Make your own free website on
Fine Arts--Theatre

Theatre of the Absurd

What is Theatre
Festivals and Origins
Elements of Classical Tragedy
Renaissance Theatre in England
Elements of Revenge Tragedy
Elizabethan and Shakespearean Acting
French Neoclassicism
French Neoclassicism II
French Theatre--16th and 17th C.
The Nineteenth Century--World Views
The Nineteenth Century--Production Changes
Nineteenth Century--The Well-made Play
Theatre of the Absurd
Absurdism as Philosophy
Existentialism--Search for Meaning
Naturalism--Emile Zola
Realism--Henrik Ibsen
Contemporary Drama: Black Theatre


In the ``theater of the absurd,'' human experience is seen as fragmented and purposeless.


Characters abandon any search for truth characteristic of romantic drama (as in early 19th century drama) because there is no world vision of what Atruth@ is anymore.



Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Genet are among the foremost European adherents.


In Beckett's plays such as Endgame and Waiting for Godot, life itself seems to have come to a halt, and his characters typically engage in fruitless and repetitive actions that underscore the meaninglessness of their existence.  Likewise, their language is repetitious and words become incapable of carrying meaning.


The surface of Ionesco's plays is often more overtly comic (especially in Rhinoceros with the protagonist being amazed as women and men turn into rhinoceroses before his eyes), but he also emphasizes man's inability to control and order experience and repeatedly shows man as the victim of modern technology and bourgeois values (and, as in Rhinoceros, emphasizes humanity=s willingness to follow the status quo and to conform).


In Genet's work, illusion and reality are often violently and erotically fused to suggest the painful absurdity of contemporary life.  His emphasis is often on the raw, seamy underside of life where sex and violence are just below the surface and are the reality behind one=s actions.


In the English‑language theater, John Osborne (see Look Back in Anger) presents a similar vision of society, although in form his plays are more conventionally realistic in both character development and in the plot line that could be described. Both Harold Pinter (see The Dumb Waiter) and Edward Albee (see Zoo Story) revel in depicting the inverted corrupted realities of abandonment of cultural expectations through rejection and disregard of family, friends, and loved ones.  To them, this rejection and being out for one=s self is the reality.

(Sources: Lecture notes on Contemporary Theatre; texts by the authors mentioned herein)


Fine Arts-Theatre with dr.b