|Theatre of the Absurd|
Scene from "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett.
Directed by Roger Blin. Theatre de Babylone, Paris, 1952.
|Form: A play written by Samuel Beckett, in the style of the 'Theatre of the Absurd" |
"Absurdism is an idea commonly associated with existentialism. Beginning in the 19th century, mainly through the influence of Soren Kierkegaard, religion was often described as absurd because it could not be justified on rational principles; rather, it was considered as based on what Kierkegaard called "a leap of faith." In their discussions of consciousness, Martin Heidegger and
Jean Paul Sartre described the human consciousness as facing an apparently absurd world--absurd because it finds itself at the crossroads of Being and Nothingness, baffled by the meaninglessness of the human condition..." --by Karl BecksonIconography: In this play, the two main characers, Estagon and Vladimir meet up at the tree and are waiting for something to alleviate their boredom as they wait for Godot to arrive. As they wait they engage each other in meaninigless, non-related chit-chat. Two others, Pozzo and Lucky show up, and the chit-chat now cotinues with two others in the scene. Over the course of the the two acts, the idle chatter ranges from eating chicken to hanging oneself from a tree, in essence, from one extreme to the next. They want to leave, but can't, they have to wait for Godot. A boy who has been sent by Godot comes to check with them, leaves, and when he returns the next day doesn't remember having met either Estragon nor Vladimir. Again, they want to leave, but cannot since they have to wait for Godot. They play is absurd, and banal, as everyday mundane life is, but Beckett wanted to make a clear statement about this meaninglessness of life, of how everyone waits for something that may never show up.
Context: "The Theater of the Absurd refers to tendencies in dramatic literature that emerged in Paris during the late 1940s and early '50s in the plays of Arthur Adamov, Fernando Arrabal, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Tardieu. Its roots can be found in the allegorical morality plays of the Middle Ages and the autos sacramentales (allegorical religious dramas) of baroque Spain; the nonsense literature of writers like Lewis Carroll; the dream plays of Strindberg and the dream novels of James Joyce and Franz Kafka, the grotesque drama of Alfred Jarry; and the frantic farces of Georges Feydeau. Its direct forerunners were the Dada movement and the surrealism of the 1920s and '30s. One of its most potent theoretical sources was The Theater and Its Double (1938; Eng. trans., 1958) by Antonin Artaud. The term theater of the absurd derives from the philosophical use of the word absurd by such existentialist thinkers as Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. Camus, particularly, argued that humanity had to resign itself to recognizing that a fully satisfying rational explanation of the universe was beyond its reach; in that sense, the world must ultimately be seen as absurd.
The playwrights loosely grouped under the label of the absurd endeavor to convey their sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an inexplicable universe. They rely heavily on poetic metaphor as a means of projecting outward their innermost states of mind. Hence, the images of the theater of the absurd tend to assume the quality of fantasy, dream, and nightmare; they do not so much portray the outward appearance of reality as the playwright's emotional perception of an inner reality. Thus Beckett's Happy Days (1961) expresses a generalized human anxiety about the approach of death through the concrete image of a woman sunk waist-deep in the ground in the first act and neck-deep in the second; and Ionesco's Rhinoceros (1960; Eng.
trans., 1960) demonstrates the playwright's anxiety about the spread of inhuman totalitarian tendencies in society by showing the population of a city turning into savage pachyderms.
Writers outside France who show the influence of the theater of the absurd include Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard in England; Gunter Grass and Peter Weiss in Germany; Edward Albee, Israel Horovitz, and Sam Shepard in the United States; and the Czech playwright-turned-statesman Vaclav Havel." --Martin Esslin