An Essay On Theatre Of The Absurd Set - Homework for you

Homework for you

An Essay On Theatre Of The Absurd Set

Rating: 5.0/5.0 (28 Votes)

Category: Essay


Essay on Theater Of The Absurd - essays research papers

Essay on Theater Of The Absurd

True Meaning of Theater of the Absurd

Theater of the Absurd applies to a group of plays with a certain set of characteristics. These characteristics convey a sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an unexplainable feeling. These plays all have unusual actions and are missing a key element that would clearly define other pieces of literature. Language and actions differ from the usual and sometimes cannot be explained in the Theater of the Absurd. In the works of Albee and Ionesco language, behavior, and structure are abnormal if compared to other plays. Language is a key factor that is presented as a weak form of communication throughout “The Future is in Eggs,” “The Zoo Story,” “The American Dream,” and “The Leader.”
The Language as represented throughout the plays written by both Ionesco and Albee are very important elements throughout the plays. In “The Future is In Eggs,” by Ionesco, meaningless chatter between Roberta and Jacques breaks out during the run of the entire play.
Roberta: Puss. Puss.
Jacques: Puss. Puss.
Roberta: Puss. Puss.
Jacques: Puuuss. Puuuuuuuuss!
These incoherent slurs seem to be irrelevant and could easily be replaced with normal speech patterns. In “The American Dream,” Mommy and Daddy invite Mrs. Barker over for the evening. When Mrs. Barker makes her arrival and enters their house Mommy and Daddy at first seem to be normal and try and make Mrs. Barker comfortable, but as time.

Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot and The Theater of The Absurd Essay - With the appearance of Waiting for Godot at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris in 1953, the literary world was shaken by the arrival of a drama so different yet so thrilling that it gave rise to the "Theater of the Absurd". His contribution to this particular type of theater movement allows us to refer to him as the father of the genre. While other dramatists, such as Tom Stoppard, have also contributed to this genre, Beckett remains its single, most lofty figure. It is this type of theater that deals with the absurd aspects of life, to stress upon its native meaninglessness. [tags: The Theater of The Absurd]
. 1 Works Cited

1413 words
(4 pages)

Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot: Existentialism and The Theatre of the Absurd - Every person is responsible for themselves. In society, people are responsible for their actions; good deeds will accede to rewards while bad deeds will lead to demerits. Humans live in a world where they are told what to do and how to do it, and faced with what is considered right and what is seen as wrong, but at the end of the day, humans have the freewill to do as they please and make their own choices, which leads them to being responsible for those actions. Everyday, humans are faced with these choices and decisions to make only to know deep down inside that they will either have positive or negative reactions to their choices, and it is this key idea that led to a specific philosophic. [tags: Theater of the Absurd]

2525 words
(7.2 pages)

Essay about Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and The Theatre of the Absurd - Samuel Becket is a famous writer who introduced the concept of absurdity, nothingness, nihilism and meaninglessness of life in the art of drama. He corresponded to the absurdity in the day today life of the common people. He believed that life is circle, from where it starts, it ends at the same point. There is no concept of religion, no moral values, no concept of time and space in this life. Absurdity is a word that can be explained by reasoning however the fault is a familiar world that in the universe that is suddenly deprived of illusion, end of light, man feels as stranger. [tags: Theater of the Absurd]

509 words
(1.5 pages)

Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: The Theatre of the Absurd - The absurdist plays Waiting for Godot written by Samuel Beckett and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead written by Tom Stoppard both incorporate human needs and concerns within their context through its whimsical and comedic dialogues. Both plays belong in the category of the theatre of the absurd, where the existentialist philosophy underlies all aspects of the plays. The central characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead share a deep friendship, this same friendship can also be seen within the relationship between Vladimir and Estragon who are the protagonists in Waiting for Godot. [tags: Theater of the Absurd]
. 2 Works Cited

791 words
(2.3 pages)

Essay on Theater Of The Absurd - True Meaning of Theater of the Absurd Theater of the Absurd applies to a group of plays with a certain set of characteristics. These characteristics convey a sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an unexplainable feeling. These plays all have unusual actions and are missing a key element that would clearly define other pieces of literature. Language and actions differ from the usual and sometimes cannot be explained in the Theater of the Absurd. In the works of Albee and Ionesco language, behavior, and structure are abnormal if compared to other plays. [tags: essays research papers]

962 words
(2.7 pages)

Waiting For Godot and the Theater of the Absurd Essay - Who is Godot and what does he represent. These are two of the questions that Samuel Beckett allows both his characters and the audience to ponder. Many experiences in this stage production expand and narrow how these questions are viewed. The process of waiting reassures the characters in Beckett's play that they do indeed exist. One of the roles that Beckett has assigned to Godot is to be a savior of sorts. Godot helps to give the two tramps in Waiting for Godot a sense of purpose. Godot is an omnipresent character that helps to give meaning and function to the lives of two homeless men. [tags: Waiting For Godot Essays]

1071 words
(3.1 pages)

Waiting for Godot: Who is Godot? Essay - In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot two characters, Estragon and Vladmir are waiting for ‘Godot’ in which Beckett does not explain. Along with Estragon and Vlamir comes Lucky and Pozzo another two figures who add a bit of nonsense into the play to distract the reader from the real issue, waiting for Godot. Simply who or what is ‘Godot’, is the question that Beckett’s play raises. It is easy to say that Godot is a Christ figure or God, hopefully Beckett would not make it that easy. So who/what is Godot. [tags: Theater of the Absurd]

577 words
(1.6 pages)

Essay on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot and the Theater of the Absurd - Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is an absurd play about two men, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) who wait under a withered tree for Godot, who Vladimir says has an important but unknown message. This play is incredibly bizarre, because at times it is difficult to discern if there is a plot at all, and at other times, the play seems incredibly profound.One of the most ambiguous aspects of Beckett's play is the identity of Godot. If the reader analyzes all the Biblical allusions, it is quite easy to say that Godot is God. [tags: Waiting For Godot Essays]

881 words
(2.5 pages)

Man's Search for Purpose in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot Essay - The purpose of human life is an unanswerable question. It seems impossible to find an answer because we don't know where to begin looking or whom to ask. Existence, to us, seems to be something imposed upon us by an unknown force. There is no apparent meaning to it, and yet we suffer as a result of it. The world seems utterly chaotic. We therefore try to impose meaning on it through pattern and fabricated purposes to distract ourselves from the fact that our situation is hopelessly unfathomable. [tags: Theater of the Absurd]

1783 words
(5.1 pages)

Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot Essay - In Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, the scene opens to reveal a world characterized by bleakness. Though occasional situational humor enters the lives of Estragon and Vladimir, it is a sarcastic, ironic sort of humor that seems to mock the depressing situation in which they find themselves, and moments of hopefulness are overshadowed by uncertainty. The two merely sit and wait; they wait for a man, perhaps a savior, named Godot. That they are waiting for Godot, as Vladimir says, is the one certain thing, the one clear thing “in this immense confusion” (91). [tags: Theater of the Absurd]

1602 words
(4.6 pages)

Other articles

Theatre of the Absurd Essay - 2642 Words

Theatre of the Absurd

The dictionary meaning of the word ‘Absurd’ is unreasonable, ridiculous or funny. But it is used in a somewhat different sense when we speak of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, or more commonly known now-a-days as ‘Absurd Drama’. The phrase ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’ was coined by the critic Martin Esslin, who made it the title of his book on the same subject, published in 1961. Esslin points out in this book that there is no such thing as a regular “movement” of Absurd Dramatists. The term was useful as ‘a device to make certain common fundamental traits that were present in the works of a number of dramatists’. Esslin saw in the works of these playwrights as artistic co-relation to Albert Camus’ philosophy that life is inherently without meaning as is described in his work ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. In this essay Camus has described the situation of the human beings as one out of harmony with its surroundings. The Theatre of the Absurd, today, can be considered as a designation for particular plays written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and also, along with that, to the style and form of theatre which has evolved from their work. A short but true story narrated in the beginning of Martin Esslin’s book The Theatre of the Absurd provides the best commentary on the significance of the Absurd, and also helps in understanding the human values of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, which is famous as an Absurd Drama par excellence. This is the story as told by Mr. Esslin – “On 19th November 1957, a group of worried actors were preparing to face their audience. The actors were members of the company of the San Francisco Actor’s workshop. The audience consisted of fourteen hundred convicts at the San Quentin penitentiary………………………………………………………………………………………………. The curtain parted. The play began. And what had bewildered the sophisticated audiences of Paris, London, and New York, was immediately grasped by an audience of convicts……… The trio of muscle men, biceps overflowing……….parked all 642 lbs on the aisle and waited for the girls and funny stuff. When this didn’t appear they audibly fumed and audibly decided to wait until the house lights dimmed before escaping. They made one error. They listened and looked two minutes too-long-and stayed. Left at the end. All shook. A reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle who was present noted that the convicts did not find it difficult to understand the play. One prisoner told him ‘Godot is Society’. Said another ‘He’s the outside’. A teacher at the prison was quoted as saying: They know what is meant by waiting……….and they know if Godot finally came he would only be a disappointment.” This story is helpful in understanding the genre of the Absurd. Playwrights commonly associated with the Theatre of the Absurd include Samuel Beckett from Ireland, Eugene Ionesco from Rumania, Jean Genet from France and Harold Pinter of Great Britain. The Absurd in their plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, or man as a puppet that is controlled or threatened by an invisible outside force. Though the term is applied to a wide range of plays, some characteristics coincide in many of the plays. For instance broad comedy is mixed with tragic images where the characters are caught in hopeless situations and are forced to do repetitive or meaningless action. Even the dialogues are full of specialized jargons, and wordplays and clichés and even nonsense. Even the plots are mostly cyclical or absurdly expansive. Regarding the story, it is either a parody or a dismissal of realism. The Theatre of the Absurd is commonly associated with Existentialism, and Existentialism was an influential philosophy in Paris during the rise of the Absurd Theatre. However, it is not exactly.

Please sign up to read full document.


Theatre of the Absurd Term coined by Martin Esslin, who wrote The Theatre of the Absurd . Works in drama and prose faction with the common theme: * human condition is essentially absurd and * this condition can be represented properly only by literature that is absurd in itself Movement emerged in France after WWII against the traditional beliefs and values of traditional lit and culture: * assumption that man is a rational creature, * part of an ordered social structure, * inhabiting an intelligible universe and * capable of heroism and dignity even in defeat After 1940s, tendency to see man as * Isolated * Living in an alien universe which has no truth, value or meaning (no idea of divine retribution etc.) * Life meaningless moving from nothing to nothing– no discernable reason for existence An existence anguished and absurd Eugene Ionesco of the theatre for the absurd puts it: “Cut off from his religious, metaphysical and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd . useless” In his La Tentation de l’occident, Andre Malraux remarked: “at the centre of European man, dominating the great moments of his life, there lies an essential absurdity”. This theme is.

839 Words | 3 Pages

What is the Theatre of the Absurd . The theatre of the absurd is a term that was created by a Hungarian Critic Martin Esslin. It is a term that represents a few European playwrights in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Some characteristics of the theatre of the absurd include broad comedy, mixed with horrific or tragic images, characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meanlingless actions, dialogue full of clichés, wordplay and nonsense: plots that are cynical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of well made play. Esslin had four major play wrights that had different techniques in which ‘absurdism’ was shown through. These play wrights were: Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ionesco and Jean Genet. Most of the absurdist play come under Tragic Comedy. This is influenced hugely by William Shakespeare who was the first great playwright to use Tragic Comedy. However, even though there was a lot of tragic situations in The Theatre of the Absurd . comedy always came through well. A lot of the material used in the Theatre of the Absurd is borrowed from earlier playwrights and also cites early comedians such as Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. The Theatre of the Absurd is commonly associated with Existentialism. On stage.

434 Words | 2 Pages

Introduction Theatre of the Absurd . History The term “Theatre of the Absurd ” comes from literary critic Martin Esslin’s book The Theatre of the Absurd . published in 1961. In this book, he examined the works of a number of European playwrights of in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. According to him, these playwrights gave dramatic articulation to Albert Camus’s philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. He named four playwrights as the pioneers of this surge of absurdness in theatre - Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet. He added Harold Pinter to this list in the later editions of his book. Theatre of the absurd was initially Avant garde, i.e. experimental theatre . It is said to have borrowed from a no. of artistic movements, Surrealism, its precursor Dadaism and Shakespeare’s tragic comedy to name a few. In most absurd plays, the content is tragic but the treatment is comic. The dialogues between the characters are funny on the surface level they indicate deep-seated fear and psychological disturbance. Hamlet’s real or feigned madness, his dilemma and unexplained inaction and his tortured self-critical soliloquies show early signs of absurdum. Tom Stoppard wrote the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, based on the two minor characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It shows influences.

1973 Words | 6 Pages

has been said that Waiting for Godot is a play in which nothing happens-twice. Compare how two playwrights, whose work you have studied this term, have used the Absurdist form to express their ideas. Out of all the plays we have studies, I think that ‘’Waiting for Godot’’ and ‘’Blasted’’ are the ones in which the authors mostly used the Absurdist form to express their ideas but nevertheless through completely different styles. First of all ‘’Absurd ’’ is commonly known as the philosophical concept of ‘’ existence absurdity’’ which means everything that the human mind cannot explain, such as unjustified and meaningless actions which can be found in both the plays. The word ‘’Absurd ’’ comes from the Latin and is a link between the word ‘’ab’’ that express a concept of ‘’ far from’’ and ‘’sardare’’ that means ‘’speak wisely’’. In Blasted as regards violence and in Waiting for Godot as far as the whole contest, the unfolding events, the absence of a temporal structure and the unspecified location. To explain my understanding of absurd and what led me to find it in those two plays, it is appropriate to start from the analysis of the authors lives, because the connection is very clear as not only have Sarah Kane’s work been deeply influenced by those of Beckett, but the thing that most unite the two is the sense of depression, and dissatisfaction that confines both in the solitude and consequential denial of reality. This was.

879 Words | 3 Pages

EXISTENTIAL STRAIN IN THE THEATRE OF THE ABSURD Presented to:- Prof: Salman Rafique By: - Khudija Bano R.N - 12142014 The theatre of the Absurd is the term introduced by a renowned philosopher Martin Esslin in his book “The theatre of the absurd ”. He used this term to refer to the work of certain playwrights who shared same philosophy about man’s existence in this earthly life. Among these playwrights the most prominent were Samuel Beckett, Eugenie Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet and Adamov. The dramatists belonging to this theatre were all great innovators and they did such a wondering experiments, introducing a totally new kind of drama that differed from the traditional drama to such an extent that it rather shocked the audience. These writers portrayed human life having no meaning at all. This sense of meaning lessness is the outcome of the horrible effects of World War II. Rejecting traditional techniques of the drama, logical plots, witty dialogue, forceful characters, absurdist dramatist tried to depict modern man’s sense of alienation, hopelessness and that of reality being unreal. The theatre of the Absurd actually is mixture of many philosophical approaches or theories. It can be studied under surrealism, Dadasim, Nihilism and above all Existentialism. The theory of existentialism has a great impact on almost every.

2332 Words | 7 Pages

The Theatre of the Absurd is commonly associated with Existentialism, and Existentialism was an influential philosophy in Paris during the rise of the Theatre of the Absurd ; however, to call it Existentialist theatre is problematic for many reasons. It gained this association partly because it was named (by Esslin) after the concept of "absurdism" advocated by Albert Camus, a philosopher commonly called Existentialist though he frequently resisted that label. Absurdism is most accurately called Existentialist in the way Franz Kafka's work is labeled Existentialist: it embodies an aspect of the philosophy though the writer may not be a committed follower.[47] As Tom Stoppard said in an interview, "I must say I didn't know what the word 'existential' meant until it was applied to Rosencrantz. And even now existentialism is not a philosophy I find either attractive or plausible. But it's certainly true that the play can be interpreted in existential terms, as well as in other terms."[48] Many of the Absurdists were contemporaries with Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosophical spokesman for Existentialism in Paris, but few Absurdists actually committed to Sartre's own Existentialist philosophy, as expressed in Being and Nothingness, and many of the Absurdists had a complicated relationship with him. Sartre praised Genet's plays, stating that for Genet "Good is only an illusion. Evil is a Nothingness which arises.

631 Words | 2 Pages

The first line from Waiting for Godot, "Nothing to be done", could be said to sum up the Theatre of the Absurd . except that there's always something happening. Discuss this statement with reference to the theatrical features and dramatic action of the Theatre of the Absurd as realised in performance"Nothing to be done," is one of the many phrases that is repeated again and again throughout Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot. Godot is an existentialist play that reads like somewhat of a language poem. That is to say, Beckett is not interested in the reader interpreting his words, but simply listening to the words and viewing the actions of his perfectly mismatched characters. Beckett uses the standard Vaudevillian style to present a play that savors of the human condition. He repeats phrases, ideas and actions that has his audience come away with many different ideas about who we are and how beautiful our human existence is even in our desperation. The structure of Waiting For Godot is determined by Beckett's use of repetition. This is demonstrated in the progression of dialogue and action in each of the two acts. The first thing an audience may notice about Waiting For Godot is that they are immediately set up for a comedy. The first two characters to appear on stage are Vladimir and Estragon, dressed in bowler hats and boots. Vladimir is usually cast as tall and thin and Estragon just the opposite. Each character is.

1555 Words | 4 Pages

Theater of the Absurd Theater of the Absurd came about as a reaction to World War II. It took the basis of existential philosophy and combined it with dramatic elements to create a style of theatre which presented a world which can not be logically explained, life is in one word, ABSURD . Needless to say, this genre of theatre took quite some time to catch on because it used techniques that seemed to be illogical to the theatre world. The plots often deviated from the more traditional episodic structure, and seem to move in a circle, ending the same way it began. The scenery was often unrecognizable, and to make matters worse, the dialogue never seemed to make any sense. The “Theatre of the Absurd ” is a term coined by Hungarian-born critic Martin Esslin, who made it the title of his 1962 book on the subject. According to Esslin, the five defining playwrights of the movement are Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Arthur Adamov, and Harold Pinter, although these writers were not always comfortable with the label and sometimes preferred to use terms such as "Anti-Theater" or "New Theater". Examples of absurd play: 1. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett 2. Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco 3. Journeys to the Home of the Dead by Eugene Ionesco 4. The Room by Harold Pinter 5. Mountain Language Harold.

1453 Words | 5 Pages

Theatre Of The Absurd An Overview English Literature Essay

Theatre Of The Absurd An Overview English Literature Essay

'The Theatre of the Absurd' is a term coined by the critic Martin Esslin in the early 1960's, to highlight reoccurring themes that occurred within the work of certain playwrights, mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s. The term is derived from an essay by the French philosopher Albert Camus. In his 'Myth of Sisyphus', written in 1942, he first defined the human situation as basically meaningless and absurd. Whereas traditional theatre attempts to create a photographic representation of life as we see it, the Theatre of the Absurd aims to create a ritual-like, mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams. The focal point of these dreams is often man's fundamental bewilderment and confusion, stemming from the fact that he has no answers to the basic existential questions: why we are alive, why we have to die, why there is injustice and suffering.

Absurdist playwrights, led by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Genet, embraced this vision and sought to portray the grim ridiculousness of human life using a dramatic style that subverted theatrical convention. Characterized by fantasy sequences, disjointed dialogue, and illogical or nearly nonexistent plots, their plays are concerned primarily with presenting a situation that illustrates the fundamental helplessness of humanity. Absurdist drama is sometimes comic on the surface, but the humour is infused with an underlying pessimism about the human condition.

In his book "The Theatre of the Absurd" Martin Esslin uses a quote from Eugène Ionesco to illustrate his use of the term:

"Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose. Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless".

Ionesco here expresses the thoughts that were being voiced by many philosophers and writers. People were becoming disillusioned and were losing faith in the beliefs that had once sustained them. Friedrich Nietzsche had declared that ‘God is dead’ and the World Wars had shaken the fundamental laws of life, which showed the total impermanence of any values, shook the validity of any conventions and highlighted the precariousness of human life and its fundamental meaninglessness and arbitrariness. The trauma of living from 1945 under threat of nuclear annihilation also seems to have been an important factor in the rise of the new theatre. People no longer had a strong sense of purpose or identity; they were lost without direction or guidance.

At the same time, the Theatre of the Absurd also seems to have been a reaction to the disappearance of the religious dimension form contemporary life. The Absurd Theatre can be seen as an attempt to restore the importance of myth and ritual to our age, by making man aware of the ultimate realities of his condition, by instilling in him again the lost sense of cosmic wonder and primeval anguish. The Absurd Theatre hopes to achieve this by shocking man out of an existence that has become trite, mechanical and complacent. It is felt that there is mystical experience in confronting the limits of human condition.

As a result, absurd plays assumed a highly unusual, innovative form, directly aiming to startle the viewer, shaking him out of this comfortable, conventional life of everyday concerns. In the meaningless and Godless post-Second-World-War world, it was no longer possible to keep using such traditional art forms and standards that had ceased being convincing and lost their validity. The Theatre of the Absurd openly rebelled against conventional theatre. Indeed, it was anti-theatre. It was surreal, illogical, conflictless and plotless. The dialogue seemed total gobbledygook. Not unexpectedly, the Theatre of the Absurd first met with incomprehension and rejection.

Language in ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’:

One of the most important aspects of absurd drama was its distrust of language as a means of communication. Language had become a vehicle of conventionalised, stereotyped, meaningless exchanges. Words failed to express the essence of human experience, not being able to penetrate beyond its surface. The Theatre of the Absurd constituted first and foremost an onslaught on language, showing it as a very unreliable and insufficient tool of communication. Absurd drama uses conventionalised speech, clichés, slogans and technical jargon, which is distorts, parodies and breaks down. By ridiculing conventionalised and stereotyped speech patterns, the Theatre of the Absurd tries to make people aware of the possibility of going beyond everyday speech conventions and communicating more authentically. Conventionalised speech acts as a barrier between ourselves and what the world is really about: in order to come into direct contact with natural reality, it is necessary to discredit and discard the false crutches of conventionalised language. Objects are much more important than language in absurd theatre: what happens transcends what is being said about it. It is the hidden, implied meaning of words that assume primary importance in absurd theatre, over and above what is being actually said. The Theatre of the Absurd strove to communicate an undisclosed totality of perception - hence it had to go beyond language.

Absurd drama subverts logic. It relishes the unexpected and the logically impossible. According to Sigmund Freud, there is a feeling of freedom we can enjoy when we are able to abandon the straitjacket of logic. In trying to burst the bounds of logic and language the absurd theatre is trying to shatter the enclosing walls of the human condition itself. Our individual identity is defined by language, having a name is the source of our separateness - the loss of logical language brings us towards a unity with living things. In being illogical, the absurd theatre is anti-rationalist: it negates rationalism because it feels that rationalist thought, like language, only deals with the superficial aspects of things. Nonsense, on the other hand, opens up a glimpse of the infinite. It offers intoxicating freedom brings one into contact with the essence of life and is a source of marvellous comedy.

Theatre of the Absurd; Devoid of dramatic conflict:

There is no dramatic conflict in the absurd plays. Dramatic conflicts, clashes of personalities and powers belong to a world where a rigid, accepted hierarchy of values forms a permanent establishment. Such conflicts, however, lose their meaning in a situation where the establishment and outward reality have become meaningless. However frantically characters perform, this only underlines the fact that nothing happens to change their existence. Absurd dramas are lyrical statements, very much like music: they communicate an atmosphere, an experience of archetypal human situations. The Absurd Theatre is a theatre of situation, as against the more conventional theatre of sequential events. It presents a pattern of poetic images. In doing this, it uses visual elements, movement, light. Unlike conventional theatre, where language rules supreme, in the Absurd Theatre language is only one of many components of its multidimensional poetic imagery.

Theatre of the Absurd-totally Lyrical Theatre:

The Theatre of the Absurd is totally lyrical theatre which uses abstract scenic effects, many of which have been taken over and modified from the popular theatre arts: mime, ballet, acrobatics, conjuring, music-hall clowning. Much of its inspiration comes from silent film and comedy, as well as the tradition of verbal nonsense in early sound film (Laurel and Hardy, W C Fields, the Marx Brothers). It emphasises the importance of objects and visual experience: the role of language is relatively secondary. It owes a debt to European pre-war surrealism: its literary influences include the work of Franz Kafka. The Theatre of the Absurd is aiming to create a ritual-like, mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams.

The Myth of Sisyphus:

Albert Camus wrote a book The Myth of Sisyphus and within it he sets Sisyphus up as being an absurd hero. This is because in the Greek myth Sisyphus scorns the gods, attempts to evade death and as punishment is trapped for eternity pushing a boulder that will never remain at the peak of the hill he is aiming for. His situation echoes the plight of the modern man who, in his daily drudgery, toils endlessly with no sense of significance or hope of reward.

Camus also states that the absurd comes about in man’s constant state of contradiction. He seeks meaning in a world that offers none and desires immortality where death is inevitable. It is this struggle that inspires the playwrights who Esslin places under the umbrella of the absurd.

Playwrights of the Absurd:

There are many playwrights whose works could be described as absurd; they include such writers as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet and Harold Pinter. Within their plays they explore such ideas as the state of existence, the questionable presence of God, the unreliability of language, and the concept of time.

Nearly all these concepts are present in the plays of Samuel Beckett. In his play Waiting for Godot Beckett’s characters, like Sisyphus, are engaged in a fruitless task; they are to wait for an indeterminable amount of time for the mysterious Godot. They fear silence and void and so fill it with seemingly meaningless chat. Beckett uses repetition to highlight the ceaseless circularity of life and his characters throw doubt on the reliability of memory, language and of existence itself:

We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist? Waiting for Godot P69

Stasis is also frequently seen in Beckett’s plays. In both Endgame, Happy Days and Krapp’s Last Tape he has characters that are longing to progress but who are trapped into immobility either by nostalgia or fear:

Yes, let’s go / They do not move. Waiting for Godot p54

Absurdism in Literature:

The absurd is not confined to theatre and can be seen in literature as well, notably in the novels of Albert Camus and Franz Kafka. In Camus’ novel The Outsider the absurd hero Meaursault commits a murder and is sentenced to death and it is here he fulfils the criteria of the absurd man; trapped in a cell waiting for inevitable death while filled with the contradictory hope of freedom and life.

Kafka employs the use of extreme images and scenarios to highlight the conflicts within life. In The Metamorphosis his character Gregor Samsa waking up to find himself transformed into a giant insect illustrates the parasitic nature of man and the fact that Samsa’s only worry is about how he is to get to work shows how the mundane in life envelops everything else.

In The Trial Josef K is arrested but he does not know what for and is never told. His struggle to prove his innocence against unknown crimes is an echo of the habitual struggle of man against the unknown forces of the world.

Laughing in the Face of Adversity:

While the concept and ideas of the absurd can be seen to be very bleak one thing that many of these writers have in common is their use of humour. Within the plays especially there is a great deal of dark comedy, as, when all we are faced with is endless toil and then death what else is there to do but laugh?

Some of the predecessors of absurd drama:

In the realm of verbal nonsense: François Rabelais, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Many serious poets occasionally wrote nonsense poetry (Johnson, Charles Lamb, Keats, Hugo, Byron, Thomas Hood). One of the greatest masters of nonsense poetry was the German poet Christian Morgernstern (1871-1914). Ionesco found the work of S J Perelman (i.e. the dialogues of the Marx Brothers' films) a great inspiration for his work.

The world of allegory, myth and dream: The tradition of the world as a stage and life as a dream goes back to Elizabethan times. Baroque allegorical drama shows the world in terms of mythological archetypes: John Webster, Cyril Tourneur, Calderon, Jakob Biederman. With the decline of allegory, the element of fantasy prevails (Swift, Hugh Walpole).

In some 18th and 19th Century works of literature we find sudden transformation of characters and nightmarish shifts of time and place (E T A Hoffman, Nerval, Aurevilly). Dreams are featured in many theatrical pieces, but it had to wait for Strindberg to produce the masterly transcriptions of dreams and obsessions that have become a direct source of the Absurd Theatre. Strindberg, Dostoyevsky, Joyce and Kafka created archetypes: by delving into their own subconscious, they discovered the universal, collective significance of their own private obsessions. In the view of Mircea Eliade, myth has never completely disappeared on the level of individual experience. The Absurd Theatre sought to express the individual's longing for a single myth of general validity. The above-mentioned authors anticipated this.

Alfred Jarry is an important predecessor of the Absurd Theatre. His UBU ROI (1896) is a mythical figure, set amidst a world of grotesque archetypal images. Ubu Roi is a caricature, a terrifying image of the animal nature of man and his cruelty. (Ubu Roi makes himself King of Poland and kills and tortures all and sundry. The work is a puppet play and its décor of childish naivety underlines the horror.) Jarry expressed man's psychological states by objectifying them on the stage. Similarly, Franz Kafka's short stories and novels are meticulously exact descriptions of archetypal nightmares and obsessions in a world of convention and routine.

20th Century European avant-garde: For the French avant-garde, myth and dream was of utmost importance: the surrealists based much of their artistic theory on the teachings of Freud and his emphasis on the role of the subconscious. The aim of the avant-garde was to do away with art as a mere imitation of appearances. Apollinaire demanded that art should be more real than reality and deal with essences rather than appearances. One of the more extreme manifestations of the avant-garde was the Dadaist movement, which took the desire to do away with obsolete artistic conventions to the extreme. Some Dadaist plays were written, but these were mostly nonsense poems in dialogue form, the aim of which was primarily to 'shock the bourgeois audience'. After the First World War, German Expressionism attempted to project inner realities and to objectify thought and feeling. Some of Brecht's plays are close to Absurd Drama, both in their clowning and their music-hall humour and the preoccupation with the problem of identity of the self and its fluidity. French surrealism acknowledged the subconscious mind as a great, positive healing force. However, its contribution to the sphere of drama was meagre: indeed it can be said that the Absurd Theatre of the 1950s and 1960s was a Belated practical realisation of the principles formulated by the Surrealists as early as the 1930s. In this connection, of particular importance were the theoretical writings of Antonin Artaud. Artaud fully rejected realism in the theatre, cherishing a vision of a stage of magical beauty and mythical power. He called for a return to myth and magic and to the exposure of the deepest conflicts within the human mind. He demanded a theatre that would produce collective archetypes, thus creating a new mythology. In his view, theatre should pursue the aspects of the internal world. Man should be considered metaphorically in a wordless language of shapes, light, movement and gesture. Theatre should aim at expressing what language is incapable of putting into words. Artaud forms a bridge between the inter-war avant-garde and the post-Second-World-War Theatre of the Absurd.

Place your order today

Get expert help from our experienced team of qualified UK academics