! So it wasn't on purpose. But you can't deny that he lives in such a bizarre way that it's perfectly understandable if he provokes the curiosity of the whole town. Listen. He comes here. He rents an apartment on the top floor of that dreary tenement out there at the edge of town, near the market gardens. Have you seen it? I mean, inside?
Laudisi: I suppose you've been to see it!
Dina: Yes, Uncle! With Mother. And not just us, you know. Everyone's been to see it. There's a courtyard — so dark! it's like a well! — with an iron railing all the way up, running along the gallery on the top floor, and with ever so many baskets hanging down from it on strings.
Laudisi: And so?
Dina (surprised and indignant): He's marooned his wife up there!
Amalia: And brought his mother-in-law here, next door to us!
Laudisi: But the mother-in-law is in a fine apartment, in the heart of town!
Amalia: Thanks! And he forces her to live away from her daughter?
Laudisi: Who told you so? Can't it rather be the mother's wish, in order to have more freedom?
Dina: No, no! Oh, Uncle! Everyone knows it's his doing!
Amalia: Listen, you can understand it if a daughter who gets married leaves her mother's home and goes to live with her husband; even in another town. But when a poor mother, who can't bear to live far away from her daughter, follows her and, in a town where both of them are strangers, is forced to live somewhere else, you surely must admit that that is not easy to understand!
Laudisi: So! What lazy minds you have! Is it so hard to imagine that, either through her fault, or through his fault — or even without anyone being at fault — there may be such incompatibility of characters that, even under these circumstances ...
Dina (interrupting him in surprise): What, Uncle? Between a mother and daughter?
Laudisi: Why do you say between a mother and daughter?
Amalia: Because there's none between the other two! He and she are always together!
Dina: A mother-in-law and son-in-law! That's what amazes everybody!
Amalia: He comes here every evening to keep his mother-in-law company.
Dina: He even comes once or twice during the day.
Laudisi: Do you perhaps suspect that they're lovers, the mother-in-law and son-in-law?
Dina: What are you saying? A poor old lady!
Amalia: But he never brings along her daughter! He never brings his wife with him to see her mother, never, never!
Laudisi: Maybe the poor woman is sick ... maybe she can't leave her house ...
Dina: No, no! The mother goes there ...
Amalia: She goes there, yes! But only to look at her from a distance! It's known for an absolute fact that that poor mother is forbidden to walk up into her daughter's house!
Dina: She can only talk to her from the courtyard!
Amalia: From the courtyard, do you hear?
Dina: To her daughter, who looks out of the gallery window up there, as far away as if she were in heaven! That poor woman enters the courtyard, pulls on the basket string and rings the bell up above; her daughter looks out, and she talks to her from down below, from the bottom of that well, straining her neck like this! Imagine! And she doesn't even really see her, because she's blinded by the light that filters down.
A knock is heard at the door and the Butler appears.
Amalia: Who is it?
Butler: Mr. and Mrs. Sirelli with another lady.
Amalia: Oh, show them in.
The Butler bows and exits.
Mr. and Mrs. Sirelli, Mrs. Cini and the foregoing.
Amalia (to Mrs. Sirelli): How good to see you!
Mrs. Sirelli (plump, sprightly, still young, dressed with overdone provincial elegance; burning with unassuaged curiosity; rude to her husband): I took the liberty of bringing along my good friend Mrs. Cini, who wanted so much to meet you.
Amalia: A pleasure. Please sit down, everybody. (Introducing:) This is my daughter Dina. My brother, Lamberto Laudisi.
Sirelli (mostly bald, about forty, fat, brilliantined, with claims to sartorial elegance, wearing highly polished shoes that squeak; in greeting): Mrs. Agazzi. Miss Agazzi.
He shakes hands with Laudisi.
Mrs. Sirelli: Ah, Mrs. Agazzi, we have come here as if to the fountain of knowledge. We're two poor women parched for news.
Amalia: News of what, ladies?
Mrs. Sirelli: You know — about that wretched new secretary in the Governor's office. No one in town is talking about anything else!
Mrs. Cini (a foolish old woman, full of active malice disguised as naïvete): All of us women are curious, so curious that ... we can't stand it!
Amalia: But, believe me, Mrs. Cini, we don't know more about him than anyone else!
Sirelli (to his wife, as if he had won a victory): Didn't I tell you? They know just as much as I do, and maybe even less! (Then, turning to the others:) For example, do you know the real reason why this poor mother can't go visit her daughter at home?
Amalia: I was just talking about that with my brother.
Laudisi: I think you've all gone crazy!
Dina (quickly, so they won't pay attention to her uncle): Because they say her son-in-law won't let her.
Mrs. Cini (sorrowfully): That's not all, Miss Agazzi!
Mrs. Sirelli (without a pause): That's not all! He does more than that!
Sirelli (with a preliminary hand gesture to assure their attention): News flash, just now ascertained: (almost syllable by syllable:) He keeps her locked up!
Amalia: His mother-in-law?
Sirelli: No: his wife!
Mrs. Sirelli: His wife! His wife!
Mrs. Cini (sorrowfully): Under lock and key!
Dina: You hear, Uncle? And you want to excuse ...
Sirelli (amazed): What? You want to excuse that monster?
Laudisi: But I don't want to excuse him at all! What I'm saying is that your curiosity (I beg the ladies to forgive me) is intolerable — if for no other reason, because it's pointless.
Laudisi: Pointless! — Pointless, ladies!
Mrs. Cini: For us to want to find out?
Laudisi: Find out what, pray tell? What can we really know about other people? Who they are ... what they're like ... what they do ... why they do it ...
Mrs. Slrelli: By asking for news, for information ...
Laudisi: But if there's one lady who ought to be abreast of everything of that sort, it must surely be you, Mrs. Sirelli, with a husband like yours, always so well informed on all counts!
Sirelli (trying to interrupt): Excuse me, excuse me ...
Mrs. Sirelli: No, dear, listen: that's the truth! (Addressing Amalia:) The truth, Mrs. Agazzi: with my husband, who always says he knows everything, I never manage to know a thing.
Sirelli: Naturally! She's never satisfied with what I tell her! She always suspects that things aren't the way I said they were. In fact, she maintains that things can't be the way I said they were. She even ends up believing the opposite on principle!
Mrs. Sirelli (to her husband): Come on, now, some of those stories you tell me ...
Laudisi (laughing out loud): Ha, ha, ha! ... May I, Mrs. Sirelli? I'd like to answer your husband. My dear man, how can you expect your wife to be satisfied with the things you tell her if you — as is only natural — tell them to her as you see them?
Mrs. Sirelli: As they absolutely cannot be!
Laudisi: Oh, no, Mrs. Sirelli, permit me to state that in this case you are wrong! Be assured that, for your husband, things are as he tells them to you.
Sirelli: And as they really are! As they really are!
Mrs. Sirelli: Not a bit! You're constantly mistaken!
Sirelli: You're the mistaken one, let me tell you! I don't make mistakes!
Laudisi: No, no, good people! Neither of you is mistaken. May I go on? I'll prove it to you. (He gets up and takes a stand in the center of the room.) You both see me here. — You see me, don't you?
Sirelli: Sure, I do!
Laudisi: No, no; don't say it so fast, my friend. Come over here, come over here.
Sirelli (looks at him with a smile, puzzled, a little confused, as if not wishing to participate in some joke he doesnt understand): Why?
Mrs. Sirelli (urging him on, with irritation in her voice): Oh, go on over there.
Laudisi (to Sirelli, who has approached him hesitantly): You see me? Take a better look at me. Touch me.
Mrs. Sirelli (to her husband, who hesitates to touch him): Well, touch him!
Laudisi (to Sirelli, who has raised one hand to touch him lightly on the shoulder): Good, bravo! Now, you're as sure about touching me as about seeing me, right?
Sirelli: I'd say so.
Laudisi: You can't doubt your own senses, naturally! — Go back to your seat.
Mrs. Sirelli (to her husband, who is still standing foolishly in front ofLaudisi): There's no point in your standing there blinking your eyes; sit down again!
Laudisi (to Mrs. Sirelli, once her husband has returned to his seat in bewilderment): Now, if you don't mind, you come here, Mrs. Sirelli. (Suddenly, before she can do so:) No, no, I will come to you. (He walks in front of her and drops down on one knee.) You see me, right? Raise your hand; touch me. (And as Mrs. Sirelli, seated, places one hand on his shoulder, he bends over to kiss it, saying:) Dear little hand!
Sirelli: Hey there, hey there!
LAUDISI: Pay no attention to him! — Are you also as sure about touching me as about seeing me? You can't doubt your own senses. — But, for heaven's sake, don't tell your husband, or my sister, or my niece or Mrs. —
Mrs. Cini (prompting him): Cini.
Laudisi: Mrs. Cini — how you see me, or else all four of them will tell you you're mistaken, even though you're not mistaken at all! Because I really am as you see me. — But, dear lady, that does not negate the fact that I am also in reality just as I am seen by your husband, my sister, my niece and Mrs. —
Mrs. Cini (prompting him): Cini.
Laudisi: Mrs. Cini — and that they, too, are not at all mistaken.
Mrs. Sirelli: But how can you possibly change from one to the other?
Laudisi: But of course I change, Mrs. Sirelli! You don't change?
Mrs. Sirelli (hurriedly): No, no, no, no! I assure you that in my eyes I don't change at all!
Laudisi: Nor in mine, believe me! And I say that you're all mistaken if you don't see me as I see myself! But that does not negate the fact that that is quite a presumption on my part, as it is on yours, my dear lady.
Sirelli: But, excuse me, what is all this mumbo-jumbo meant to prove?
Laudisi: You think it proves nothing? Oh, my! I see you all here so intent on finding out who other people are and how things stand, as if other people and things had to be either one way or another.
Mrs. Sirelli: So, in your opinion, it's never possible to learn the truth?
Mrs. Cini: If we can't even believe what we see and touch!
Laudisi: Yes, do believe it, Mrs. Cini! But I say to you: also respect what the others see and touch, even if it's the opposite of what you see and touch.
Mrs. Sirelli: Listen! I'm shutting you out! I'm not going to talk to you any more! I don't want to go crazy!
Laudisi: No, no! That's enough! All of you go on talking about Mrs. Frola and Mr. Ponza, her son-in-law: I won't interrupt you any more.
Amalia: Thank God for that! And Lamberto dear, wouldn't it be better if you went into another room?
Dina: Yes, do, Uncle; go, go!
Laudisi; No, why should I? I enjoy hearing you talk. I'll keep quiet, rest assured. At the most, I'll give a little laugh inside; and if a louder laugh escapes me, you'll surely forgive me.
Mrs. Sirelli: And to think that we came here for information ... — But, tell me, Mrs. Agazzi, isn't your husband a superior of this Mr. Ponza?
Amalia: The office is one thing and home is another, Mrs. Sirelli.
Mrs. Sirelli: I understand; that's right! — But haven't you even tried to see the mother-in-law, who lives right next door to you?
Dina: Of course we did! Twice, Mrs. Sirelli!
Mrs. Cini (with a start; then, greedily and intently): So, then! So you've spoken to her!
Amalia: We weren't received, Mrs. Cini!
Sirelli, Mrs. Sirelli, Mrs. Cini: Oh! Oh! — Just think of it!
Dina: This morning again ...
Amalia: The first time, we waited more than fifteen minutes outside the door. No one came to open, and we couldn't even leave a calling card. — Today we tried again ...
Dina (with a gesture expressive of fear): He came to open!
Mrs. Sirelli: What a face! Yes! He really has an evil one! He's upset the whole town with that face! And then, always dressed in black like that ... All three wear black, even his wife, right? The daughter?
Excerpted from Right You Are If You Think You Are by LUIGI PIRANDELLO, STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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