Breaking Through the Fourth Wall

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With most Realist and Naturalist plays the audience is “safely” concealed behind the invisible ‘fourth wall’ of the proscenium. A play that utilizes this technique is A Doll’s House written by Ibsen. Yet, many later plays do not provide the spectator this same degree of distance and detachment, as seen in Six Characters in Search of an Author written by Pirandello, which his labeled as Metatheater. As a Realist play, A Doll’s House …

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…through that “fourth wall” Pirandello has made the audience part of the show by becoming actively aware that illusion and reality is conflicting every time a line is given on stage, they must decipher what is being presented: either reality or illusion, to understand the next line spoken. Thus the distance is broken from the playwright to the audience as well, as the audience is giving meaning to the play every time they see it.