“Well, it’s classic. Fall from horse- hits his head- brain damage- temporary obsession made permanent, fixed, causing a disturbance of the balance of the mind…up to insanity itself.”

– Doctor, Pirandello's Henry IV

Sigmund ​Freud

Psychoanalysis is a method of investigation developed by Sigmund Freud that explore the unconscious workings of the mind (repressed feelings, memories, and fears) coming forward into the conscious. Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental illnesses and instabilities by psychoanalytical techniques. In Henry IV, the doctor asks many questions to the other characters to get information about the story being unfolded. This is an example of how psychotherapy can work… patients piece together their psyche and repressed emotions through talking. Freud was a pioneer on the psychoanalysis front and many of his theories contradicted and changed throughout their developments. Since Freud, psychotherapy has grown in popularity but also changed in its methods. Many scientists and doctors have developed their own systems for therapy like prescribing medications to supplement treatments, hypnosis, and holistic treatments.

Pirandello's Henry IV has many themes and psychological under currents such as alienation and the exploration of many personalities within the human psyche. This is not surprising given that Pirandello’s wife was mentally ill and Sigmund Freud was developing psychotherapy/psychoanalysis at the time. From about 1910 up until he wrote Henry IV in 1922, Pirandello was questioning the new theories being developed by Freud as he aimed to piece together the workings of both his mind and his wife’s. In addition to his plays, Luigi Pirandello wrote several short stories, novels, and essays that explored his various theories concerning the theatre. His most famous essay On Humor highlights some of the most important sociological and psychological themes within his work.


​Freud’s Ego/Id Model

Sigmund Freud (known as the father of psychoanalysis) was a world-renowned neurologist, theorist, and scientist. Freud was born in 1856. He began studying medicine in Vienna around 1873 and after studying under several scientists he opened his own practice in Paris in 1886. After teaching for some time in Vienna and following World War I, Freud began adapting his theories to the changing arts, politics, and social structures in the world around him. He developed ideas such as dream interpretations, the different layers of the Ego and Id. (Pictured below), defense mechanisms, and sexual repressions. He died 1939, but his theories and practices live on and are still used as a platform for psychoanalysis today.